Emotional Competence

Mount Fuji

I’ve been reading a book on my Apple iPad called “When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection” by Gabor Matte, M.D.  It’s really quite interesting. The book defines what emotional competence is. The author’s definition is as follows:

Emotional competence requires:

  • the capacity to feel our emotions, so that we are aware when we are experiencing stress;
  • the ability to express our emotions effectively and thereby to assert our needs and to maintain the integrity of our emotional boundaries;
  • the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent issues from the past. What we want and demand from the world needs to conform to our present needs, not to unconscious, unsatisfied needs from childhood.  If distinctions between past and present blur, we will perceive loss or the threat of loss where none exists and
  • the awareness of those genuine needs that do require satisfaction, rather than their repression for the sake of gaining the acceptance or approval of others.

When I read the phrase “the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent issues from the past” a bulb lit up in my brain.

One of the struggles I’m having living in our current house is the idea of having bugs around me since our property has many trees. Never mind that there aren’t that many. Somehow, in my mind, the thought of “them” being out “there” causes anxiety for me — stress.

I remember as a young teenager when I was in the Camp Fire Girls, I would go camping yearly in Wisconsin. One summer I went out for a walk by myself which was unusual since usually we were in groups. The day was warm and I remember putting deodorant on. As I continued my walk, I heard a buzzing sound. I shooed the intruder away but the buzzing continued. I walked faster and the bee continued following me. I started speed walking. Still the bee continued to follow. I was getting quite frantic now. I started to jog away from the camp onto the country road. The bee was still behind me buzzing away. After awhile, my face beet red and my whole body sweating, the bee decided to go away and I slowly walked back to camp.

The walk was a long one. I looked to my left, my right and behind me to make sure the bee did not return.

This memory, on occasion, continues with me to this day. It’s funny though because I wasn’t bitten — just “followed” and probably because of the smell of the deodorant I had on.

I believe part of the stress I feel today with bugs has to do with that one encounter with a bee so long ago.

How do I separate this one past experience with the realities of today?

The author continues to say that “Stress occurs in the absence of these criteria …” and that “emotional competence is compromised usually in ways entirely unknown to the person involved.”  Indeed — I hadn’t thought about this bee incident for awhile now.

Suggestions on how to “forget” it or “manage” it?


[amazon_link id=”B004IO1166″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection [Paperback][/amazon_link]
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One thought on “Emotional Competence”

  1. I was stung multiple times by bees as a child when I walked through bushes that had a nest.
    And again as an adult when I was working in the yard and stepped on a nest in the ground.
    It does hurt at the time but goes away….there are bigger things to stress about and it is wonderful to be outside.

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