A lot of emphasis is placed on intelligence and knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not something that can help us beat an addiction. Although there is a significant amount of value placed on IQ in our culture today, there have been a multitude of intelligent addicts who have “lost” the battle against the disease. A common saying is that everything we know, our disease knows as well. This is part of the cunning nature of addiction; the smarter we are, the smarter our disease is.
There is another important concept known as “emotional intelligence.” Though not as quantified or discussed as IQ, there have been many connections made between emotional intelligence and life satisfaction (Holinka; Landa et. al; Palmer et. al). It does seem that emotional intelligence is often what we lack in active addiction: We struggle to identify, understand and express what we are feeling. Many addicts can also identify searching for sufficient satisfaction in life. This search is often unending and fruitless. As our feelings become overwhelming and confusing, we feel increasingly isolated, and thus the cycle of using perpetuates.
Addiction is a feelings disease; feelings are what we act out in our different addictions to cope with, in an unhealthy and damaging way. Working on emotional intelligence, by practicing identifying and discussing our feelings openly and honestly, is usually a much more beneficial process than focusing on our IQ and knowledge. What we have achieved, our professional success, our grade point average, etc. often just serves our ego, and what serves our ego often doesn’t benefit our recovery.
Improving our emotional intelligence also brings us closer to others, as we take risks to be vulnerable and share the uncomfortable parts of ourselves. Practicing openness and honesty, instead of defending ourselves with knowledge and information, is a way to move forward and grow in the process of recovery.
Holinka, C. (2015). Stress, emotional intelligence, and life satisfaction in college students. College Student Journal, 49(2), 300-311.
Landa, J. M. A., López-Zafra, E., De Antoñana, R. M., & Pulido, M. (2006). Perceived emotional intelligence and life satisfaction among university teachers. Psicothema, 18, 152-157.
Palmer, B., Donaldson, C., & Stough, C. (2002). Emotional intelligence and life satisfaction. Personality and individual differences, 33(7), 1091-1100.