Someone asked these questions on a coaching forum recently:

Can emotions be intelligent? How can emotions be intelligent? How can the limbic emotional brain learn from the intelligence of the cortex and vice versa?

I had time for a brief answer, as technically I was on my day off. I’ll reproduce it here in case it helps anyone:

Emotions provide information which is not available in other ways – including information about how other people are feeling (and hence how they are likely to act), and about the state of our health and energy levels, and what we really want.

It’s impossible to make decisions on rational criteria alone – in Descartes’ Error Antonio Damasio quotes the case of a successful corporate lawyer who, after brain surgery which left his cognitive faculties intact but severed the connection with the part of the brain which processes emotion, lost his job, wife and home in very short order. Without access to his feelings, he had no sense of priority, and hence could not make decisions or use his time sensibly.

How the limbic system can learn from the cortex: by mutual communication. If emotions are too strong, they shut down the ability of the cortex to think, reframe and make sense of things; but without emotion, nothing matters.

The ‘them against us’ thinking that <contributor> mentions is probably more to do with the brainstem, an even more primitive part of the brain concerned with fight or flight and territoriality.

We all have the capacity to think about things, we all have the capacity to love, *and* we all have the ability to revert to ‘them against us’ thinking under pressure.

There is a slightly longer introduction to Emotional Intelligence elsewhere on the website.

I’ve written a couple of books on Emotional Intelligence that you may find useful:


Emotional Intelligence In A Nutshell

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