Emotional Intelligence – Yoga For The Mind

India and the Eight Basic Emotions

Cute little Indian girl in a greeting pose, isolated white background

 

In November 2014, I spent 17 days (minus travel time), in India. This trip had been on my bucket list for quite some time and it cost me a nice chunk of my savings.

As both my vocation and hobbyhorse circle around emotional intelligence, I was determined to pay strict attention to how this trip and my emotions would intersect. I looked forward to experiencing these emotions, which happened multiple times within any one day at home, with great anticipation. “Hooray!” I thought to myself, “I finally have a reason and an opportunity to see such items as the Taj Mahal!”

The trip did not disappoint. The multiple faces of India include beauty in a variety of forms – scenery, architecture, landscapes, people, tigers, materials, rituals, and celebrations. In addition, also, often registered on the face of India are mystery, poverty, democracy, innovation, and corruption.

I was impressed to learn that 431 million people have left poverty since 1985. I was not surprised that they rank 39th in the world for innovation; with the United States often being ranked fifth or sixth. Nor, as their population tops 1.2 billion, was I shocked to discover that India is the third largest smartphone market in the world after China and the United States. I was as dismayed to learn that 50% of the children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, as I am that one out of five children in America go hungry to bed.

Demystifying the country is a perpetual work in progress. India is probably impossible to unravel because of the complexity of the culture. Perhaps discovering the secrets of India is as challenging as searching for the tiger in the forest. We saw the spoor, the footprint, and heard the roar, but where was the animal? I do know that my experience will be a burning blaze in my memory for years to come.

The survey says!

According to brain research, there are eight basic emotions that comprise: fear, joy, expectation, surprise, sadness, anger, acceptance and disgust. I checked them off as I went through the trip.

I started with…

Fear and an amygdala hijacking upon arrival at the first of many hotels. I could not find my passport, and in a state of panic, I ran around and asked several other members of our group, plus the hotel concierge, if they had seen it. I had visions that I would be stuck in India, forever. Instead, I was only embarrassed upon locating my passport on several goodies on the hotel bureau.

I had the opportunity to experience…

Joy as I caught a view of uninhibited native dancing and accompanying drumming at the Aagman India Camp in Pushkar.

I had great…

Expectations of the gorgeous and beautiful materials we would see in Varanasi located on the banks of the Ganga in Uttar. They did not disappoint. What exquisite colors and designs! I purchased a dozen presents for my family.

I felt…

Surprise that the major roadways were as occupied by cows, camels, bicycle rickshaws, and golf carts masquerading as taxis, as cars, buses, and trucks.

I was overcome with…

Sadness at the sight of the sluggishly flowing river known as the Ganges. This holy site is occupied by a state of the art crematorium ($1,000 per person vs. a more local neighborhood crematorium that costs $10 per person) and the steps to the river are filled with thousands of lepers and beggars.

I was filled with…

Anger as I learned of the level of corruption in what appears to occupy every aspect of life in India; the government, the businesses, etc. According to our very knowledgeable guide, the only branch to escape criticism is the military. An example of how this corruption enables injustice and the guilty to go unpunished can be found in the story of the murder of Jessica Lal whose murderer, the son of a wealthy and influential Member of Parliament, was only convicted after much public outcry.

I observed…

Acceptance by billions to the well established and enduring power of the ‘caste system’, which essentially states that the class or social group one is born into, depends upon one’s karma (accumulated good and bad deeds from past lives). This belief has wide acceptance on every level; and has been the most important social influence in India for over 300 years.

The power of this belief in acceptance was met with…

Disgust as I heard one reported story of a young couple in love; she in a higher caste than he. The couple’s respective parents were less than supportive and the couple decided to elope. Upon return, they went to visit the new wife’s family, only to find blame and despair were pointed in her direction. The wife’s family convinced the young man to leave, and that things would improve within a week or so. However, upon departure of the young husband, the mother and father killed their daughter, told the neighbors she had been bitten by a cobra, and had her cremated. The truth was only discovered because of the young man’s suspicions and his refusal to believe in the snakebite story.

Fate vs. free will…

Emotional intelligence development is a major challenge in India. My experiences provided some reasons why. I found myself reviewing the classic debate between “it was meant to be” and “I can make a difference”. Fate says it has been decided by DNA; free will says that choice makes the difference – even if the choices are often narrow or limited ones. Theories abound and agreement is sparse.

India is a country where fate, as determined by the caste system, is the major factor in which the direction a person’s life unfolds. The United States with its American Dream” possibility and its “pull up your boot straps” advice to beginners dance back and forth between “the devil made me do it” and “the little train that can” attitudes.

EQ is often seen as a major pathway of hope. This has been my observation from visiting Venezuela, South Africa and other countries struggling with poverty and depression. In India, even though it is a country of beauty, compassion, knowledge, and invention, it is also a place that is most often committed to “determinism” nicely summed up in these words of Lord Byron:

“I have always believed that all things depend upon fortune, and nothing upon ourselves.”

In total disagreement with Lord Byron, I prefer to continue to exist under the concept of free will, even if it is only an illusion. I prefer to be responsible for my own choices and my own actions and the resulting consequences. I do not think it is reasonable to put the responsibility on someone else; neither my mother, or anyone else, made me do it.

My conclusion, in essence, requires that I must apply consequential thinking (identifying the pros and cons) and optimism; (with energy and effort, I can change the result) to all my thoughts, feelings, and actions. As a recovering pessimist, this seems possible and as Tennyson wrote, “…I follow up the quest. Despite of Day and Night and Death and Hell.”

Do you have a story that includes the 8 different emotions? Do share them with me in the comments! It would make my day.

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