Emotional intelligence can be defined as having understanding and insight into our feeling experiences. The sign of Cancer is devoted to creating a safe haven to experience emotions in their purest and most direct form. It understands emotions are an integral part of the human experience that provide richness, depth and color in our lives. Cancer intelligently nurtures their healthy expression, application and management, and encourages us to appreciate and master our inner emotional realm.
In her excellent book The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren explains that emotions contain valuable information and guidance for us. They are our first, pre-verbal information channel to the world, connected to our inner truth and intuition. They continue to inform us, if we honor and pay attention to their messages, after our rational mind develops around age three.
Cultural conditioning, however, encourages us to value the rational mind and disregard emotions as troublesome, or as annoying inconveniences, especially emotions that we label as “bad.” Yet as Daniel Goleman explains in his groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence, the rational mind cannot control our emotions. Rather, our primal emotional nature can harness the rational mind to justify its association of emotions from the past with present experiences, distorting our perceptions and ability to respond appropriately in the moment.
Emotions, like the element of water, are fluid. They are ephemeral, usually lasting less than a minute, and are continually changing. They arise from our inner depths, shift, ebb and flow into one another. Emotional agility requires welcoming the changing nature and flow of feelings, and allowing ourself to fully feel an emotion in the moment. When we pay attention to our emotions without judging them, we become the neutral observer. Then we can acknowledge the personal information an emotion is conveying to us, and employ the rational mind to guide our response.
Karla McLaren’s book describes messages specific emotions provide us. For example anger informs us a personal boundary has been breached. Fear is our intuition telling us something is dangerous. Sadness signals something must be released so we can move forward. And shame alerts us that we are out of integrity with our values. Disregarding this information, or allowing the rational mind to explain it away, separates us from important inner truths.
In his book Daniel Goleman outlines four domains that constitute emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the ability to observe our internal state and recognize our emotions. Self-management is handling an emotion appropriately by self-regulating our response. It requires adaptability and striving for emotional balance. Social awareness is the ability to recognize emotions in others, having empathetic understanding. And relationship management is the ability to work with the emotions of others in productive ways, of having social competency in the world.
The archetypal energy of Cancer rules our emotional foundations in life. Its wellspring nourishes our security, well-being and creativity in our “inner home.” It guides us with care, concern and compassion to embrace our emotional nature and learn to use it skillfully in the outer world.
“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.” – Baruch Spinoza