Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side.
The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence
In some jobs, being in touch with emotions is essential. In others, it seems to be a detriment. And like any skill, being able to read people can be used for good or evil.
JAN 2, 2014
Some of the greatest moments in human history were fueled by emotional intelligence. When Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his dream, he chose language that would stir the hearts of his audience. “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation” to liberty, King thundered, “America has given the Negro people a bad check.” He promised that a land “sweltering with the heat of oppression” could be “transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” and envisioned a future in which “on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Delivering this electrifying message required emotional intelligence—the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. Dr. King demonstrated remarkable skill in managing his own emotions and in sparking emotions that moved his audience to action. As his speechwriter Clarence Jones reflected, King delivered “a perfectly balanced outcry of reason and emotion, of anger and hope. His tone of pained indignation matched that note for note.”
Recognizing the power of emotions, another one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century spent years studying the emotional effects of his body language. Practicing his hand gestures and analyzing images of his movements allowed him to become “an absolutely spellbinding public speaker,” says the historian Roger Moorhouse—“it was something he worked very hard on.” His name was Adolf Hitler.
Since the 1995 publication of Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, emotional intelligence has been touted by leaders, policymakers, and educators as the solution to a wide range of social problems. If we can teach our children to manage emotions, the argument goes, we’ll have less bullying and more cooperation. If we can cultivate emotional intelligence among leaders and doctors, we’ll have more caring workplaces and more compassionate healthcare. As a result, emotional intelligence is now taught widely in secondary schools, business schools, and medical schools.
Our results indicate that abnormal functioning of dorsolateral prefrontal and limbic brain regions might underlie disturbed emotion processing in BPD.
Research confirms emotional dysregulation behind borderline personality disorder
Schulze L, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.03.027.
Recent findings showed dysfunctional dorsolateral prefrontal and limbic brain regions are a significant feature of borderline personality disorder, consistent with the concept that the disorder is an emotional dysregulation disorder.
“Taken together, neuroimaging studies suggest that dysfunctional frontolimbic brain regions underlie the ‘emotional turmoil’ in patients with [borderline personality disorder (BPD)]. To further advance the neuroanatomical basis of disturbed emotion processing in BPD, the present study utilized a coordinate- and image-based meta-analytic approach to summarize available neuroimaging findings,” the researchers wrote.
Researchers used anisotropic effect size and signed differential mapping to determine combined coordinate- and image-based meta-analyses. Analyses included 19 functional neuroimaging studies on processing of negative vs. neutral stimuli among 281 individuals with BPD and 10 studies on gray matter abnormalities in 263 individuals with BPD.
Individuals with BPD exhibited increased activation of the left amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex and decreased responses in the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during negative emotional stimuli processing, compared with healthy controls.
Those exhibiting personality traits associated with negative affect such as depression and anxiety (such as that found in BPD), non-conformity, impulsiveness, emotional instability, sensation-seeking and thrill-seeking, poor external locus of control, as well as low self-esteem, tend to be particularly susceptible to substance abuse disorders.
Personality disorders correlated with drug abuse, say researchers
Recent research suggests that drug addiction is frequently comorbid with personality disorders. According to Zimmerman and Coryell (1989), up to 43-77 percent of individuals with personality disorders qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives. Likewise, Verheul and colleagues (1995, 1998) examined the co-incidence of personality disorders with substance abuse and found that 44 percent of individuals addicted to alcohol meet the criteria for a personality disorder. In addition to this, 77 percent of those who abuse opiates qualify for a diagnosis of a personality disorder. Cluster B personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder, were found to be particularly associated with substance abuse disorders.
Like every other movement working against stigma, pride is a powerful primary tool. Self-acceptance comes first.
I am more than my _____
BY LAUREN DIAZ | NOVEMBER 19, 2015, 11:50 AM
“How about I hold up a sign that says, ‘I AM MORE THAN MY BPD?’”
“How about you don’t?”
This is a brief exchange I had with myself at the 2015 photo campaign for Active Minds at Columbia University, entitled “My Mental Health Matters.” The table was littered with an array of paper signs to choose from, but I was drawn to the one with the blank. This could have been my coming out, but the stigma-fearing answer was “no.” I put down the sign and grabbed a new one that read “NO SHAME”. I smiled for the picture. I tried to look pretty, tried to look normal, but the words I held up were a lie.
On October 9, 2015 I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Fear of abandonment, unstable and intense relationships, lack of a sense of self, dissociation, impulsive behavior, self-harm, suicidal gestures–it goes on and on. I fit the profile, but this did not upset me much, since doctors had shared their suspicions with me for some time now. As a matter of fact, I was relieved. “Yes,” I thought, “I finally get to put a name to the thing. Put a name to the thing, control the thing”.
After speaking with my doctor and doing my own research, it became clear that BPD was “the bad one” that you didn’t want to get slapped with. It was the disorder no one liked to talk about, except implicitly in horror movies. I am the woman in “Single White Female,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Roommate,” and many more disturbing stories of psychotic women. Or rather, they are caricatures of me. I am not a murderous, manipulative, or obsessive stalker. I and many other borderlines would be more likely to hurt ourselves out of pure emotional pain rather than hurt someone else.
BPD is inherently complex and misunderstood, and so are Borderlines. Aspiration-driven Columbia pretends to be open and accepting of mental illness, but how often is this really addressed and publicized, and does it truly cover a wide enough spectrum? We are growing more comfortable addressing depression openly, but unfortunately, BPD is categorized as a personality disorder, not a mood disorder. These we are less comfortable with. The assumption is that these people are intrinsically screwed up. They are crazy and volatile to the very core and fit neatly into a box provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This false belief is ultimately damaging.
People with drug use disorder were much more likely to have psychiatric illnesses, the researchers reported in JAMA Psychiatry, as they were… 1.8 times as likely to have borderline personality disorder, when compared to people without drug abuse.
Ten Percent of Adults Have a Drug-Use Disorder in Their Lifetime
A survey of American adults revealed that drug-use disorder is common, co-occurs with a range of mental health disorders and often goes untreated. The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that about 4% of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives.
A diagnosis of drug-use disorder is based on a list of symptoms including craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) no longer uses the terms abuse and dependence. Instead, DSM-5 uses a single disorder which is rated by severity (mild, moderate, and severe) depending on the number of symptoms met. Individuals must meet at least two of 11 symptoms to be diagnosed with a drug-use disorder.
Considering some of the unique aspects of psychopathic language, it might be possible to detect the psychopath in online environments where information is exclusively text based.
The Language of Psychopaths
New Findings and Implications for Law Enforcement
By Michael Woodworth, Ph.D.; Jeffrey Hancock, Ph.D.; Stephen Porter, Ph.D.; Robert Hare, Ph.D.; Matt Logan, Ph.D.; Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D.; and Sharon Smith, Ph.D.
For psychopaths, not only a lack of affect but also inappropriate emotion may reveal the extent of their callousness. Recent research suggested that much can be learned about these individuals by close examination of their language. Their highly persuasive nonverbal behavior often distracts the listener from identifying their psychopathic nature. For example, on a publically available police interview with murderer and rapist Paul Bernardo, his powerful use of communication via his hand gesturing is easily observable and often distracts from his spoken lies. The authors offer their insights into the unique considerations pertaining to psychopaths’ communication.
Robert Pickton, convicted of the second-degree murder of six women in December 2007, initially was on trial for 26 counts of first-degree murder. He once bragged to a cellmate that he intended to kill 50 women. Details provided in court revealed brutal and heinous murders that often included torture, degradation, and dismemberment of the victims. The authors opine that Mr. Pickton probably would meet the criteria for psychopathy, a destructive personality disorder that combines a profound lack of conscience with several problematic interpersonal, emotional, and behavioral characteristics.