Am I too emotional, or am I emotionless?
My first experience of death was in early adulthood. It was my father’s death. I didn’t cry; maybe I couldn’t cry. I dutifully performed all the rigorous traditional Hindu rites required of a son after his father’s death. I was just going through the motions. Several years after that, my mother died. And over the last thirty years, one by one, my three older brothers and two older sisters died. It was only my father’s death that I saw with my own eyes. I was informed of all the other deaths by phone or letters, while living in a land far away from my family of origin. I don’t recall crying at any of those times.
However, in recent years, long after all those losses, tears strike me when I have flashbacks of memories, or watch emotional movies. Some movies that have made me cry are: Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, The Kite Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, The Fault in Our Stars and many others. Holocaust movies are especially reliable tear jerkers for me. I guess I’m not alone in that experience. At least I’m not yet like Robert Di Nero in Analyze This, bawling at commercials!
Renowned neuroeconomist, Professor Paul J. Zak, affirms that empathetic, emotional, even frequently tearful people “‘know how to handle their emotions better, and they are stronger when facing daily challenges.”
What a relief!
So, it was a relief to see President-elect Biden become tearful when he heard the stories of nurses and frontline health workers faced with treating patients in the early stages of COVID-19. With an emotionally intelligent leader, we might finally reverse the course of failure of the American government on COVID-19. Our current unempathetic President meanwhile is busy firing anyone with emotional intelligence.
Psychology Today reports “emotional intelligence, was the key” to President Jefferson’s success in governing the country at that time. According to author Anthony Pantalone, “President John F. Kennedy’s cognitive and emotional intelligence during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had incredibly profound effects on this event and the United States’ national security.” Similarly, some theorize that Bill Clinton’s emotional intelligence was the key to his popularity despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
While emotional intelligence includes compassion, it is more than just compassion. Jimmy Carter is a very compassionate man known for his successful humanitarian work and his failure to be popular as a president. Perhaps it is because emotional intelligence implies a toughness that people like to see in a leader, which they did not see in Carter.
The two emotions President Trump operates on are anger and disgust. His lack of empathy and emotional intelligence is obvious in videos of his meetings with healthcare workers. Instead of shedding a tear for the trauma suffered by front line workers or the thousands of American lives lost, he argued with nurses about the shortage of protective equipment. It seems like a sizeable portion of Americans still think men who spew anger on others are strong. That is unfortunate.
The hopeful thing is a majority of Americans appreciate the real strength that comes from compassion and emotional intelligence.
We are a nation of dog lovers, and dogs are the most emotionally intelligent animals! (This is probably why Trump hates dogs.) Our dogs are capable of both staying beside us when we cry and defending us with all their might when we are faced with danger. Soon we will have our first shelter dog in the White House! We should try to be more emotionally intelligent, like our dogs, and choose leaders who can do the same.
Jiben Roy, a native of Bangladesh, teaches chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at Mississippi University for Women. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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