(Family Magazine October 2011 3rd Issue)
Dr. Wei-Jen Huang
Dr. Wei-jen Huang is an internationally renowned clinical psychologist teaching at Northwestern University School of Medicine, better known as “Dr. Love.” He integrated the most cutting edge clinical empirical research of the past three decades with dozens of the world’s leading treatment programs for marriage and founded a self-development training course entitled “An Intimate Journey.” Presence Ministry had the opportunity to interview Dr. Huang to ask for his expertise in the area of growth and maturity in men.
Emotional intelligence is the skill of being able to understand our own emotions, and to channel and control our feelings.
Properly Handling Complex Emotions
In the Chinese culture, men are taught from childhood not to cry, to be brave, and to learn from the words of Guan Gong, “Heroes are those who swallow their shattered teeth along with the blood.” From an early age, boys learn to suppress their emotions and hide their tears. They are taught that the measure of a man is the amount of pain he can endure. Therefore by the time they become adults, they have internalized the belief that the ability to conceal emotions is a character strength. As a result, most Chinese men never learn how to release or handle their complex emotions.
However, anyone, man or woman, who frequently suppresses their feelings will inevitably lose control of their emotions in a time and place they least expect it and with an intensity beyond what they imagined possible. This type of outburst will undoubtedly damage relationships and bring pain to all the parties involved, including relationships at work, in marriage, and between parent and child. When faced with life’s difficulties, people who do not properly handle their negative emotions will typically complain and blame God and others. They will continue to struggle through life, unable to overcome the emotional weaknesses to recover a sense of peace.
There is another type of person who react very differently to the trials in their lives. After going through an experience of pain, they will suddenly awaken as if from a dream and begin to see their life with new eyes. They will thoroughly examine their lives and evaluate whether the choices they have made and the paths they have chosen have brought them true satisfaction. In the process, their own inadequacies become clear, yet they humbly learn to change despite the pain. They understand that growth can result from their hurtful experiences. When they emerge from their struggles, they have the strength to help those who are experiencing similar trials. They become humble learners as well as sympathetic healers. Hardships have a way of bringing depth into our lives and allow us to be more understanding of the sufferings of others. The mature man is one who has endured pain but continues to learn and continues to selflessly care for others.
The Importance of EQ
Most of us desire a happy life and have meaningful and satisfying relationships, but obtaining that measure of fulfillment and happiness in life requires us to develop in two very different skill areas. One skill set is our professional skills, which is measured by our intelligence quotient (IQ). The other skill area is our ability to handle emotions, or emotional intelligence which is measured by our emotional quotient (EQ). Why is a highly intelligent professional placed in a position working under a boss who has a lower IQ than him? It is likely that his boss has a higher EQ who knows how to handle themselves better in relationships with people. Chinese education usually stresses the importance of developing work skills but this is unfortunately completely independent from and at the cost of the development of emotion management skills.
Emotional intelligence is the skill of being able to understand our own emotions, and to channel and control our feelings. This ability allows us to also empathize with other people’s feelings, and help them manage their thoughts and emotions. Our EQ increases when we learn to understand our own as well as other’s past experiences, and we gain a clearer picture of ourself and those around us. This insight and discernment will help us to reduce the chance of projecting one’s own shortcomings to others and prevent misunderstanding and conflicts.
The Process of Maturing
At the root of the maturation process is the ability to approach learning with a spirit of humility and persistence. For a man to mature, he first must admit and courageously face his own mistakes.
According to psychology, there are four stages of learning a new skill:
- Unconscious Incompetence: In the first stage, the person does know how to do something and does not even recognize his own deficit. He must come to a realization of his incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage
- Conscious Incompetence: The person recognizes his own incompetence though he still does not know how to perform the new skill.
- Conscious Competence: The learner now understands the new skill, but it requires much concentration and conscious effort. He needs continual practice before he can move to the next stage.
- Unconscious Competence: After much practice with a skill, it becomes “second nature” to the person such that it can be performed while executing another task. He may even be able to teach it to others.
Let me give you a specific example of the maturing process of a typical man.
When I was at Northwestern University, I facilitated four treatment groups. These groups were training classes which helped students to improve their emotional intelligence through experiential learning. Students were allowed to participate in these training classes as long as they agree to abide by two rules: everyone must affirm other group members, and must unconditionally accept everyone else by speaking the truth in love.
One of the graduate students, a typical male, joined the training class because he was frustrated with his inability to communicate with his wife as well as his inability to resolve conflicts with his co-workers. When he first joined, he did not understand his own emotions, let alone understand other people’s emotions. Gradually, however, he began to feel genuinely loved as he witnessed the affirmation and acceptance the other people in the group showed to him. He felt that he could actually be himself and his fears of getting hurt again began to lessen. Additionally, when faced with problems, he found support and encouragement from his group members. Slowly, this kind of love flowed into his heart, and before he even realized it, he was healed. By the time this student graduated, he was transformed and declared, “What I learned in the emotional quotient training class is the best lesson I’ve learned in my life. It changed my life and it is the best education I received from Northwestern University. This group is a life changing group. ”
Through constant displays of affirmation and loving acceptance, a person who has been deeply hurt can rediscover that they are deeply loved. They begin to understand their own emotions through those who love them dearly. As a result, their emotional intelligence begins to blossom.
Humility is Necessary for Growth
Most men are highly concerned with saving face and are afraid to admit they have weaknesses and needs. This often hinders them from many prime opportunities for learning and growth. For example, in a marriage relationship when the couple should be the best of friends, the inherent differences between men and women often cause communication problems. When a man reaches middle age, his career tends to become stagnant, and he begins to look for emotional fulfillment outside of work. If the emotional intelligence of the man is low at this time, and his relationship with his wife is not satisfying, it is easy for him to fall prey to a mid-life crisis. However, this crisis at middle age could be prevented if the man, early in his marriage, had taken the opportunity and had been willing to learn the differences between the two sexes and between different people. A high EQ includes understanding how his upbringing and culture influence his personality and relationships with his wife and others. He needs to have the ability to regulate his own emotions. Admitting his need to restore broken relationships and then learning the components that destroy and build relationships are instrumental in developing sound character. This allows him to maintain a strong marriage and fulfillment through life changes.
I encourage the readers, particularly the men, to face adversity in life with an openness to learn humbly. My desire is to see every man make use of the resources available to him, mature through life’s trials, and experience deeper and more meaningful relationships. For those who are married, I encourage the wives to respect and support their husbands in their growth so that together you can share in a harmonious and happy life.