The Second Pillar of Self-Care: Emotional Intelligence
When you're in spiritual alignment, emotional intelligence almost becomes second nature. As you move throughout your day, making decisions, and engaging with other people, you'll find that emotional intelligence involves balancing your own energy and cultivating the ability to respond instead of react.
Divine masculine energy and divine feminine energy are part of nature's grand design
One of the things I love about nature is how it both reflects and influences human behavior and design. Take a look at the sun and moon. In every language, the sun is a masculine word and the moon is feminine. In Spanish, for example, el sol means "the sun" and la luna means "the moon." The sun represents go time and warrior-like energy while the moon is more about introspective work, lighting up paths, and gentle strength. This same energy is reflected in dominant hormones of the sexes and — I don't know about you, but — I don't think that's by coincidence.
Just as the sun rises and sets every day, so does a man's testosterone level. According to the American Psychological Association, "men's testosterone cycles fluctuate from higher in the morning to lower each evening."
A woman's hormone cycle mirrors a similar pattern as the cycle of the moon. Women shift through four phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. Likewise, the moon shifts through four quarters: new, first quarter, full, and last or third quarter. What's interesting is that even though not every woman starts menstruating during the new moon, the characteristics of each hormonal phase match the significance of each moon quarter. For example, both menstruation and the new moon are first and they both call for us to take it easy, relax, and nurture ourselves. Meanwhile, the ovulation phase and full moon are all about big energy, letting loose, and saying to hell with whatever is out of our control.
How toxic masculinity and toxic femininity show up
Considering that each 24-hour cycle consists of the sun and the moon, we can conclude that we, too, are also made of both masculine and feminine energy. The key is to keep those energies in balance because one overpowering the other can be toxic. Toxic masculinity involves using a guise of toughness or strength to mask your feelings or justify controlling, abusive, or inappropriate behavior. On the other end of the spectrum, when we are so submissive, so focused on physical beauty, or so focused on being agreeable that we no longer honor our own voice, needs, and desires, those are common signs of toxic femininity.
Keep in mind, toxic masculinity isn't reserved for men and toxic femininity isn't reserved for women. Men can display toxic feminine traits and women can display toxic masculine traits. I've encountered a few toxic feminine men in my day and I've seen how they can be passive-aggressive, doormats, position themselves as martyrs, or play up the victim role. I've also come across a few toxic masculine women, too. I'll be the first to admit that I used to be one of them. Being super guarded, cutting off all emotion, or using sex as a manipulation tactic are attributes of a toxic masculine woman.
When masculine and feminine energy are in balance, you become less toxic and more of your true divine nature shines through. You're able to make decisions with a clear head and an open heart, balancing what you think with how you feel. You're also able to discern when to press forward and when to give yourself some rest. You know when to negotiate and when to compromise or when to speak up and when to just listen.
Understanding the difference between reacting and responding
Whether you want to rejoice with glee or cuss somebody out, knowing how to respond instead of react puts you in control of your emotions so that your emotions don't have control over you. The big difference between the two is that while reacting is purely emotional, responding involves logic without sweeping how you feel under the rug. Even in happy, celebratory moments, responding instead of reacting can sometimes be the healthier or safer response as it leads you to make wise decisions instead of taking brash action.
With that said, reacting in and of itself is not bad. When you're watching the game and your team scores a touchdown or if you're in danger, reacting is likely best because, again, it's emotionally charged and prompts immediate action. Responding, on the other hand, is slow and intentional. When you're in disagreement with someone or if you're trying to make a tough decision, more thought and reasoning are called for. Emotions aren't ignored. They're just not the dominant source for determining what to do or say next.
Stop. Breathe. Act. If you're like me and need a step-by-step how-to on things, there it is. This is how you respond to situations.
First, you stop. While being quick-witted and knowing exactly what to say is often praised, there's a lot of power in the pause. Taking a beat allows the adrenaline to settle and places your emotions in the passenger seat instead of behind the steering wheel.
Next, you breathe. Inhale slowly and deep through the nose, then exhale slowly and with control through the mouth. Deep breathing, even just one breath, puts the whole body at ease.
Now, take action. If you can say what you need to say with respect and integrity, say it. If not, walk away and come back to the conversation later.
Displaying emotional intelligence isn't always easy, but the more you practice, it's a skill that can make your life a lot less stressful and easier to enjoy.