Emotional Intelligence - can I regain it? How much damage/habit can be undone? Looking for book recommendations and/or mental exercises. [long inside]
This is very personal, and I half-wanted to post this anonymously, but I really respect the AskMe community so I'm throwing this on the table and sharing it.
[The very quick version for people who don't want to read it all is this: I was once incredibly gifted. Bad things happened to me and I feel like I lost that gift and also created some bad habits/behavioral reaction patterns. I'm looking for a way to repair that. Now for the detailed version...]
I will try to keep this as short as I can, but don't want to be overly scant on details so it's still long. Basically, I was a "gifted" child - speaking in full sentences before I was a year old.
My parents wanted to cultivate it and not let me be hindered by rather lackluster accomodations of public schools, so they grouped up with other parents when I was very young, and actually created a school for gifted children.
I went there until 5th grade, when money ran out and times became very troubled for my parents, financially. At that point, I was cast back into the public school system having spent all of my childhood only conversing with other very intelligent kids and even moreso with adults. I was completely at home talking about news or technology with my Dad's friends, even when I was a young kid, for example. My IQ tests were somewhat insane, and as we all know, "intelligent" people are often not the most well praised by their peers. That, combined with being short and skinny, made for a difficult experience.
Difficulty became trauma as years went by - I was the victim of a lot of physical and mental bullying. There were multiple occasions where my life was in fact in danger -- to people who I'd barely spoken a word to. I was at the receiving end of vicious bullying by individuals and groups, and it screwed me up big time. My academics suffered, and I changed from an overachiever to an underachiever. I was still "smart", but I just didn't care anymore - grades were meaningless to me. I got mostly A's and B's for a while, then as high school came and went I found myself getting a considerable number of C's. More notably - I found myself incredibly depressed to the point that my health and safety were in danger. The plus side of all of this is how much I learned about social interaction. I was not the socially inept type of nerd, in fact quite the contrary, but I was not good at interacting with the whole "hierarchy" in public school as a dork/outcast. I developed quite a persecution complex, which probably amplified my feelings of depression, loneliness, etc. I was always in a state of "fight or flight", afraid to walk the halls for fear of verbal of physical abuse, and sometimes even afraid to walk home the same way every day. This led to me being sick quite often, and developing a big problem with insomnia.
Thankfully, a trip off to college made a world of difference for me. I continued to underachieve academically, and got mostly B's and C's but did manage to get a respectable degree from a respectable institution. While I didn't do that well with grades, I got a fresh start and made a lot of friends, proving to myself that the whole high school / junior high period of my life was probably not really my fault and I wasn't some sort of freak. I gained a reputation for being able to befriend the frat boys and sorority girls just as easily as I could befriend the nerds or the goth kids or the [insert subculture here]... Socially, I'd say I've become very adept and perceptive for the most part.
Now, as I come up on 28 years old, the depression and persecution complex issues I had are a think of the past. A few things linger, however: When it comes to academic sorts of things, I'm still very impatient and unmotivated. I cannot read a book to save my life unless it's an audiobook, because after 5 pages of "reading", I will realize my mind was in 8 different places and I didn't really take in the last 2. My insomnia lingers, which I've posted about to AskMeFi before. Finally, I spent so much time feeling disliked and abused by my peers that I have a great deal of difficulty accepting (or even believing) praise. In fact, I probably overuse self-deprecating humor.
This was made clear to me when I received my review recently at work. I got a meaningful promotion, and the highest possible rating (which is generally unheard of - nobody gets this rating). I got to read quotes from my peers here at work (anonymous quotes, but real nonetheless) and was astounded at the lengths people went to to describe how great it is to work with me and how intelligent and perceptive I am at my job. My boss had me read these things in my review, and seemed like he was awaiting my verbal response to what I was reading. All I could think to say in response was "I am speechless. I spent so much of my time growing up being the kid who was picked on and had a persecution complex that I have absolutely no clue how to respond to this sort of praise. All I can think to say is 'Wow', and 'Thank You'"
By serendipity's sake or whatever, I've been reading (err, listening to) a book called Emotional Intelligence
, and it has clued me in to something: I still have a lot of deep seeded behaviors and beliefs that I really need to work on changing, but I'm afraid that at my age this will be incredibly difficult. I see myself being very defensive at times, and I get very animated and energized when I'm arguing my side of something. I don't yell or resort to attacks, but I just feel like maybe I'm displaying too much vigor. I also see this at the poker table (a serious hobby of mine) -- I react immaturely and stupidly to "bad beats" (when someone catches the 1 card in the deck that saves them, for example). For poker fans out there: I'm no Phil Hellmuth, but I still look back at some of my behavior with embarassment.
How can I learn to slow my brain down enough to read a book instead of having to do audiobooks? How can I learn to relax and not be so defensive? How can I learn to not be so reactive when things don't go my way? Emotional Intelligence is a great book, and has taught me a lot about the neurology of what's going on with me, and has allowed me to understand how my past has shaped my present. What I really want now, though, is to find a way to undo what the past did to me. I was once exceedingly intelligent, and I feel like I've let my intellectual gift go completely to waste because of what happened to me academically in the past. I want to redeem myself and make use of it again, and would love to hear some recommendations for books or other resources that would give me techniques for retraining my mind.
Thanks in advance for reading all of that.