This EI factor is defined as our ability to be aware of, identify and understand our emotions. First and foremost, emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognize our various emotions and distinguish between them. For example, it is to know when we are angry and when we are scared and the difference between the two which many people confuse. It is not only the ability to be aware of our emotions and distinguish between them, but is also the ability to understand why we feel the way we do. Emotional self-awareness is to know what we are feeling and why, and to know what causes these feelings.
This is probably the most important factorial component of emotional-social intelligence and integrally associated with other important EI factors such as the ability to accurately understand how others feel and to express our own feelings as well as to effectively manage and control emotions. Emotional self-awareness appears, in one form or another, in every description, definition and conceptualization of this construct from Darwin to the present day; and there is no EI psychometric instrument that does not include a measure of this important EI factor. This is, therefore, the minimal component required by any model that attempts to describe EI.
People who possess high emotional self-awareness are said to be “in touch with their feelings” and have a good understanding of their inner being. On the other hand, serious deficiencies in this area are found in an emotional disorder known as “alexithymia” which is at the pathological end of the EI continuum; and these people have great difficulty knowing what they feel, what caused those feelings and how to distinguish between them. This condition has long been thought to be one of the contributing factors in the development of psychosomatic disorders as well as other psychological and physical disturbances. It is also interesting to know that alexithymia correlates highly with “treatment rejection” (i.e., the inability to benefit from psychotherapy). This finding is logical, because it is very difficult for people who are deficient in emotional self-awareness to understand their emotions and how their feelings impact their lives. As such, (a) an average to above average level of emotional self-awareness together with (b) an average to above average cognitive capacity and (c) motivation for self-improvement are the minimal three criteria for predicting the ability to benefit from any form of intervention from psychotherapy to corporate coaching as well as the outcome such interventions. It is therefore highly recommended to first examine the strength or weakness of this important factor when preparing the initial debriefing session designed to convey the results of EI-oriented testing and/or interviewing in order to gauge the individual’s general ability to benefit from coaching, counseling or psychotherapy.
Last, it is important to note that when this EI factor is weak, it is nearly impossible to develop effective empathy. Simply put, we cannot understand how others feel if we do not understand how we feel. Often, problems in relating with others stem from underdeveloped emotional self-awareness, which is highly correlated with empathy.
Together with self-regard, as defined in the previous segment, emotional self-awareness represents the two key components of what is referred to as “self-awareness” which is being aware of various aspects of our emotions and feelings in particular and of ourselves in general.