Is there an Emotionally Intelligent Way to Access your Conscience?
I do not usually write about spiritual matters. Our work is based on emotional intelligence which is science and not faith. Still, in all my years of work and study, I have failed to come up with a satisfactory means of regulating fear that does not involve some type of faith that the powers that influence our lives are active, compassionate and kind.
The process I offer here for accessing your conscience is not spiritual or religious. Instead, I have come up with a method anyone can use (regardless of their faith), based on emotional intelligence and lateral thinking.
You are welcome to skip to this exercise at the end.
First—I would like to share some of my thoughts on prayer.
Prayer to Soften Your Partner’s Heart?
I often talk to partners in abusive relationships who have had a church elder tell them that they should pray and trust God to soften their partner’s heart.
To me, this would be similar to a plumber telling a person with burst pipes in their home that they should pray that God will fix the pipes for them, or a person running a soup kitchen sending hungry patrons away telling them to pray for God to provide them with food.
Others say they should turn to the Bible for answers.
With the Bible being as long and diverse as it is—written in times so different than our own—how is this meant to help someone?
Should this person read about stoning wives for adultery? Or Lot sleeping with his daughters?
If church elders cannot provide families in their church with emotional support and resources to improve their marriage, I believe they are in the wrong job.
Prayer is not a reliable means of accessing wisdom from our conscience.
Any sensible prayer should not change God’s mind but our perspective
I find it interesting that in the book of Job in the Bible, Job refuses to ask God to deliver him from his afflictions. Instead, Job says that if it is God’s will that he suffer, who is he (Job) to request God do anything differently?
God, in the end, affirms Job’s position on this.
With this in mind, I would like to offer a process to access our conscience, that instead of asking God to do anything differently, will instead bring ourselves to a higher state of mind.
Faith is vital in regulating fear
Fear is an important signal, but like all emotion, it’s essential we can regulate and ‘turn it off’ once we have got the message about what the danger is.
Otherwise, fear can become debilitating and leave us in a situation where we are powerless to act.
Some threats are things we can deal with by ourselves, but shutting that fear response off will sometimes require us having solid faith that there are higher powers that have our best interests at heart. These may include family, elders and officials in our community, emergency services, institutional leaders, government officials and may also include divine beings such as angels, or God.
In times of prosperity, it is easy for us to feel these higher powers are benevolent and kind. However, when times are troubled and life becomes cruel, it is easy to become fearful and lose faith in the powers that rule over our lives.
Even worse can be times when things are unpredictable, and we may begin to fear the higher authorities meant to protect us are self-serving, dormant or fickle and have become indifferent to our needs.
This shifting perspective poses a profound philosophical question that most of us rarely think about but still affects our lives:
Do we consider the supreme power and intelligence in the universe;
- Benevolent and just?
- Absent and indifferent?
- Selfish and cruel?
Our view of this will first be determined by what trust we were able to place in our parents and the broader community while growing up.
If we had kind and caring parents, we probably grew up trusting other people.
On the contrary, if our parents were violent, cruel or neglected us, building trust will require effort and some kind of faith. Without this, our lives are likely to be ruled by anxiety and fear.
Even if we had caring and trustworthy parents, to grow to full wisdom and maturity, eventually we will need to learn that we cannot always trust the people who should be looking out for us.
What is needed to regulate fear?
The more you can place faith in being able to access the right long term decisions for yourself, the better you will be able to regulate fear.
Because if your faith is in a person, institution, government, religious or political group, chances are that at some point that faith will let you down.
For those who have not been tested by adversity in life, the ‘faith that keeps them sane’ usually rests on God, their family, community or civic leaders.
The challenge comes when that trust is broken, and this person suddenly needs to find security from someplace else. Some will make a leap of faith and believe that continuing to trust people they obviously shouldn’t will demonstrate that they are good people who will somehow be rewarded in the end (Codependence). In contrast, others will desperately look for a new leader.
For others who did not have as much security growing up, ‘the faith that keeps them sane’ may have been in forces that changed from day to day and week to week until they finally grew into individuals who felt they could only really trust themselves.
There is strength in this sure, but when eventually, this person discovers their limitations and sees in reality how often they let themselves down this can be a tough place to land.
Finding a dependable source of wisdom
Most humans delight in attention, warmth, affection, reward and praise.
But basing the joy in our lives on the warmth and acceptance of people around us can be a trap.
For starters, if our joy is based only on others acceptance and praise, sooner or later, the people around us will let us down.
Secondly, this dependence may cause us not to trust ourselves when deciding right from wrong.
How often do you genuinely tune into your conscience to do the right thing and how often do you choose to do the ‘done thing’ instead?
The ‘done thing’ may win us praise and respect—but does that mean it is indeed right?
“Would you prefer children who need praise and reward from the people around them every time they do what is right? Or would you prefer children with the inner strength of character to choose to do the right thing—even when that choice is tough, and people criticise them for it?”
[Even if you do not have children – being able to imagine being a parent is essential to this exercise.]
In this sense, injustice is sometimes necessary (as individuals and society) if we are to learn that even when people around us are pressuring us to do the wrong thing—rather than always looking for praise—we can still trust ourselves and our conscience.
To have the courage to follow our conscience and the resilience to endure injustice and hardship, we need access to an inner source of wisdom.
When considering ourselves as the children of divine and benevolent parents (as we will shortly), we can learn to act in a fair and just way—regardless of how people around us respond to those actions.
The simple process I offer
1. Imagine your perfect divine father and mother who love you unconditionally and want to see you grow and develop to be the best person you can be. Take time imagining what your perfect mother and father would be like and how they would love, guide and accept you.
2. Ask for the gift of seeing the situation (that you reviewed in Step One) through your Divine Father and Mother’s eyes.
3. Let yourself relax and feel 100% unconditional love while you see your life from a whole different perspective. Without judgement, allow yourself to see how your Divine Parents would like to see you develop and grow.
4. See your situation through your Divine Parents’ eyes to notice who are the best people around you right now for you to work with to offer you support in that growth.
5. From their perspective, see where people may also need your help and support.
That is it – the process is as simple as that – a sacred well of strength and humility you can visit anytime.