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Constructive Thinking

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Overview

This is a book on how to gain control of one's emotions. It is a serious book that contains a theory of automatic processing it presents and its implications for controlling emotions. Epstein is a professor of personality psychology and a highly regarded research psychologist who has supported his theory with extensive research published in the most demanding professional journals. He was motivated to write the book by the success of a course he taught based on his theory. Students reported obtaining an understanding and control of their emotions that they never thought possible and that they said changed the course of their lives.

According to the theory, people operate by two minds, a rational-analytical mind and an intuitive-experiential mind, the latter being intimately associated with emotions. Each mind operates by its own principles and each has its own form of intelligence. The intelligence of the rational-analytical mind is measured by IQ tests and the intelligence of the intuitive-experiential mind (which is related to emotional intelligence) by the Constructive Thinking Inventory (CTI), a test developed by Epstein that is included in the book. By understanding the principles of operation of the intuitive-experiential mind, it is possible to train it as well as to learn from it, and thereby to improve one's emotional intelligence. The book provides exercises for applying the principles in everyday life and a review of a variety of other procedures for improving emotional intelligence. It is suited for use as a primary or supplementary text in courses on improving emotional intelligence or coping with stress as well as for individual reading.

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Editorial Reviews

Contemporary Psychology
One of the great strengths of Constructive Thinking is its review of what qualities of personality lead to successful living,...to successful workplace performance, love, adjustment, health, and good parenting...His review is greatly enriched by a generous selection of annecdotes and case histories...Epstein is balanced, thoughtful, and often wise...Epstein's book is far better than most popular alternatives. It is a thoughtful, accurate depiction of how personality can lead to success and the ways one can improve oneself. His approach is rigorous and scholarly, yet accessible, and provides important information to the public.
Booknews
Provides general readers with techniques for gaining control of emotions and with a theory for understanding why the techniques work, drawing on techniques of cognitive therapy. Provides a theory of personality based on a new view of the unconscious. Includes checklists and exercises. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275958848
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/30/1998
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

SEYMOUR EPSTEIN is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Emotional Intelligence Revisisted
The idea of emotional intelligence has evoked a great deal of interest recently, mainly due to the influence of Dan Goleman's best-selling book, "Emotional Intelligence". Goleman makes a compelling case for emotional intelligence being important for success in living and very likely more important than intellectual intelligence. People appreciate the message in Goleman's book because they have long resented the excessive importance that has been attributed to IQ. Everyone knows of people with average IQs who are highly successful and of others with very high IQs - stars of their high school classes - who have never made it in the real world. This raises the question of what the first group has that the other is missing. Goleman's answer is that it has emotional intelligence.

There is no question but that emotional intelligence is very important. However, as valuable as Goleman's contribution is to an appreciation of the importance of emotional intelligence, it also has several important limitations, among which are a failure to define emotional intelligence, the inclusion of so many different abilities under emotional intelligence as to obscure its meaning, a failure to recognize the importance of those aspects of practical intelligence that are not part of emotional intelligence, and, perhaps most important, a failure to appreciate the influence of preconscious, automatic thoughts on emotion. This latter issue is particularly important for understanding emotional intelligence and what can be done to improve it. From the position that Goleman takes, there is nothing adults can do to improve their experience of emotions, as they are beyond the "neurological window of opportunity" that is available to children. The best adults can hope to do is to control the expression of their inappropriate or "unintelligent" emotions. Ironically, Goleman's analysis would rescue us from the false belief that success in life is determined by our IQs but then present us with an equally restricticting false belief, namely that once we are beyond childhood, our success in life is determined by our immutable emotions.

In this and the next chapter, I explore the concept of emotional intelligence, consider what it is and is not, and contrast it with intellectual intelligence, about which a great deal more is known. Most important, I discuss the view that automatic, preconscious thoughts precede and determine emotions and therefore make it possible for people to learn to control the emotions they experience by controlling the underlying preconscious thoughts, a theme that is emphasized throughout this book.

A Tale of two Tales

As a first step toward understanding the difference between emotional and intellectual intelligence, consider the following two perspectives on the meaning of life. As you read each passage, try to answer the following questions: How intellectually intelligent is the protagonist? How emotionally intelligent is he? On what basis did you distinguish between emotional and intellectual intelligence?

The first passage is from "My Confession" by Leo Tolstoi, the great Russian novelist, who describes his thoughts during a period of depression: "When I thought of the fame which my works had gained me, I used to say to myself, 'Well, what if I should be more famous than Gogol, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Moliere...well, what then?...Such questions demand an answer, and an immediate one; without one it is impossible to live, but answer there was none... If I wished for something, I knew beforehand, that were I to satisfy the wish, nothing would come of it, I should still be dissatisfied...I knew not what I wanted...

"Such was the condition I had come to, at the time when all the circumstances of my life were pre_eminently happy ones, and when I had not yet reached my fiftieth year. I had a good, a loving, and a well_beloved wife, good children, a fine estate, which, without much trouble on my part, continually increased my income; I was more than ever respected by my friends and acquaintances; I was praised by strangers, and could lay cliam to having made my name famous...

"I could not attribute reasonable motive to any single act, much less to my whole life. I was only astonished that this had not occurred to me before from premises which had so long been known. Illness and death would come..., if not today, then tomorow, to those whom I loved, to myself, and nothing would remain but stench and worms. All my acts, whatever I did, would sooner or later be forgotten, and I myself be nowhere. Why, then, busy one's self with anything? How could men see this and live? It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us; as soon as we are sober again we see that it is all a delusion and a stupid one."

Now consider the following tale: A Buddhist monk, being hotly pursued by a vicious tiger, fell off a cliff. By good fortune, he landed on a ledge. He could see the tiger waiting hungrily above him, but even if the tiger departed, he knew that the slope was too steep for him to climb. Since there was no escape from above and a sheer drop below, he realized his fate was sealed. No sooner did he have this thought, then the ledge that was supporting him began to develop cracks in it, and it was apparent that it would shortly fall away and hurtle him to his death. As he looked about, he spied a strawberry plant growing out of a crevice in the rock. He plucked a berry from it, ate it very slowly to savor its taste, and thought, "How delicious!"...

Given the awareness of the limited time we all have to live on earth, it is equally logical to conclude that life is futile, and there is no point therefore in living, as to conclude that one might as well make the best of what time one has. Although the two onclusions are equally logical, one is more constructive in the sense that it leads to a more satisfactory way of leading one's life. Does this mean that one should always think positively? Not necessarily, for thinking positively in some circumstances, such as in the face of danger, can lead to disaster. Thinking constructively is not the same as thinking positively. I have much more to say about constructive thinking later in this book. For now, I only wish to emphasize that specific kinds of thoughts precede and determine emotions, that these thoughts occur automatically, that they vary in constructiveness, and that constructive thinking underlies emotional intelligence. If you automatically think constructively, you will exhibit emotional intelligence, and if you don't, you won't...

Two Minds and Two kinds of Intelligence
... In this book, I present a theory of the mind that provides a new perspective on understanding emotional intelligence and how it can be trained. A basic assumption in the theory is that human beings operate by two minds, an "experiential mind", which learns directly from experience, is preconscious, operates automatically, and is intimately associated with emotions. and a "rational mind", which operates according to logical inference, is conscious, deliberative, and relatively emotion-free. All behavior is determined by the combined influence of the two minds, with the degree to which each contributes varying from almost no influence to almost complete dominance, depending on the situation and the person. As the experiential and rational minds provide different ways of solving problems, each has its own form of intelligence. The intelligence of the rational mind is what IQ tests measure, and its essence is the ability to solve abstract problems. The intelligence of the experiential mind includes practical intelligence, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence. To say that each mind has its own form of intelligence is simply to note, according to my definition, that both are ways of knowing and that both are used to solve problems....

Which comes first, Emotions or Thoughts?
... If thought precedes emotions, why do so many people believe it is the other way around? The reason is that the thoughts that precede emotions usually occur automatically and preconsciously, so people are not normally aware of them., whereas the ones that follow emotions are conspicuous in our consciousness. If someone makes us angry, we are consciously aware of thinking about how badly that person behaved and of what we would like to do to even the score. Because we are aware of these thoughts but not the ones that preceded and instigated the emotion, we have the illusion that emotion precedes thought. Putting it all together, it can be said that preconscious, automatic thoughts, including interpretations of situations, normally precede and induce emotions, which are then followed by conscious thoughts about how to deal with the situation, including whether to express the emotion and, if so, in what manner.

In this chapter I tried to give you an intuitive feeling for the difference between intellectual and emotional intelligence and for the preconscious thoughts that underlie the latter. In the next, I discuss intellectual and emotional intelligence in greater detail and consider what each is and is not and what would have to be accomplished in the measurement of emotional intelligence to establish it as a scientifically viable concept comparable to intellectual intelligence.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Part I. A Tale of Two Minds: (1) Emotional Intelligence Revisisted, (2)What is Emotional Intelligence and How Can It Be Measured? (3) Constructive Thinking: The Intelligence of the Experiential Mind, (4) Testing Your Constructive Thinking, (5) Evidence for the Experiential Mind, (6) How Your Experiential Mind Thinks, (7) Why We Do What We Do: A New Understanding of Human Behavior

Part II. Constructive Thinking and Success in Living: (8) Constructive Thinking and Success in the Workplace, (9) Constructive Love, (10) Better Constructive Thinking Means Better Adjustment and Less Stress, (11) How You Think Can Affect Your Health

Part III. Where Constructive Thinking Comes From and How It Changes: (12) Once a Constructive Thinker, Always a Constructive Thinker? (13) Parenting Good Constructive Thinkers, (14) How Life Experience Affects Constructive Thinking

Part IV. Improving Your Constructive Thinking: (15) Getting to Know Your Experiential Self, (16) Evaluating Your Automatic Thinking, (17) Training Your Experiential Mind, (18) The Wisdom of the Experiential Mind

Epilogue: Constructive Thinking in Broader Context
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First Chapter

From Chapter One
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE REVISITED

The idea of emotional intelligence has evoked a great deal of interest recently, mainly due to the influence of Dan Goleman's best-selling book, "Emotional Intelligence". Goleman makes a compelling case for emotional intelligence being important for success in living and very likely more important than intellectual intelligence. People appreciate the message in Goleman's book because they have long resented the excessive importance that has been attributed to IQ. Everyone knows of people with average IQs who are highly successful and of others with very high IQs - stars of their high school classes - who have never made it in the real world. This raises the question of what the first group has that the other is missing. Goleman's answer is that it has emotional intelligence.

There is no question but that emotional intelligence is very important. However, as valuable as Goleman's contribution is to an appreciation of the importance of emotional intelligence, it also has several important limitations, among which are a failure to define emotional intelligence, the inclusion of so many different abilities under emotional intelligence as to obscure its meaning, a failure to recognize the importance of those aspects of practical intelligence that are not part of emotional intelligence, and, perhaps most important, a failure to appreciate the influence of preconscious, automatic thoughts on emotion. This latter issue is particularly important for understanding emotional intelligence and what can be done to improve it. From the position that Goleman takes, there is nothing adults can do to improve their experience of emotions, as they are beyond the "neurological window of opportunity" that is available to children. The best adults can hope to do is to control the expression of their inappropriate or "unintelligent" emotions. Ironically, Goleman's analysis would rescue us from the false belief that success in life is determined by our IQs but then present us with an equally restricticting false belief, namely that once we are beyond childhood, our success in life is determined by our immutable emotions.

In this and the next chapter, I explore the concept of emotional intelligence, consider what it is and is not, and contrast it with intellectual intelligence, about which a great deal more is known. Most important, I discuss the view that automatic, preconscious thoughts precede and determine emotions and therefore make it possible for people to learn to control the emotions they experience by controlling the underlying preconscious thoughts, a theme that is emphasized throughout this book.

A TALE OF TWO TALES As a first step toward understanding the difference between emotional and intellectual intelligence, consider the following two perspectives on the meaning of life. As you read each passage, try to answer the following questions: How intellectually intelligent is the protagonist? How emotionally intelligent is he? On what basis did you distinguish between emotional and intellectual intelligence?

The first passage is from "My Confession" by Leo Tolstoi, the great Russian novelist, who describes his thoughts during a period of depression: "When I thought of the fame which my works had gained me, I used to say to myself, 'Well, what if I should be more famous than Gogol, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Moliere...well, what then?...Such questions demand an answer, and an immediate one; without one it is impossible to live, but answer there was none... If I wished for something, I knew beforehand, that were I to satisfy the wish, nothing would come of it, I should still be dissatisfied...I knew not what I wanted...

"Such was the condition I had come to, at the time when all the circumstances of my life were pre-eminently happy ones, and when I had not yet reached my fiftieth year. I had a good, a loving, and a well-beloved wife, good children, a fine estate, which, without much trouble on my part, continually increased my income; I was more than ever respected by my friends and acquaintances; I was praised by strangers, and could lay cliam to having made my name famous...

"I could not attribute reasonable motive to any single act, much less to my whole life. I was only astonished that this had not occurred to me before from premises which had so long been known. Illness and death would come..., if not today, then tomorow, to those whom I loved, to myself, and nothing would remain but stench and worms. All my acts, whatever I did, would sooner or later be forgotten, and I myself be nowhere. Why, then, busy one's self with anything? How could men see this and live? It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us; as soon as we are sober again we see that it is all a delusion and a stupid one."

Now consider the following tale: A Buddhist monk, being hotly pursued by a vicious tiger, fell off a cliff. By good fortune, he landed on a ledge. He could see the tiger waiting hungrily above him, but even if the tiger departed, he knew that the slope was too steep for him to climb. Since there was no escape from above and a sheer drop below, he realized his fate was sealed. No sooner did he have this thought, then the ledge that was supporting him began to develop cracks in it, and it was apparent that it would shortly fall away and hurtle him to his death. As he looked about, he spied a strawberry plant growing out of a crevice in the rock. He plucked a berry from it, ate it very slowly to savor its taste, and thought, "How delicious!"...

Given the awareness of the limited time we all have to live on earth, it is equally logical to conclude that life is futile, and there is no point therefore in living, as to conclude that one might as well make the best of what time one has. Although the two onclusions are equally logical, one is more constructive in the sense that it leads to a more satisfactory way of leading one's life. Does this mean that one should always think positively? Not necessarily, for thinking positively in some circumstances, such as in the face of danger, can lead to disaster. Thinking constructively is not the same as thinking positively. I have much more to say about constructive thinking later in this book. For now, I only wish to emphasize that specific kinds of thoughts precede and determine emotions, that these thoughts occur automatically, that they vary in constructiveness, and that constructive thinking underlies emotional intelligence. If you automatically think constructively, you will exhibit emotional intelligence, and if you don't, you won't...

TWO MINDS AND TWO KINDS OF INTELLIGENCE

In this book, I present a theory of the mind that provides a new perspective on understanding emotional intelligence and how it can be trained. A basic assumption in the theory is that human beings operate by two minds, an "experiential mind", which learns directly from experience, is preconscious, operates automatically, and is intimately associated with emotions. and a "rational mind", which operates according to logical inference, is conscious, deliberative, and relatively emotion-free. All behavior is determined by the combined influence of the two minds, with the degree to which each contributes varying from almost no influence to almost complete dominance, depending on the situation and the person. As the experiential and rational minds provide different ways of solving problems, each has its own form of intelligence. The intelligence of the rational mind is what IQ tests measure, and its essence is the ability to solve abstract problems. The intelligence of the experiential mind includes practical intelligence, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence. To say that each mind has its own form of intelligence is simply to note, according to my definition, that both are ways of knowing and that both are used to solve problems....

WHICH COMES FIRST, EMOTIONS OR THOUGHTS?

If thought precedes emotions, why do so many people believe it is the other way around? The reason is that the thoughts that precede emotions usually occur automatically and preconsciously, so people are not normally aware of them., whereas the ones that follow emotions are conspicuous in our consciousness. If someone makes us angry, we are consciously aware of thinking about how badly that person behaved and of what we would like to do to even the score. Because we are aware of these thoughts but not the ones that preceded and instigated the emotion, we have the illusion that emotion precedes thought. Putting it all together, it can be said that preconscious, automatic thoughts, including interpretations of situations, normally precede and induce emotions, which are then followed by conscious thoughts about how to deal with the situation, including whether to express the emotion and, if so, in what manner.

In this chapter I tried to give you an intuitive feeling for the difference between intellectual and emotional intelligence and for the preconscious thoughts that underlie the latter. In the next, I discuss intellectual and emotional intelligence in greater detail and consider what each is and is not and what would have to be accomplished in the measurement of emotional intelligence to establish it as a scientifically viable concept comparable to intellectual intelligence.

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