Emotional Intelligence, Feeling Better and Recovery

Emotional Intelligence? No, Thank You

I spent the first 40 years of my life practicing strategies to cover up, push away or otherwise keep deeper feelings “at bay” because…well because I didn’t know how to deal with them. The feelings, (that is, the ones I could actually name) seemed irreconcilable, useless really. And if I was going to “get ahead”, I’d better buckle down and deny permission to that kind of self-sabotage. What am I–gonna be one of those guys, “still trying to find himself” as the message goes? Baggage, dude. Lose it, or at the very least, keep it in one of those public rental spaces away from the mainstream, Okay?

About 180 degrees from where I needed to be, but “getting ahead” and “doing well” were at the helm for the master plan in the first 40 and hey, isn’t that what life is all about? A grown man with a beautiful family and everything anyone could ever ask for–without a clue. Now and in retrospect, I give myself a break because active addiction was onboard my mind, body and spirit and in fact, an intergenerational legacy in my family. Emotional intelligence and active addiction do not go hand-in-hand.

On the waters edge asking,  "Why am I here?"

On the water’s edge asking,
“What am I doing here?”

But as authentic good fortune would have it, at the age of 40, in a burning bush kind of experience, I found myself on the water’s edge saturated with anger, disappointment and shame and asked out loud, “What am I doing here?!” Without skipping a beat another voice as clear as mine responded by saying, “You’re here to feel.” “Feel what?” I asked. The voice said, “You’re here to feel everything.” “I’ll need some help with that”, I admonished and then and finally heard, “You got it, and remember, you are part of the help.”

I Can Feel It

At age 40 I gave up some of the emotional repression practices I had including the use of drugs and alcohol. And over the course of the last two decades, I’ve been learning to feel better–to feel everything better in a process of progress and certainly not perfection. Early on, the practices inspired me to create this video clip, I Can Feel It.

So now, soon to be a part of the 60-something crowd, I frame my quest for emotional intelligence in an even larger context. Having not anesthetized myself with drugs or alcohol for two decades, I’m frequently startled by just how much I do feel–and feel better. Because oh yeah, I can feel it…”Coming back again, like rolling thunder chasing the wind, like forces pulling from the center of the Earth again, I Can Feel It”…with amazing, unadulterated and often raw gratitude.

With all of the reasons to stay armored and, “I’m Okay!” becoming no longer valuable, I revel in the emotional domain in a way I never knew was available–and I really am Okay, right now…today. I’ve learned that no matter what feelings are passing through, to be hospitable to them as Rumi’s ancient poem, The Guest House suggests, “Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Emotional Intelligence? Yes, Thank You

Emotional intelligence is at the core of it all

Emotional intelligence is foundational for brain health and addiction recovery

Daniel Goleman wrote the seminal, Emotional Intelligence back in the day and now has co-authored a sequel, Primal Leadership describing the emotional intelligence core competencies that are now gaining the attention of corporate America. In the development of the book, the authors describe the “neuroanatomy of leadership” and the paramount importance of emotional intelligence in the leadership of any successful organization. It’s a great read and maps seamlessly with the importance of including an ongoing emotional intelligence practice in addiction recovery.

Addiction is a brain disorder and disease having to do in large part with the center of the brain dealing with memory, motivation, learning, emotion and reward. The neuroanatomy of leadership in my life includes reinforcing memory by staying motivated and well invested in an ongoing learning curve about my ever evolving emotional intelligence practice. The healthy reward has been immense.

Emotional intelligence along with working on our core human competencies of intellectual, moral and spiritual intelligences brings deep empathy for self and others and the sense of unity for more joy, productivity and peace of mind.

I am very grateful for having listened to and acted upon that emotionally intelligent voice I heard in my mind–all those years ago.

Yes indeed, I am feeling better.

Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: herbybell@me.com.  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • This line jumped out – “Emotional intelligence and active addiction do not go hand-in-hand.” That is definitely true. It would be a challenge to have much emotionally feeling at all when a person is abusing substances, as they are numbing out their feelings and their pain. Family members do that as well when they become so embroiled in their loved one’s situation, that they lose themselves. I read Emotional Intelligence back in the day and it was a great book. Primal Leadership sounds interesting, so I will add it to my list! Thanks Herby!
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    • HerbyBell says:


      Your great comment inspired this apropos quote, I JUST read from Dr. John Ratey’s, “Spark” wherein he comments extensively about addiction. Here are his words as it relates to the inability of people in active addiction, to “feel well”, “Naturally satisfying forms of stimulation such as love, food and social interaction are a bland backdrop to the vivid experience of the drug. The normal course of life doesn’t do it [in active addiction]. They, [the addicts] can’t FEEL it.” So true for me…then.

      And good point about the family dulling their senses as well–as you and our colleague, Lisa Frederiksen point out/address with such interventions as your CRAFT work and her Secondhand Drinking work. Thank you for your important participation/contributions in this ongoing conversation.
      HerbyBell Wants You To Read…Emotional Intelligence, Feeling Better and RecoveryMy Profile

  • I’m very moved, Herby – having watched the video. And I’ll watch it again, and then some. Don’t want to say much more, ’cause there’s nothing really left to say. Seriously, thank you, man…
    Bill White, Licensed Counselor Wants You To Read…The Ambivalence Mire | Get Out of the Mud with Motivational InterviewingMy Profile

  • I’m with Bill – very, very moved. Thanks for such a powerful piece and your video, my gosh, Herby … I just have to sit with this.

  • Herby, what a beautiful article and video. So unbelievably powerful. Emotional intelligience is really catching on, but it is still underrated! So important for all of us all of the time. You are so right, it allows us to FEEL, and in the end it allows us to live at our fullest. You always write great articles Herby, and this one is one of my favorites!

  • HerbyBell says:

    So agree Leslie…thanks for the kindness and “living at our fullest”…I like that.
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  • Jody Lamb says:

    Dr. Herby Bell! Every time you share about your journey, I smile. So inspiring. I think the majority of people ignore the emotionally intelligent voices; it’s just what we do. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to listen to that voice to be healthy and happy today.

    “With all of the reasons to stay armored and, “I’m Okay!” becoming no longer valuable, I revel in the emotional domain in a way I never knew was available–and I really am okay, right now…today.” – Beautiful writing there!

    Jody Lamb Wants You To Read…Video: When your family ignores problems, it’s your cue to break the cycle and get helpMy Profile

  • HerbyBell says:

    Thanks, Jody. When hearing voices in our heads is a cool thing…

    I appreciate your valuable feedback.
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  • TCI says:

    This is first time I come across your website. We can be our worst enemy with nonsense guilt and soul searching. I literally have been around the world to find myself and realize that my starting point was the place I should be. We have to appreciate what we have first and improve on that if we can. By the way, leadership starts with managing your own potential in my opinion. Great article, thanks.
    TCI Wants You To Read…Auto Roadside Recovery / Assistance Services & ProvidersMy Profile

  • Thank you for that article Herby,it was very moving to read. I came across it as I was researching information on emotions for an ebook I’m writing for my own clients. Its amazing who little importance is given to helping us identify, feel and manage our own emotions With my clients at a rehab I worked in I focused extensively on increasing emotional intelligence. The ones who really focussed on learning and tolerating different emotional states are generally still clean and happy today. One of my clients – addicted to meth for over ten years – came to one of my sessions overwhelmed because he had experienced what he realised was joy for the first time in his adult life. It was an extraordinary thing to witness.
    I look forward to reading more posts from you

    • HerbyBell says:


      Thank you for the kindness of your comments. I agree, the mesolimbic brain can remain the unconscious driving force perpetuating the mayhem OR we can up-regulate and integrate our intellectual, moral, spiritual and emotional intelligences and experience more of that Joy, productivity and peace we all want and deserve. It’s 2015. We know what to do and I am comforted to know more professionals like you are bringing it, Christine. Best wishes in disseminating this essential information in your ebook–what the world needs NOW. I’ll look forward to reading it and please keep me posted? Regards, Herby

  • Thank You for the encouraging remarks Herby, I will keep you posted.

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