Amygdala or Neocortex? Fear or Love? Which Path is the First Intelligence Taking?

The first intelligence is, according to the Persian poet Rumi, the “one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says…you stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge.”

As with so many potentially helpful things, how you use it is more important than what you use it for. By how I mean: what’s the intent behind it?

Here’s an example from when I was preparing to travel in Costa Rica. There was an element of fear and anxiety as I attempted to cram Spanish in, hoping to stay safe by preparing more fully. The how here is from fear. The amygdala in my brain was in charge, working hard to stay safe and avert potential disaster. This is fear-based first intelligence. It’s a sad place to be – we’ll never prepare enough to satisfy the amygdala. We’re not ever going to be perfect enough.

The day after I landed I had a four bus ride to get to Cahuita, on the coast. I listened to Spanish lessons for several hours of that ride, dreamily staring out of the window as fresh and new landscape unfolded. I was relaxed, my amygdala was relaxed – it knew I was safe for a few hours. My neocortex perked up, the part of my brain that is interested in happiness and connection. It was excited to learn Spanish! And it didn’t care what kind of progress was made, it just felt like exploring. That’s love of something showing up.

The same Spanish lessons, two very different internal environments, two very different first intelligence experiences. Fear or love – two different paths through the same territory. I’ll take love!



Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:

Emotional Intelligence Works – EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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