Transformative Emotional Intelligence

Transformative Emotional IntelligenceTransformative Emotional Intelligence: 60 Minutes did a story on Pelican Bay, the “supermax” prison in California that locks away people perceived as “most dangerous.” The story revealed how our approach to pervasive problems in some small isolated cases has become more intelligent. We are starting to use transformative emotional intelligence—pausing, withholding judgment, and refraining from labels that diminish.

We are beginning to look holistically at foundational solutions that will elevate humanity to its rightful place. Immoral, unjust, denigrating situations reduce humanity and degrade everyone, but everyone accepts them! Wrong circumstances wrong all involved. Finally, a few are seeing this!

This is the kind of  transformative emotional intelligence that will lead to “BIG ROCKS.”

Pelican Bay’s so-called security housing unit is solitary confinement known as the “SHU.” Those involved and advocates in the know have long denounced it as state-sanctioned torture.

Indeed, researchers and observers discovered that the conditions, the environment in the SHU were making people come out of the SHU worse off than when they went in.

Prison leadership began to realize the practice of relying on solitary confinement didn’t work due to the detrimental impact on the human beings involved.

Watching the story, I kept hearing, “these people are in pain, and they are suffering.”

Somebody finally realized that you couldn’t reform people through punishment or fighting wrongdoing with more wrongdoing.  Scott Kernan, the director who runs the prison system in California, says they are learning that the practice of solitary confinement is outdated. We’ve known for years it’s ineffective and doesn’t work.

California’s SHUs now hold 80 percent fewer inmates than just a few years ago. You could call that progress, a bit of enlightenment.

It has taken a lot of pain and a long time, but we seem to be learning that fighting only energizes the other side. We are finally looking to see the human first, before the deed, the crime, or the behavior.

 The seed of awareness!

Transformative emotional intelligence begins, grows and proliferates upward like a mighty oak from the small power packed seed of awareness.

Here’s Scott Kernan, the director of California’s prison system. “When I first came in, that person was the enemy. Now, 35 years later, I don’t view the inmates as my enemy. They’re people. They’re all going to get out and be our neighbors. Why wouldn’t we spend the resources and create an environment so when they come out, they’re better people than when they got here? I just think it makes all the sense in the world. It’s common sense.”

Small thinking like forcing someone into submission has given way to the BIG ROCKS that come from employing transformative emotional intelligence—awareness, understanding, and insight. From this platform pervasive problems are no longer pervasive.


Reread the director’s words and see the depth of his new awareness that led to understanding and then to insight. He’s shifted from disciplining to investing, from creating dissonance to creating resonance, and the result is humanity is elevated to its rightful lofty position. 


Where could we use more of this transformative thinking in our lives?


© Brian Braudis 2019, All rights reserved

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