Toxic emotional intelligence is that thing where someone declares themselves evolved, healed, and self-aware, then decides that this allows them to both understand and judge your INTERNAL experiences based on their standards. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Someone spreading emotional maturity in a toxic way will often declare that any conflict is your fault, based on your sorry state of un-awareness and your lack of ability to do “emotional heavy lifting”. They miss no chance to remind you that they’ve done the hard work because evidently personal growth is like Crossfit and MUST be talked about any time the opportunity arises. It gets even better because toxic emotional intelligence is also about your highly self-aware friends retreating because they “won’t do your work for you.” Does any of this sound familiar?
The problem with this approach is that is the assumption that your internal experiences like emotions, memories, and cognitive reactions can somehow be not only known by others but also accurately evaluated and judged by them. People who exhibit toxic emotional intelligence seem to think that becoming self-aware is like learning to play the guitar, which then qualifies you to teach others to play the guitar. That’s not even true in many cases and it certainly isn’t true when it comes to knowing and evaluating the internal experiences of another human being.
We might argue that one can certainly be healed, but that this is not a universally common experience and that one person’s healing and emotional growth is not automatically directly comparable to anyone else’s.
Much like gaslighting, toxic emotional maturity is often found alongside conflict or disagreement:
“If you disagree with me, you are gaslighting me, or you have not done the healing work that I’ve done.”
This can be used as a shut-down tool or even a weapon in cult or MLM settings. If you express disagreement or want to express your own opinions or emotions, toxic emotional maturity will tell you that your position is not valid because you “haven’t done the work yet.” That sure is a convenient way to avoid having to listen to criticism or navigate through organizational conflict.
Toxic emotional intelligence can be used as a weapon in abusive or manipulative relationships. When your partner continually discounts or invalidates your experiences or feelings based on how they interpret their experiences and feelings, that can be a red flag. Everything can wind up being your fault because you “haven’t done the work” and you can sometimes be accused of wearing down or boring that abusive or manipulative partner.
We can acknowledge that there are people that refuse to look at themselves and don’t take the time to process their issues. But before you decide that someone falls into that category, consider how you may be trying to evaluate their INTERNAL experiences based on your INTERNAL experiences, which can be dangerous. You may choose to back away from someone because you don’t match on an emotional level, but that can be done quietly without declaring yourself superior based on observations and evaluations that are by definition impossible to carry out. We call them internal experiences for a reason. You can’t see mine and I can’t see you yours.
Sometimes this comes down to intolerance of differences. In many instances, people are not secure enough in their own state to tolerate someone that exists in a different state. It may make them doubt themselves, in which case the natural self-protection mechanism surfaces in their claim to the emotional high ground and an attack on your emotional position.
“I know myself so well that it means that I know you better than you do.”
Just …. no.
About Drew Linsalata
Beyond being Mia’s podcast producer, Drew is the creator and host of The Anxious Truth, a podcast focusing on anxiety and anxiety disorders that’s been downloaded over two million times and counting. Drew is also a bestselling author, having written three popular books on the topic of anxiety recovery. And finally, in 2022 Drew launched The Anxious Morning, a free morning newsletter and mini-podcast providing bite-sized essays on anxiety and mental health every weekday morning.
Find all Drew’s stuff at theanxioustruth.com
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