‘East is East’ & Emotional Intelligence
That powerful 1999 film East is East was shown on UK TV the other day: I’ve just watched it. Stunned. Timely.
Timely because I’m in the throes of developing my approach to Emotional Intelligence (EI) and this painful story of deep cultural clashes highlights many of the issues prevalent in describing and improving our EI: our ability (or not) to relate to others at a deep and meaningful level.
I’m reminded, for example, of This Be The Verse http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055 ):
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
Our East is East dad, George Khan, played so realistically by Om Puri, cannot help his behaviour. His views on respect, marriage and many other things are part of who and what he is: his cultural heritage. Long suffering wife, Ella (Linda Bassett, current starring in the BBC’s Call the Midwife) knows this only too well. We see how much they love each other, beneath the cultural divides, and how Khan really believes that what he is doing is for the best for his children. No matter what anyone else says or does, he cannot see it any other way.
We, from the outside, can see, only too clearly, that he is in denial about how the rest of his family thinks and feels. Such is the nature of denial: when beliefs and conditioning (cultural or otherwise) blind us to the reality around.
And that, in my personal and professional experience, observed and felt from many perspectives, is also at the heart of the lack of Emotional Intelligence: we fail to respond to the emotional needs of others by being blinkered in our thinking. It’s nobody’s fault; no one in particular is to blame: but millions, as Philip Larkin so ably highlights, are fucked up by it.
But what can be done about it? As Ella and her sons found out to their cost, standing up to a closed mind, fighting it, merely results in getting seriously hurt: resisting denial usually makes it even firmer. So is it fight or flight? Or perhaps strategic withdrawal. Elder son, Nazir, denied totally by Khan manages to make a new a new life for himself away from the situation: he had the courage to leave.
But wherever one sits in such situations, the first step is awareness, as to what is really happening. Perhaps there is a spectrum: from total denial to total awareness, the light slowly dawns . . .
For more on the link between EI and awareness, and suggestions on how to become more aware, see my free webinar.