School of Life - Emotional Intelligence Workshop

The School of Life uses a unique combination of lenses from which we can understand the world. Originally founded by author Alain De Botton, the school applied ideas taken from ideas from areas such as philosophy, psychology and culture to provide education in the form of books, courses and other media. Check out their YouTube channel for an introduction.

I recently attended an Emotional Intelligence workshop in London that covers 3 of the education modules: How to Develop Self Knowledge, How to Be Sociable & The Meaning of Life. This was a really worthwhile day and that is already paying dividends. I’ve just started reading the accompanying book An Emotional Education The experience of the day was fantastic with a great group of students and knowledgable teacher.

I’ve written up some notes that form as memory aids for some of the interesting ideas of the day. These are primarily intended to be a reminder for those familiar with the content. But it may be enough to get the general idea of the types of things covered.

Most of the theory, concepts are freely online at The Book of Life. E.g. Self Knowledge & Sociability.


The Philosophical Meditation Exercise

Most of our subconscious thoughts are never processes and silently influence our lives. Freud’s comparison of the conscious mind being like “the tip of the iceberg” with the majority lying below the service is apt. One way to look at these is via reviewing your thoughts by journaling for a block of time.

Note then Unpack thoughts in 3 areas:

  • Anxiety. what are you anxious about? What are you afraid of? What do you need to do to respond?
  • Upset. Who upset you? What did they fail to realise? Why are you upset? What do you wish would have happened? Could they guess they hurt you?
  • Excitement. Who recently made you feel excited? What experience recently made you feel excited? What should you do about this excitement? What can you do to follow the excitement in your life?

Emotional Identity

Looking at your inner voice.
Internal voices are imprints of previous external voices. What are you staying to yourself? Who does this sound like? Who could be a better voice? What could they say?

Self deception. Humans excel at lying to themselves. Primary areas include change, self-image, needs, anger. Identify the top deception types in ourselves when we see them: distraction, defensiveness, despair, cynicism, irritability, denigration, manic cheeriness, addition, mood.


Connections are key to meaning but they are hard to make. The seven keys to sociability: shyness, talking to kids, deep conversations, being vulnerable, listening, don’t get offended, flattery.

  • Take more “social leaps of faith”. This involves the assumption that all humans have universal qualities in common. For example, The problems with family, disappointments, being idiotic, anxieties, ambitions, painful bodies.
  • Identify “Conversational Crossroads” to have deeper conversations. Take opportunities to go Deeper into conversation and understand the person rather than being Superficial interactions.
  • Be More Vulnerability. People response well to shared humanness: “it’s failure that’s charms”. To be vulnerable, balance your attitude between Excessive Indifference with Excessive Neediness.
  • How to listen: see yourself as an Editor, shaping the story and getting to the core of the points
  • Use Flattery when you want to help someone else believe they are likeable.

Identify meaning in life

Nihilism results from insufficient meaning. We need to create our own meaning, especially in the face of suffering.

“Suffering is meaningful when it occurs during the search for meaning”

There are 6 main areas for creating meaning:

  • Service. Helping others.
  • Connection. Being vulnerable & open to others.
  • Transcendence. Loch Kelly, mediation, hiking. Being in flow.
  • Belonging. Identify with a club, workplace, group, family. Something larger than ourselves.
  • Self-knowledge. Reading, challenging your operating system.
  • Order. Building pockets of order in our chaotic world.