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  • Writer's pictureSydney Davis

Navigating the Canvas of Emotions: A Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

In the midst of life's challenges, there's a unique canvas that each of us faces - the canvas of our emotions. As an executive coach committed to continuous learning, I embarked on a journey into the world of painting during the pandemic, only to find unexpected lessons in emotional intelligence.


When I first picked up painting, I had no knowledge or technique but enjoyed the flow and ease of tapping into my creative side. Then – for no real reason other than life and work getting in the way, I totally stopped painting for 2 years – I lost all my confidence, so I thought I would enroll in a course. Entering a "Painting for Beginners" class, I anticipated a structured path to understanding the basics. Smooth initial classes shifted when tasked with a still life, triggering anxiety as I grappled with newfound complexity. Amidst strokes and color choices, the joy of painting morphed into stress. I desperately wanted to make something beautiful, to see the same shadows the teacher was describing, but I just felt like I was failing and my painting was a disaster.


Out of nowhere, with no warning or logic, I found myself on the verge of tears. The joy that painting once brought me now transformed into an unexpected source of stress. In a room full of strangers, I felt a vulnerability that was as surprising as it was disconcerting. The instructor came by to say, “How are you doing?” of course, at that moment. As tears welled up, I vocalized my turmoil, totally embarrassed and admitting I wanted to cry. By acknowledging and naming the emotions, the power they held over me dissolved. It was a moment of honesty that allowed me to confront the unexpected emotional turmoil head-on.

The instructor's response was both caring and humorous, adding a layer of humanity to the situation. In retrospect, I recognize the interplay between the reptile brain and the thinking brain, experiencing what I now term as a "hijacking moment." His words, "There's no crying in painting class," while lighthearted, carried a deeper truth about resilience and starting afresh. It's a reminder that managing emotions is a personalized journey, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

We all face moments where joy transforms into stress, and acknowledging these emotions without judgment is crucial. I invite you to reflect on your experiences of unexpected emotions and how emotional intelligence played a role. Together, let's embrace the complexities of our emotions, recognizing that in vulnerability lies the essence of our shared humanity.

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