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The Dark side of Emotional Intelligence – How evil do you think you are?

The most dangerous, and yet the most gregarious of creatures you will ever encounter in this world are other human beings. To navigate this world, whether that’s career, relationships, or anything else, is to navigate people.

And people are very complicated. Their true personalities are hidden beneath layer upon layer of socialization, traumatic experiences, early childhood exposures and erratically fluctuating moods. Add to that the mysterious layer of genetic influences, and the fact that people are perfectly capable of sounding the exact opposite of what they really feel, and you might begin to appreciate the complexity on hand.


Emotional Intelligence is now a fashionable word- well suited to be thrown around in intellectual conversations and in professional resumes, but what it really is, is another story.

Having emotional intelligence is akin to being able to understand people and their motivations. But what it also means is to be able to understand one’s own- and this is what makes EI extremely dangerous.

Why? Because it can easily be weaponized. It is dark and powerful knowledge in the hands of the nefarious and those who learn how to pull the strings, can pull in any direction they wish.

Take for instance, psychopaths- people with broken minds who feel no empathy or remorse whatsoever and yet they often have the uncanny ability to read other people like an open book. They can also be extremely charming and likeable if they want. Their manipulative and Machiavellian characteristics give them an unspoken super-power. They wear the mask of sanity and navigate the world by mimicking human emotions, effortlessly manipulating others. They can get pretty much whatever they want because of their skill set, which makes them the proverbial wolf in the clothing of sheep.

emotional intelligence psycopath

Psychopaths can ruin lives without feeling an ounce of guilt and if they stay out of legal trouble, become highly successful in their careers It is no surprise that studies have shown a high incidence of psychopathy amongst the most successful of people- CEOs, politicians, civil servants, lawyers etc.

But we are not all psychopaths and their rarity in the population makes them less of an immediate threat. What we must acknowledge is that all humans have the potential for psychopathic behavior under the right conditions, even if they do not have the full-blown personality disorder (See banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt)

good evil

There is no point in advocating ethics or invoking divine justice mechanisms like the Karma theory or heaven and hell. Empty moral platitudes speak to the banality of ethics more than they address the evil they purport to combat. The fact is that there is no suppressing or denying this side of us because it is an integral part of our personalities.

We are who we are.

All we can hope to do is to learn to embrace this dark side of us which the psychologist Carl Jung termed- the shadow. Your shadow is you when you feel jealousy upon hearing about the success of another. Your shadow is you when you feel rage and seek to hurt another. Your shadow is the part of you which you dare not reveal to anyone, even to yourself. And so, the shadow’s obvious presence causes dissonance in our minds, and we tend to wish it away, like you may wish to erase an embarrassing social faux pas. The denial of the dark side makes it stronger and ever-so-dangerous


What is meant by embracing the shadow is NOT to embrace evil but to acknowledge it’s existence and to channelize it for something productive. This is what emotional intelligence is SUPPOSED to be used for internally. If done correctly, it becomes the perfect fuel for success and drive.

Fury and resentment have fueled many a world champion in sports. Athletes, entrepreneurs, and change-markers are not powered by the purity of saintly goodwill alone, but by deep-seated rage at the current order of things. People like MK Gandhi and Martin Luther King were propelled by an unrelenting compulsion to change the status quo and in that sense, they are often aggressive in their pursuit of success. They were not born saints- it was dark experiences that tuned them towards the light and their intra-personal Emotional Intelligence steered the direction. When we see this transmutation from dark to light occur in a socially acceptable format, we call it ‘drive’ or even ‘sainthood’ but what it really is, is the alchemy of emotional intelligence.


I offer no advice or suggestions but hope for this essay to be a reminder to know your shadow as much as your goodness, and your EI to know the difference.

– Ravi Kapoor

P.S- The above is an essay I wrote – inspired by certain personal events. Coupled with UPSC’s emphasis on Essay and Ethics, both, I thought this essay on ethics could not be more appropriate. I hope you enjoy the read…

5 thoughts on “The Dark side of Emotional Intelligence – How evil do you think you are?”

    • Yes, It is a brutal reality that no one wished to reveal the darkness of his shadow self but by embracing it’s goodness any one could enhance own productivity.

  1. It’s upon us what we do with the ‘abyss staring right back at us’- do we refract its emptiness or do we reflect it and choose to be better than it? That is the journey- from a human being to being human.

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