Emotional Intelligence with The Babadook

The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror film that was a critical darling when it was released in 2014. In the film, a mother fights a monster that emerges from a children’s book. It’s a riveting story full of complex characters, creepy moments, and nuanced relationships.

So, what does this have to do with emotional intelligence? 

It’s not often that we think of a horror movie as the inroad to a more balanced and centered kind of emotional intelligence, but at the heart of The Babadook is a parable about how to manage emotions in a healthy way

The Babadook is a creature that grows with denial. As the main character fights to ignore its presence and refuses to encounter it directly, its power becomes almost all-consuming. It is only when she acknowledges its presence and learns to live with the monster – feeding it and taking care of it – that its power diminishes, and the house returns to a peaceful equilibrium.

The main character is going through the stages of brooding and bottling. Key responses to stress as pointed out by Susan David in her work on Emotional Agility.

Emotional intelligence

As the main character broods on the monster and wallows in her fear and grief, the monster gains more power; likewise, as she tries to ignore its presence, it only takes up more space in the house.

In David’s work on Emotional Agility, she discusses that we need to encounter our emotions, acknowledge them, then live with them to be able to recover from everything from minor setbacks, to grief and loss. Until we accept that all our emotions have a place and a purpose, we will have trouble encountering them and controlling them. We’ll do the Band-aid work of denial, brooding, and bottling rather than taming them and integrating them into our full, emotional lives.

In the middle of Mental Health Month, as anxieties soar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to offer some support as you do the hard work of becoming more emotionally agile. Our webinar #MentalHealthMonth: How to Overcome Anxiety & Adversity covers key frameworks for encountering our emotions and finding ways to control and embrace them in times of crisis. Join us on 5/26 for this session to help you gain control in this era of change.

You can also check out our trainings menu to find courses on emotional intelligence. Our curriculum can help your teams better manage their emotions and tame their inner Babadooks.

Tedd Hawks, Jack of All Learning Trades

Tedd is a Learning Designer and Program Director at Ethos. He creates learning and programming across soft skills, feedback, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and communication.


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