Thoughts on Emotional Intelligence and Twenty Again

Time to talk a bit about whiplash-inducing, bipolar Hyun-Suk! One episode sweet as honey, the next as nasty as burned toast. What are we to make of this? Well, here is my explanation: the poor man has ZERO emotional intelligence (EI) (and little emotional maturity, too). And in fact, hardly anybody in this show has any. That makes life quite difficult, especially if so many emotions are involved!
Those pesky things! We should just live like robots. So much easier.
There are various models for assessing EI. The one fitting our problem the best is the ability model, developed by Salovey and Mayer. It defines emotional intelligence as involving four abilities:

  1. Perceiving Emotions: The capacity to accurately perceive emotions in the face or voice of others. It provides a crucial starting point for more advanced understanding of emotions.
  2. Using Emotions to Facilitate Thought: The capacity of the emotions to enter into and guide the cognitive system and promote thinking. Having a good system of emotional input helps direct thinking toward matters that are truly important - and help creativity to emerge.
  3. Understanding Emotions: Each emotion conveys its own pattern of possible messages, and actions associated with those messages. Fully understanding emotions involves the comprehension of the meaning of emotions, coupled with the capacity to reason about those meanings.
  4. Managing Emotions: Finally, emotions can be managed to a degree. Within the person's emotional comfort zone, it becomes possible to regulate and manage one's own and others' emotions so as to promote one's own and others' personal and social goals.
Let's use this to asses our two main characters, shall we? 10 points is the maximum they can get per category. Let's see who wins!
Full disclosure: I'm notoriously bad at distinguishing between anger and disapproval or fear and surprise, pairs like that, on those facial recognition tests.
I promise you: no tests!  
This is proof that you LIE

Cha Hyun-Suk

His actions are hard to take at times (hiding her cell-phone?! REALLY?!). In fact, the drama is treading a fine line between making him quite unlikeable and making us feel for him. I, personally, don't have a major problem with him because I can't but help and see his deep hurts (which does not justify his dickishness, but at least makes it understandable) and BECAUSE I'm IN LOVE WITH LEE SANG-YOON. Yes. The drama also gave us more reasons for his behavior by shedding light on the grandma-story (she was like family for him - like true family. Not having No-Ra turn up for her funeral made this about hurting his family). Also, of late, the show has Hyun-Suk reflect on his own actions, calling himself "childish" and feeling "deeply ashamed" about his actions. Still, the real problem with him is his COMPLETE lack of emotional intelligence. 
He does have a certain amount of self-awareness, true. But so do thirteen year old boys! In fact, this is what he reminds me of: a thirteen year old boy. Maybe even eleven.
no EI, but sooooooooo cuuuuuuuute
just like an eleven year old

Perceiving Emotions (2/10)

He may well recognize No-Ra's (rather juvenile) anger towards him in last week's episodes: but that's about it. Otherwise he is utterly clueless, reading all her actions as "being completely in love with her husband". That, of course, leads to him puzzling obsessively over why she puts up with all the shit her husband is giving her. He is also completely blind towards Shin Sang-Ye's super-crush on him, which could soon turn out to be a problem (or not? I wonder whether a bit of jealousy on No-Ra's part may speed things up a bit ... if the drama intends to give us romance soon, which I very much hope).
I'd give him a little higher here, actually. If you disregard what WE know, what he thinks her feelings are is pretty logical. She's being quite shuttered about her relationship/feelings toward Woo Chul! (good point) And after episode eight, I'm starting to wonder if that assistant really DOES have romantic feelings for him, or if we just assume she does. I'd give him a high 3 or maybe even a 4 on this. (Note: remember what I said when I first got here.)

Using Emotions to Facilitate Thought (5/10)

Marginally better. His emotions tell him that No-Ra is important to him, so he invests a considerable amount of time in her. He also feels immense anger towards Kim Woo-Chul, which leads him to be a) creative (he wrote that play in a very short amount of time) and b) sabotage his love affair in creative ways (mainly by going for the weakest link in it: vain Kim Yi-Jin). I'm expecting the rivalry between the two men to heat up in coming episodes and am looking forward to that A LOT. In fact, the only time Hyun-Suk is in complete control of his emotions is when he is out to vex Woo-chul.
I had to go re-read what the guideline was for this. He certainly does let his emotions guide his behavior, but I don't see a lot of thought going into it. Yes, he's been creatively obnoxious toward Woo Chul, but somehow I don't think that negative responses are the type of guide that EI proponents would be looking for (actually, negative emotions are quite important for creativity, I read). But he did allow his emotional response to No Ra guide his behavior toward her when he was working on her bucket list, so... okay. He seemed very clear and steady on that, way more so than his petty behavior toward Woo Chul whenever they're in the same room. I'm good with a 5 here. Re: negative emotions and creativity - within the context of ART, sure! Although I suppose the argument isn't really about whether it's healthy to allow negative emotion to drive you to creative lengths to torture someone...

Understanding Emotions (0/10)

Zero points. Until the end of episode 8, he had no clue WHY he was doing what he was doing for No-Ra (he himself thought it was because she was dying, but that's only 10% of the story; then, he realized that he had "a debt" because she was the only one that believed in him back in the day (another 10%), but that realization only came after her "thank you"-speech, which was basically a farewell and made him panic). It seems he frequently talked about her before they reconnected, but he only cursed her and called her a horrible woman (thinking he was mainly hurt because of the grandma-thing ... which, again, is only 10% of the story).
Agreed, totally. He spent a whole lot of years angry with her without ever asking himself why it mattered SO MUCH to him in the first place. If he was that close to Grandma, he'd have known if she was upset with her grand-daughter even if he never was able to let on that he actually knew her. He was mad for himself, for being abandoned. Is he that mad at his parents, who died? At Grandma, who died? Nope. Just the poor girl who couldn't get home for some reason, and was probably suffering herself.
His most extreme pettiness came out when triggered by substantial jealousy (that he does not recognize as such, of course): the worst after he sees Ra Yoon-Young and she tells him that Kim Woo-Chul is "No-Ra's world". Likewise, his hate for Woo-Chul that he thinks is fueled by his cheating only is made so much worse by said jealousy.
So clueless. He can sit there and watch a professor feel up a defenseless girl and not lift a finger, but his moral outrage over Woo Chul's cheating is through the roof. And come to think of it, when he does finally do something toward that professor, it's only in connection to No Ra's situation. How can that NOT be about his own feelings for No Ra, and how can he NOT realize that?
It seems that he finally connected the dots when he saw her dance on that stage though. Maybe his emotions became so overwhelming he could no longer ignore them? It's a dramatically interesting point in the drama. Not only is it the half-way mark (which almost always brings us to a turning point in Kdrama, one way or another), it's also the moment when her old-self is back, but in a new form. "Welcome to Ha No-Ra" is what her friend said when she hugged her at the bus station after the high-school adventures. Then, clothed in high-school clothing, she had re-discovered (and re-enacted) her old self, feeling happy for the first time in so many years.
She's troublesome too, for that very reason. Are we to think she's developed in no way in all those years? That she needs to be reset to zero in order to begin again?
I'm thinking of this more along the lines of "unlocking". She has now been unlocked and is ready to move on to the next level
No Ra the video game vixen :)
When she goes out on that stage and dances, she is much more than just her old self though. She is Ha No-Ra, the forty year old mother, who finally does what she always wanted to do. My interpretation is this: Hyun-Suk, who sees her perform like that for the first time, falls in love with her current self for the first time. This is no longer about a past hurt and a past crush. This is very much about the here and now.
I do agree that they see her as something more, now. Woo Chul realizes that the drone cleaning his house and raising his child is an actual person, for sure, but he's been realizing she has an interior life for a little while now. I think seeing her dance reminds him forcibly that there was a time when this woman was the most exciting person he'd ever seen, and it makes me wonder if some of his disdain is actually anger that she let this part of herself die off. For Hyun Suk, in an odd way, I think it's the first time he sees her as a woman. Not his childhood pal, not some awkward, unworldly ahjumma, not another man's wife, but Ha No Ra, an attractive woman who might just be someone interesting all on her own.

Managing Emotions (1/10)

Oh dear, he's been doing VERY poorly in this department too. His extreme childishness comes from his impulse to lash out and "punish" the source of emotional turmoil. Interacting with No-Ra is overwhelming him completely - it's such an emotional roller coaster for the poor manchild. He goes from very annoyed (the beginning) to feeling very sorry (the middle) to feeling protective (often) to extremely happy (realizing she isn't dying) to extremely angry (almost the entire episode 7). Just in one episode, he goes from devastated (after the "thank you"-scene) to apologetic (the "drug store"-scene) to pining (the "food stand at festival"-scene) to love struck (the "dance"-scene).
He's so completely ruled by his emotions when it comes to No Ra that I wonder how he's not like this more in his dealings with other people, too. I know that there are situations where history between two people can cause ingrained responses even after long periods of time apart - but that's not what this is. They got along fine back then. His feelings then didn't cause him to careen wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other - at least, not that we've seen. I wish we would see more of the younger versions, to rule that out or in. Because there CAN be people who just inspire completely irrational responses in us even if we're fine with other people - it just doesn't appear to me that she was that for him.
I think that all changed in the 20 years he went insane about all this. He isn't exactly emotionally healthy.
I suppose. It's also possible that he hasn't given it much thought in his daily life and so when it comes up again he just automatically defaults to the position he held when he was much younger.
What will the realization "I am in love with this woman" change? Given his track-record in EI, I fear we're in for some stupidity and/or angst now. He will most likely not go back to being petty (he realized how stupid that was), but it is quite possible that he may try to run from the hurt: he thinks that she is happily married AND that she only sees him as a friend, at the most. Plus, he is a decent person (when he isn't petty) and he knows that it is WRONG to covet a married woman, even if her marriage looks more like a nightmare than a bed of roses. He already paved the way for his escape too: he told Shin Sang-Ye that they would take a break from uni/teaching to focus solely on the production.
Prime candidate for noble idiocy.
Okay, just saw the preview for 9! Doesn't look like it. I'm glad!

Ha No-Ra

We know very little about Ha No-Ra's feelings at this point. We have seen her grow - thanks to Cha Hyun-Suk! - and that has been very VERY satisfying. She has been able to break out of that sad world consisting solely of her husband and her son. She has made new friends and she has found an old friend (when he isn't in a bad mood). She has been able to say "no" to her prisoner husband. She has started to imagine a life entirely without him. She has taken up the thing that is most beloved to her again: dancing. And she even goes out on stage to show the world (and Hyun-Suk) that she has freed herself from her past.
She's grown so much in this short time - but we have no idea what her plans are, really. Does she?
While she started her journey for all the wrong reasons (to match her level to the one of her husband) she has since decided to stay on the journey for other reasons. But what are those reasons? So much that has been happening to her has not happened because she planned it or willed it. Without Hyun-Suk's help (and actually, without his nagging and pettiness), she would not be where she is right now. She would not have found the strength to tell her husband to shove his agreement up his a$$. She would not have gone out on that stage. Part of her acknowledges that: the "thank you"-scene in episode 8 proves it. But she gets it ALL WRONG. Of course. Because just like Hyun-Suk, she has very little emotional intelligence.
I've been thinking about this, because young No Ra was smart, brave, savvy. Strong. We have no reason to believe that she's suffered any abuse beyond being patronized and taken for granted, and yes, that can wear a person down. But to this diffident, timid, baby-talking stub of a human? She HAD emotional intelligence. How did she lose it?
Did she really have it though? I'm not so sure. She was lively, yes, but was she really in touch with her emotions? I would argue not. 
I'm not so sure. She certainly had a knack for understanding others and seeing them clearly, and she had a moral compass. (Not that she doesn't now.) Within the limits of an honest naivete she seemed to be a pretty empathetic and clear-eyed youngster with the courage of her convictions and a solid idea of what she wanted.

Perceiving Emotions (2/10)

Her overall reactions to Cha Hyun-Suk speak of very poor abilities in this category. Well, she does realize that he is, very often, angry at her. Good! But when he tells her he only did all those nice things out of "pity" when he thought she was dying (yelling at her to "go back to her house and her husband" shortly after, ahahaha) she BELIEVES it. Goddamit, woman, not good! It makes the "thank-you"-scene truly heartbreaking (and not because it absolutely breaks HIS heart): It is utterly sad because she savors the sweetness she was able to experience so much, believing it was only a fleeting moment of happiness. "I now understand why he hates me", she tells her friend, even thought there never ever was anything remotely resembling hate in Cha Hyun-Suk's face or voice.
Not to mention, if a person hates you, why would they do such nice things for you? If they hate you but have reason to believe you're dying, maybe they back off being actively malicious - but they don't go out of their way to be so adorably nice and clearly have a GREAT time with you while doing it. I suppose she thinks she 'deserves' it for not being there for Grandma - but even that, Jesus! Why wouldn't she have known that he was at the funeral for the entire three days? Why is that news just coming out? Did she hide in a cave for 20 years?
No, in Germany, hahahahaaaa.... I think we're to believe that Woo-Chul isolated her completely from everything she knew previously. Like a prisoner. And she went along with it because she was depressed and wanted to forget her high school days. That explains her out-of-the-worldiness.
Which makes him a completely despicable, mentally abusive monster. One to whom she can NEVER return.

Using Emotions to Facilitate Thought (0/10)

She is only waking up emotionally as time progresses (i.e. her beating the fish with such vigor was a nice way of showing us that she is capable of feeling strong anger). Interestingly enough, she is mainly showing emotions around Hyun-Suk - even though that expression is mostly immature (she's like a petulant child, just like him, when she gives back in episode 7). Around her husband, she is almost completely still - lately a bit petulant and outright defiant, but without any shouting or show of strong emotions. I don't think that Ha No-Ra is in touch with her emotions at all at this point - definitely not to let them guide her into any direction.
This I can understand. The only way to survive such unhappiness is to completely swallow it. Unfortunately, if you deny yourself one emotion, you often disallow the true expression of ANY emotion.

Understanding Emotions (1/10)

Well, how should a woman who has quenched all her emotions for 20 years be able to understand emotions? Because she had them and was good at them for the first twenty years of her life? Where did all that go? Does she have emotional amnesia? Why students act uncomfortably around her, why her speaking up at the Professor Sex incident is a problem, why Min-Soo is pushing her away, the reasons for these things are completely lost on her (especially at the beginning). Several time, she asks Hyun-Suk why he is so mean to her (not that she gets an answer, cause he doesn't know himself, EI cripple that he is), because she really does not even begin to understand his bipolar behavior. That she quasi jumps on that "he hates me because of grandma explanation" just shows how unskilled she is at this. A man who gives her flowers? 100 roses? He hates her? Come ON.
If we dig too far into this, we're going to piss me off about the show, because a lot of the state of their relationship now ties back to her 'sudden abandonment with no explanation' twenty years earlier, and as I've said before, that plot point is a very, very, very weak point for me. They were bosom buddies, but it didn't occur to her to say goodbye? Even if they weren't romantically interested, they were close friends. Even so with her not knowing (and now it appears he didn't realize, either) that he had a romantic interest in her, no goodbye or not, his anger twenty years later is ridiculous. If my best friend disappeared without warning and then reappeared twenty years later, I wouldn't be angry. I might be pissed for a while at some point while we talked about it, but not right away. And if they didn't come home for their grandmother's funeral, I'd assume there was a reason. This is becoming less about understanding emotions and more about having completely stupid emotions, I think.
This is what I think (and while I agree with you that it's the weakest point, I think the drama explains things a bit more than you give it credit for): Hyun-Suk seems to have been absent himself for quite a long time. His father collapsed right before that performance that brought Woo-Chul in contact with No-Ra, as we learned - and maybe he died afterwards. He never saw Woo-Chul and No-Ra together, but it seems he came back to school after a while and found No-Ra gone (remember that scene in one of the earlier episodes when he is completely gobsmacked?). She was probably made to leave when she started to show her pregnancy or maybe they were already married by then?
That's true. He went to Russia and came back to do his military service, only to find No Ra gone and Grandma dead. Maybe in the same time period, maybe spaced a little apart.

What we don't know (and might never know) is how (or if!) she said goodbye to grandma (whom she should not publicly acknowledge, as grandma told her). I'm also thinking that maybe Woo-Chul knows nothing of grandma. And that is why I think that No-Ra never had emotional intelligence. She messed up in all of this, too, followed a man she slept with once to Germany, had a horrible time with little sick Min-Soo (and probably a postnatal depression), deliberately forgot about high school (that's what she says in episode 6, because it "hurt" too much), and was not told about Grandma's death (because people did not know this woman had a granddaughter or because they did not know where that granddaughter was). I'm pretty sure that Hyun-Suk did think there was a reason ... but he most certainly was not able to think of the right reason. For him (and I would guess most Koreans?), this is a horrible neglect. It does look like No-Ra went to Germany with a man, cut all ties, and forgot completely about her family and friends. I can't really blame him for thinking that because there never was a clue that it wasn't that way.
Somehow, I assumed that her close friends did know about Grandma.  He certainly did, anyway - and it never occurred to me that SHE didn't know that HE knew.  No, wait.  Her girlfriend knew about Grandma, too, and she knew at the time of the funeral.  
Even the kid who has the recipe now, he knew at some point. And she had to have said goodbye to her grandmother before she went to Germany. They LIVED together. Grandma had to know. Maybe Woo Chul didn't know, but I wonder.  
Yes, all her friends at the hair-pulling incident knew! Remember? She told them never to tell grandma that they knew. Cha was there, but they never saw him.

Managing Emotions (9/10)

The old (and very sad) mommy Ha No-Ra was extremely good at controlling emotions ... she just squashed them completely. It turned her into an emotional cripple, but she is actually really, really good at this. For the wrong reasons, of course. She never got angry at her husband, just sad. She knows how to cry, that's about it.
I am not sure we can make an argument that denying emotions is managing them in any real sense. I guess it is. Sort of, in the sense that it allows you to continue functioning. It does beg the question, though: if you convince yourself subconsciously that you don't feel something, are you managing it? How do you manage a thing which does not exist to you?
I would argue that of course, you'd have to constantly manage them, cause everybody has feelings. If you turn yourself into a robot deliberately because of the hurt you're experiencing, you need to constantly manage that state of un-feeling
But now that she is awakening as a woman, her emotions will awaken too - and already have, to a degree. She is able to feel joy again and hope. But I think it's now time for No-Ra to go a step further. She has already told her husband that school is more important than him. Even though I have difficulty understanding this drama's timeline (when is that June 2 that we hear so much about? Are we pretending it's spring right now?), it seems to me that we are truly headed towards that divorce; even though she probably does not want to give it to him, seeing that she now knows about his affair.
He tells Yi Jin that he has a contract for three months, so that makes it approximately March, if June is the end of that period. Which makes sense, I think - doesn't the school year start in late spring in Korea? My timeline difficulty is that one day she was dead set against the divorce and so very hopeful she could turn it around, and pretty much the next day she's like 'sure, go for it.' Does she intend to renegotiate based on his affair? It doesn't really seem so. 
It's going to be fun to see how they explain the changing color of leaves in the outside shoots in the coming weeks ... or maybe we're in for a time jump.
Maybe they will spray paint them green.

In any case, the emotional attachment to her husband is (entirely?) gone. It was born out of fear anyway: the fear of being alone in the world. But what does that mean for the future? Is there a future with Hyun-Suk? I hope so for both their sakes. But I honestly do not know where No-Ra stands with him. We’ve seen glimpses of admiration (certainly for his artistic ability), she made that drawing (she thinks he is cool), but romance? The thought hasn't even crossed her mind. Yet. Because she has no emotional intelligence.
I sort of disagree: even if she HAD emotional intelligence, I'm not sure she'd be considering a relationship with Hyun Suk yet. She's rediscovering herself and the world and she has a lot on her plate. She spent twenty years in a stifling relationship. I think the very last thing she'd be thinking about would be starting up another right now. So yes. I agree that she's not thinking about it. But no, I don't agree that it's because she's stunted. I think it's for the opposite reason: she's growing. Let her grow on her own for a while! It's not that she has feelings for him and doesn't realize it (yet.) She doesn't have those feelings for him at all, and never did.
I was KIDDING. How can you NOT have romantic feelings for Lee Sang-yoon?! At the very least, I would want to bed him. Of course I'm all pro-growth and pro-No Ra. I just don't want him to suffer too much. The coming episodes will most likely be very hard for me.
Well I know it goes against every KDrama imperative but he acts like such a spoiled brat half the time that I'd have a hard time thinking about him romantically, and No Ra has SO much on her mind... emotional intelligence or no, it doesn't surprise me that 'hot for teacher' hasn't risen up from her subconscious yet.

And the Winner is....

Ha No-Ra! With 12 points; 4 more than our producer, who only makes it to 8 (or 10, if we go by JoAnne's scale). Seems about right ... Well, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed woman is king. Er, queen! :D But man, they have a lot to learn these two... maybe from each other? She can teach him some control and he can teach her how to focus emotions to achieve great things, and both can improve on perceiving and understanding each other.
And in the meantime they'll be pissy babies who stomp off at the drop of a hat. Not looking forward to that, lemme tell ya.
Well, they could MAKE pissy babies instead
Twenty Again, 2016: The Diaper Years.
PS: Actually, the only one that really DOES have EI in this show is Shin Sang-Ye, who seems to know exactly what is going on with her sunbae. You know what? If Hyun-Suk can't have No-Ra (who knows, who knows) I will be very happy if he learns some EI from his assistant. 
I don't know about you, but I did believe her when she said she used to have feelings for him but now they've settled into admiration. Which is not to say they couldn't flare up again, but I think she can see what's going on with Hyun Suk, and she doesn't seem upset to see it, you know?
See? A true master of Emotional Intelligence! Bravo, Sang-Ye!