“Instead of resisting any emotion, the best way to dispel it is to enter it fully, embrace it and see through your resistance.”

– Deepak Chopra

The truth is, most of us could probably profit from being taught how to handle our emotions more productively. There’s been times almost all of use have felt so overwhelmed by our own emotion that we did or said something that we quickly came to regret.

The concept of emotional intelligence has become a ‘hot topic’ within popular discussions around contemporary psychology. Perhaps the concept of emotional intelligence attracted the most attention and nowadays, extensive media coverage, culminating, when Time magazine asked the question “What’s your EQ?” on its cover, and stated: It’s not your IQ. It’s not even a number. But emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life, redefining what it means to be smart (1).

A growing body of scientific literature proposes that moods and emotions play a central role in cognitive processes and behaviours of individuals. Whereas moods are pervasive and generalized feeling states that are not tied to the events or circumstances, emotions are high intensity feelings that are triggered by specific stimuli (2). Due to their intensity, emotions are more fleeting than moods and thus, can interrupt cognitive processes and behaviours (3). The term emotional intelligence refers to the type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions (4). This means that emotional intelligence relies on one’s ability to use and understand their emotions, and that of others, in order to improve their mental and physical health, as well as their interpersonal skills (2).

In his book, 1995 publication Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, Daniel Goleman describes emotional intelligence as having five parts:

  1. Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s moods and emotions and their effect on others
  2. Self-regulation: Using emotional knowledge to prevent moods or emotions from causing impulsive reactions or behaviour.
  3. Internal motivation: Taking action or making decisions as a consequence of an inner drive based on optimism, curiosity, a desire to achieve, or personal ideals rather than for instantaneous rewards such as monetary gain.
  4. Empathy: Understanding the emotions of others and using this information to reply to people based on their emotional state.
  5. Social skills: Using one’s emotional intelligence to establish strong relationships and facilitate successful emotional interactions with others.

Studies have shown that people with high levels of emotional intelligence have greater mental health, job performance, and leadership skills (5). If you do not identify as someone who is emotionally intelligent, fear not: strengthening your emotional intelligence is possible with the support of the right therapist. Therapy can be helpful when a person wishes to better understand and further develop their emotional intelligence. With the appropriate therapist, an individual can become better aware of their emotional strengths and weaknesses and improve on the ability to recognize, understand, and cope with emotions. In practical terms, this means that therapy can make individuals aware the emotions which can drive their behaviour and impact people (positively and negatively), and provide them with strategies on how to manage those emotions – both theirs and others – especially when they are under feelings or circumstances which result in high levels of emotions. Individuals in therapy to improve on their emotional intelligence can also improve their overall mental health, as emotional awareness leads to an improvement in mental health.


References:

  1. Time. (1995, October 2). [Cover]. New York: Time Warner.
  2. Morris, W.N. Mood: The frame of mind. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1989.
  3. Simon, H.A. Comments. In M.S. Clark and S.T. Fiske (Eds), Affect and cognition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1982, pp. 333–42.
  4. Salovey P, Mayer JD. Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition and personality. 1990 Mar;9(3):185-211.
  5. Cavazotte F, Moreno V, Hickmann M. Effects of leader intelligence, personality and emotional intelligence on transformational leadership and managerial performance. The Leadership Quarterly. 2012 Jun 30;23(3):443-55.