One of the crucial ways of living a happy, healthy, balanced life is being able to manage our emotions. When we talk about Emotions, what comes to mind is, ‘the way we feel’ or ‘how we feel’ – our moods and temperaments. It is not easy to define emotion, but simply put, e-motion is ‘energy-in-motion’. Emotions are energized mental feelings influenced by the meanings we give to events or situations in our life. They are a state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence our behaviour. Some emotions can be identified by the individual’s external physical expressions. You can identify the emotions expressed in the pictures below.
Where do emotions come from?
Emotions begin from what we pick up with our 5 senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, and the interpretations we give to these. Our brains are wired like most animals, to look for threats or rewards. When one is detected, our feeling region of the brain, the Limbic system, sometimes known as the Amygdala, releases chemical messages into the body to alert us. Emotions are the effects of these chemical messages traveling from the brain to the rest of the body.
When we experience something bad, like a threat, Adrenalin and Cortisone are released for a fight or flight reaction. When we experience something good, or rewarding, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin are released as the feel good emotions. These chemicals affect our behaviour. The feeling region of the brain kicks in before the thinking or reasoning. What constitutes threat or reward has long changed for man; but, even after the evolution of the frontal reasoning region of our brain, humans still succumb to, and are controlled by the ‘reptilian‘ brain. Some neurologists try to distinguish between the words, emotions and feelings. I use both freely.
Whereas all emotions happen subconsciously, our thinking can influence our behaviour. Past experiences and core belief systems influence the way we look at, and think about events and circumstances. Therefore we should manage emotions with conscious thinking. Emotions influence how we see the world and everything around us.
Many publications on emotion and behavior suggest that all emotions are derived from 5 CORE Feelings, each with varying degrees in intensity from normal acceptable, to extreme abnormal and hurtful. The 5 core Feelings are, Happy, Sad, Angry, Afraid and Ashamed. We use so many words to describe various degrees of these feelings or emotions in our everyday life.
I however believe, like many others, that there are only two roots to all emotions that we experience. These are Love and Fear. All other emotions are variations of these two. Thoughts, which influence behaviour arise from either love, or fear. Anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, inadequacy, confusion, hurt, guilt, shame, are all fear-based emotions. Emotions or feelings of joy, happiness, caring, trust, compassion, truth, contentment, satisfaction, appreciation, are love-based emotions.
There are varying degrees of intensity of both types of emotions, some are mild, some moderate, and others strong in intensity. For example, anger, in a mild form, can be felt as disgust or dismay. At a moderate level, it can be felt as offended or annoyed, and at an intense level can be felt as rage or hate. The emotion that always sets off anger is fear.
Everyone experiences some form of emotion all the time. The issue is how these emotions are handled or managed. If emotions are not managed correctly, they cause health and social problems. They can create hurtful outcomes not only to other people, but most especially, to oneself. Emotions have a direct effect on how our bodies work. As shown above, fear or threat-based emotions stimulate the release of one set of chemicals while love-based emotions release a different set of chemicals. If the fear-based emotions are haboured for a long time, they damage the immune system, the endocrine system and other systems in your body. Medical research in Mind/Body Medicine emphasises the relationship between emotions, thinking, and the physical body.
We may not be able to change or repress our emotions, but we can learn how to accept them, and manage them. By knowing who we are, being conscious of the way we think, changing past belief systems that do not help us, we can learn to manage our emotions.
My earlier posts on ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Wellbeing’, showed how every thought is energy that affects our emotions, which then influence our behaviour in a positive, negative or even a neutral way. Taking control of our thoughts, therefore is the first and important step towards managing our emotions.
You have all heard about Emotional Intelligence, or Emotional Quotient (EQ), made popular by Daniel Goleman. This is different from Intelligence Quotient, (IQ).
“Emotional Intelligence (EQ) simply means being able to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups”. EQ is partially determined by how a person relates to others and maintains emotional control.
On the other hand, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) refers to a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess intelligence.
EQ Vs IQ
- Emotional intelligence is essentially the ability to recognize, manage, and use your emotions in positive and constructive ways.
- It is also being able to recognize the emotional states of others and engaging emotions in ways that feel good to all and create mutual safety, trust, and confidence.
- Emotional intelligence is what helps you communicate clearly, lead others, and build powerful relationships at work and in your personal life.
Emotional intelligence also helps you motivate yourself, solve problems, and achieve your goals.
Managing our emotion means developing a high EQ. People with high EQ can manage their emotions, use their emotions to moderate their thoughts, and accurately perceive others’ emotions. The good thing is that this can be learnt.
On the other hand, Intelligence Quotient (IQ), identifies the Ability to learn, understand and apply information to skills, using logical reasoning, word comprehension, and mathematical skills. People with higher IQ can think in abstracts and make connections by making generalizations easier. They could also be in the world of their own!
Research has shown EQ to be more important than IQ in almost every role in life, and even more so, in roles of leadership.
Emotional Intelligence is directly linked to Self-awareness, Self-esteem, Compassion, Empathy, and Adaptability. These are important predictors of success in life.