What Kind of Role Does Emotional Intelligence Play?

 by: Dr. Meg Aston-Lebold, C.Psych

Intelligence has traditionally been defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. We often see it represented by an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) score. However, there is growing research indicating that emotions also play an influential role in learning. For centuries, philosophers have contemplated intelligence as more complex than cognitive capacity: 

“All learning has an emotional base.”

Plato

In response to this missing piece, the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been suggested as a complement to traditional IQ and, as such, has been affectionately dubbed EQ. While there is some controversy about how to measure EQ, it is commonly thought to describe a few key skills:

  • Emotional Awareness: the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and their impact on others.
  • Emotional Regulation: the ability to manage one’s own emotions, for example, by calming oneself down or cheering oneself up.
  • Empathy: the ability to recognize and respond to another person’s emotions.
  • Emotion Application: the ability to use one’s emotions to help guide tasks, such as thinking and problem-solving.

Well-developed emotional intelligence may lead to improved performance and satisfaction in a variety of life areas, including mood, self-confidence, and interpersonal relationships. Competence in emotional regulation allows people to remain calm and collected in stressful environments or situations and allows the brain to remain in a state conducive to effective problem-solving. 

In contrast, poorly developed emotional intelligence may lead to relationship dissatisfaction; general feelings of malaise or distress with seemingly no cause; as well as physical ailments like muscle aches, headaches and stomach/digestion discomfort that seem to have no medical basis.

While many of us may admit to the benefits of emotional intelligence in our relationships, we do not commonly value emotional intelligence in the workplace. This is a mistake. EQ competencies can help you approach an impending deadline with an organized plan, effectively respond to conflicts with co-workers or supervisors, and figure out how to get people on your side, whether that’s by motivating workers or getting buy-in from new clients. 

Without effective EQ at work, you may find yourself blaming others, lashing out, or having difficulty asserting yourself. This could potentially lead to negative consequences for yourself or others.

We are not born with EQ and, while these skills may come more naturally to some, we all must learn how to understand and respond to our own and others’ emotions. But since emotions aren’t part of the traditional school curriculum, how do we figure it out? In ideal circumstances, we learn emotional intelligence from significant adult role models in our early years. 

Unfortunately, not everyone grows up in an ideal environment where their caregivers have their own well-developed EQ. As a result, emotional intelligence often gets stunted, leaving the individual unable to articulate feelings, easily overwhelmed, unable to trust their gut, or wondering why their relationships remain shallow and unfulfilling. 

Psychotherapy can help you learn to recognize, make sense of, and respond to your emotional needs. By exploring your inner world, you can feel more competent responding to challenging interpersonal interactions, managing your stress, and obtain the healthy and satisfying relationships that you may have struggled with. These skills will help you both personally and professionally. Becoming more emotionally competent will help get you out of that rut by improving your mood and relationships, which can ultimately lead to greater productivity and success in all areas of your life.

Dr. Meg Aston-Lebold, C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She provides psychological assessment and treatment services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of issues related to depression, anxiety and stress, self-esteem, trauma, and relationships.

Depression: The Role of Unprocessed Feelings and Emotions

by: Dr. Dino Zuccarini and Tatijana Busic


Do you find yourself struggling to cope with the intense feelings and emotions associated with depression?

In this second post of our four-part series about depression, we’ll provide you with a few of many psychological views of how unprocessed feelings and emotions might lead to depressed feelings. In the following post, we’ll provide you with various strategies you can use to deal with depression on your own, or in your relationships with others.

Feelings and Emotions Associated with Depression

Depression involves different types of difficult emotional experiences, including chronic negative feelings and emotions (e.g., fear, sadness, anger, worthlessness, guilt, shame, irritability, restlessness or lethargy, detachment and numbing). Depression is, of course, a broader mental health diagnosis that consists of many different features, as outlined in this series’ first post in which we addressed what is depression. Depression is different than normal grief in which we feel sadness for a prolonged period of time in the aftermath of the loss of a loved one (i.e., loss of a parent, child, sibling or friend).

Unprocessed Feelings and Emotions as Signals of Need in Depression

Our feelings and emotions provide us with important information about our self, others and the world around us. Depression is a signal to us—a calling for us to listen to our feelings, emotions, desires, and needs.

Some of us are unable to clearly identify, label or express our feelings and assert our needs. Being able to figure out our feelings, emotions, and needs is, however, critically important. It is important because our feelings and emotions guide us by providing us with a sense of what is significant to us in our environment both at home and work. Emotions signal to us that we have concerns, goals, and needs and that some type of action may be required by us to deal with these concerns, goals, and needs in our environment. When we do not attend to our feelings, emotions, and needs, we can create a world that feels false to us. We can become disconnected from what’s really important to us and in our relationships, which can result in hopelessness, anger, or detachment and withdrawn feelings.

In our relationships, it’s important to process our feelings, emotions, wants, and needs. Depressed individuals may have difficulties managing their emotions and figuring out what they need from others. If we can’t figure out our feelings, emotions, wants and needs, we won’t be able to approach our friends, family members, partners, or even employers with our concerns or needs. Some individuals become out of touch with how others can sometimes provide us with responses that can be valuable to us—-only if we actually know what it is that we need from others, feel entitled to ask for support, and risk expressing our vulnerabilities and needs to others (i.e., to listen to us, help us sort out our feelings, verbal reassurance or physical reassurance through a hug etc.) can we realize how others can be a source of contact-comfort, and soothing to assuage the distress in our everyday world.
When we can’t sort out our feelings, emotions, and needs, we can’t get in touch with ourselves and how others might be able to respond to us in ways that can make life better for us. Depression sets in as hopelessness grows—with depression, it becomes more and more difficult to reach for support and increasingly we withdraw, detach, or are irritable and angry, which pushes people further away from us.

Loss and Grief, Meaninglessness and Purposelessness

Life can be a symphony of losses. Many of us struggle to cope with unresolved losses that are accompanied by grief, and possibly a sense of meaninglessness and purposelessness. We can experience loss in many ways—loss of loved ones in our close relationships (i.e., death, separation), and the loss of self and identity as we transition through various life stages or as a result of unexpected changes to our mental or physical health.

We may experience the loss of a parent, partner, child or friend through death, separation or divorce—and experience normal grief. Some individuals will grieve these types of losses and eventually return to feeling better—albeit life is never the same with the loss of a loved one. Some individuals, however, will not recover as well. The loss may create a deep sense of loss and grief about the relationship with the loved one—this loss may also remind you of various other past losses in life in which your emotional needs were unmet—increasing a sense of loneliness, pain, guilt, shame, and isolation. When we have not appropriately grieved our losses, the pain and sadness of previous losses can accumulate and surface unexpectedly—prolonging your recovery time.

Loss of a loved one might also leave you with a shattered sense of your self, identity, and future—if so many of your life plans were associated with the lost loved one. Re-discovering who you are separate from your lost one can take time. Hopeless despair, sadness, and anger can also emerge when it is difficult to reconnect with others, and re-create a renewed sense of meaning and purpose after these types of losses.

We also experience loss and grief as a result of changes caused by normal lifespan changes (i.e., change in roles and identity), changes in our physical and mental abilities, and health status. When these changes occur, some individuals have to face loss related to unmet expectations and unachieved goals—the lost hopes of what we thought our lives would be. Changes in our life circumstances (i.e., children leaving home, loss of employment etc.), health status (i.e., mental and physical changes associated with illness or aging), alter our capacities and possibilities of functioning in ‘old’ ways. When we experience loss or a lot of change, we can lose our bearings and struggle to find meaning and purpose in life again. Over time, we can begin to feel hopeless about ourselves. You can lose a sense of vitality as you try to re-define what’s of importance to you in the aftermath of all of these changes.

How Psychotherapists at CFIR Can Help

Psychotherapists at CFIR can support you to deal with your emotions, including helping you to get to know your feelings and emotions, label them and figure out what they might mean to you. Some of us of have strong emotions that need to be dimmed somewhat but still understood. Sometimes strong emotional reactions come from unprocessed feelings, emotions and needs from our past relationships, and losses, or from losses in present-day life. Psychologists at CFIR provide cognitive-behaviors, existential-humanistic, emotionally-focused and psychodynamic therapy strategies to support you to deal with your emotions, understand what these important signals mean to you, and to help you to take action in the world that will promote self-growth and recovery from your losses.

In the next blog post of the series, we will be providing you with strategies on how to deal with your feelings of depression. We’ll be outlining strategies for ‘yourself’ and strategies for ‘your relationships’. Aside from seeking psychological services to help you with your symptoms, there are many things you can do to feel better on your own.

Read more additional posts from the ‘Depression’ series:

Learn more about our Depression, Mood & Grief Treatment Service.

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