The importance of emotions: Part 2 

Welcome to part two! In part one, we answered three questions; 1) what are emotions? 2) Why are they so important? & 3) What are primary vs. Secondary emotions? In this part two, we will address how to identify emotions and needs. I want to give a little reminder that this is something that can be practiced, learned, and developed! It is completely okay not to know how to do this instinctively.  

How to identify your emotions and needs?  

You will probably hear a lot of people say that you need to cope with your emotions. I prefer saying that we need to be with our emotions. Being with our emotions, making a conscious effort to feel them and sit with them, will then allow you to identify them. If doing that is difficult, I suggest that you try using a tool to help, such as the wheel of emotions: 

There are two ways to use the wheel :  

1- Start at the centre, pick what you are feeling (ex: anger) and take a look at the different types of anger that we can tend to feel (go towards the extremity of the wheel).  

2 – Start at the extremity (ex: you feel empty) and work your way to the middle of the wheel to see what emotion is tied to it (ex: sad).  

I also suggest that you look at other emotions (ex: if you feel angry, go take a look at fear, sadness, etc.) to identify primary vs. secondary emotions.  

Lastly, keep in mind that this tool brings you into a more cognitive type of processing, so it is important to go back to sitting with your feelings once you have identified what they are (see how they feel in your body).  

Additionally, it is important to identify your needs at the root of the emotions and feelings you have. For example, we have identified that your primary emotion is abandonment. You can then ask yourself : “what do I need (from myself or from the other) to not feel abandoned?”. Once you have identified your need, you can then communicate that to the other person involved. Identifying this is important as it optimizes healthy well-being and optimizes healthy relationship with others.  

Dr. Mélodie Brown, D.Psy., C.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of CFIR (St. Catharines). She offers psychotherapy for adult individuals and couples & psychodiagnostics assessments for adult individuals, in French and English. She also provides clinical supervision for students who are completing their masters or doctorate degrees in counselling/clinical psychology. 

The importance of emotions: Part 1

In this 2-part blog, four key questions about emotions will be answered. We will talk about what emotions are, why they are important, the difference between primary and secondary emotions and how to identify emotions and needs. This is something that most of us do not learn growing up as there is usually no class in school on this topic or education from parents, and so I am excited to share this wonderful knowledge with you! 

What are emotions? 

The American Psychology Association (APA, 2022) defines emotions as “conscious mental reactions subjectively experienced as strong feelings usually directed towards a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioural changes in the body” (APA, 2022). I like to think of emotions as little messengers – our brain and body sending us a message on something that is happening in our world. This goes for comfortable and uncomfortable emotions – as much as we don’t like to feel uncomfortable emotions, they are as important.  

Why are emotions important? 

As mentioned above, we usually don’t like to feel uncomfortable emotions. They are, however, a part of life and very important to pay attention to. We will all feel them at some point in time, and that is totally okay! Emotions are extremely important as they can help us understand how we feel about a situation or a person, communicate with others, act quickly in urgent situations, identify when we need to set boundaries, identify unmet needs, process situations, and much more! In order to accomplish this, it is very important that we learn to identify what we are feeling, differentiate between root feelings and secondary feelings, as well as our needs. 

What are Primary vs. Secondary emotions? 

A primary emotion is the feeling at the root of our reaction and a secondary emotion is an emotional reaction to an emotion or situation. For example, often when I meet with couples in therapy I will hear one partner say something like “my partner makes me so angry!”. When we sit with this anger, we will realize that there is something underneath it, something deeper. Often, we find out that the person is feeling hurt, or abandoned or not seen or heard. In this situation, the primary emotion would be feeling abandoned for example, and the secondary emotion would be anger. The person is angry that they are feeling abandoned. When feeling an emotion, it is always important to sit with it and see what is really there – identify the primary vs. the secondary emotion. Doing so will then help you identify what you need, to feel better. 

Part two of this blog will look at how to identify emotions and needs.  

Dr. Mélodie Brown, D.Psy., C.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of CFIR (St. Catharines). She offers psychotherapy for adult individuals and couples & psychodiagnostics assessments for adult individuals, in French and English. She also provides clinical supervision for students who are completing their masters or doctorate degrees in counselling/clinical psychology.

Emotional Regulation Toolbox- Part 2 

Because our emotions are necessary and part of the human experience, it is possible to develop emotional regulation to learn how to better manage them. Below, you can find techniques and tools that you can use to develop and improve your emotional regulation and tolerance (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012). You can also add them to your toolbox to feel more prepared when you need them (for example, during a time of heightened emotions).  

  1. Grounding exercise: 5-4-3-2-1  

When experiencing difficult or intense emotions, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment by doing a grounding exercise and using our 5 senses. This can also help us feel like we can better manage our emotions.  

Start by taking 3 deep breaths and then:  

  • Name 5 things you can see.  
  • Name 4 things you can hear.  
  • Name 3 things you can touch.  
  • Name 2 things you can smell.  
  • Name 1 thing you can taste.  
  1. Breathing exercise  

You can also try a breathing exercise to relax your body, slow down your sensations, emotions and thoughts and feel calmer. This can lead to a level of emotional stabilization.  

Start by putting your hand on your belly and then:  

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.  
  • Breathe out through your mouth for 6 seconds.  
  • Continue for 1-2 minutes or until you feel calmer.  
  1. Self-soothing activities  

Once we have practiced a breathing or grounding exercise and our level of emotional activation is lower, we can move on to self-care practices. For example, it can be helpful to practice a soothing activity to relax and calm our physical and emotional experiences and sensations. It is important to take care of ourselves and find an activity that makes us feel good.  

For example:  

  • Grabbing a cup of tea or coffee  
  • Taking a hot bath or shower  
  • Going outside and getting fresh air 
  • Listening to music  
  • Dancing, moving, or doing exercise  
  • Your turn to explore and find an activity! 
  1. Self-awareness  

When you have regained a level of emotional stabilization or the emotion you are experiencing is tolerable, it is suggested to develop self-awareness by reflecting on your emotional experience. Try to observe how you feel and try naming your emotion. Explore the emotion without judgment. Does it bring any physical sensations? Does it lead to an action, behaviours, or thoughts? What led to the emotion? 

If you have difficulty regulating, identifying, and recognizing your emotions or you believe that your emotions can cause difficulties in your life, therapy can be a process that can help you develop emotional regulation skills. CFIR-CPRI therapists are available to support you in this process and can help you develop your understanding of the function of your emotions and how to manage them. You can contact us at and a member of our team will be happy to help you.  

Alexie Carrière, M.Ed., R.P.(Qualifying) is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) that offers therapy services in French and English to adults. She uses an integrative approach and has experience supporting individuals with different concerns, including emotion regulation, anxiety, sexual functioning, trauma, depression, self-esteem, and body image.  

Emotional Regulation Toolbox- Part 1 

Every day, we experience many emotions. They influence our behaviors and our thoughts, and guide our actions. They have different functions, such as motivation and communication. For example, fear can motivate us to run from a situation or hide from danger. Sadness can bring tears to our eyes, and we may bow our head. In a social situation, these expressions and physical changes can communicate to another person that we are sad (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012).  

As human beings, it’s normal and necessary to have emotions. Some are more difficult than others, such as anxiety and anger, and it is normal to want to stop feeling them or even try to get rid of them. Because our emotions are necessary, it is not possible to get rid of them completely. We can, however, learn to regulate our emotions. Emotion regulation is the ability to understand, name, express, manage and tolerate our emotions.  

Emotion regulation is a skill that can be learned and developed. By learning to regulate our emotions, we can develop a better quality of life, feel like we can better manage and tolerate our emotions, improve our interpersonal relationships, and reduce the impact of difficult emotions on our well-being (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012). Among other things, a mental health professional can help you better understand the physiological signs of your emotions and help you put your internal experiences into words. For example, an accelerated heartbeat, rapid breathing, and a feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” can indicate anxiety. A sensation of heat, tension in the chest and clenching of the jaw can indicate anger. You can then learn emotion regulation strategies to manage these physiological signs.  

Please see Part 2 of this blog for techniques and tools that you can use to develop and improve your emotional regulation.  

If you have difficulty regulating, identifying, and recognizing your emotions or you believe that your emotions can cause difficulties in your life, therapy can be a process that can help you develop emotional regulation skills. CFIR-CPRI therapists are available to support you in this process and can help you develop your understanding of the function of your emotions and how to manage them. You can contact us at and a member of our team will be happy to help you.  

Alexie Carrière, M.Ed., R.P.(Qualifying) is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) that offers therapy services in French and English to adults. She uses an integrative approach and has experience supporting individuals with different concerns, including emotion regulation, anxiety, sexual functioning, trauma, depression, self-esteem, and body image.

Finding the Magic in Modern Dating: Navigating Disenchantment and Rediscovering Joy

In the era of swiping right and instant connections, the quest for love can sometimes feel more like a relentless grind than a romantic journey. With an array of dating apps and ever-changing social norms, it’s not uncommon to feel disenchanted by the modern dating world. Whether you identify as heterosexual, LGBTQ+, or are exploring your identity, the challenges of forming meaningful connections in this fast-paced era are universal.

Understanding the Root of Disenchantment

The first step in overcoming dating disenchantment is understanding its source. Are you overwhelmed by the paradox of choice, finding it hard to connect deeply when there are so many options? Or perhaps, you’re fatigued by the ‘game’ – the endless cycle of matching, chatting, and often, ghosting. Recognize that these feelings are normal, and many others share your experience.

Embracing Authenticity

One of the keys to revitalizing your dating experience is embracing authenticity. Be true to yourself in your dating profile and interactions. Honesty about who you are and what you’re looking for not only attracts the right people but also sets the stage for genuine connections.

Quality Over Quantity

Instead of swiping endlessly, focus on quality interactions. Take the time to read profiles thoroughly and engage in meaningful conversations. This approach may mean fewer dates, but it increases the likelihood of those dates being more satisfying and compatible.

Balancing Hope with Realism

Maintain a balance between hope and realism. It’s essential to stay optimistic but equally important to have realistic expectations. Not every date will lead to a love story, and that’s okay. Each experience is a step in your journey of self-discovery and understanding what you truly desire in a partner.

Taking Breaks is Healthy

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break. Use this time to engage in activities you love, reconnect with yourself, and nurture other relationships in your life. A break can provide a fresh perspective and re-energize you for when you’re ready to dive back in.

Remember, the path to finding a partner is as much about self-exploration as it is about finding another. In the modern dating world, it’s the journey of understanding yourself and what you need in a relationship that eventually leads to the magic you’re seeking. Stay true, stay patient, and let the journey unfold.

Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences. 

Tap into Rich Emotional Intelligence data and see the possibilities this insight can offer your workforce!

What if you could conduct an Emotional Intelligence audit in your company? What types of changes could you influence based on the results? What core improvements could your organization implement in order to reach and positively affect more employees? Want a healthy organization that achieves high levels of success? Tap into the key insights that an emotional assessment provides you and your employees.

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that guide the way we perceive and express ourselves, cultivate and maintain social relationships, assess change, cope with challenges and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

It is important in your work life to communicate effectively by using emotional data to better understand how your message is being interpreted and send more meaningful information about your intentions in meetings and with team leadership.

Not just for leaders, EI assessments provide immediate insights on how individuals are coping, creating and maintaining relationships, self-awareness and empathy, employing decision making styles and more.

As a certified EQ-i 2.0 assessment provider, we offer robust EI leader, individual and 360 assessment tools. Employees gain new insight and actionable takeaways from EI data. It speaks volumes about what workforce the organization supports and what type of community they want to foster.

Those results could be further developed with leadership coaching and or career counselling to enhance core areas that might need more skill development.

EQ-i 2.0 is an online accessed, self-administered assessment and takes up to 20 minutes to complete. The report is processed and delivered by a certified EQ-i specialist who assists the participant or organization team with interpretation, goal setting and follow-up analysis derived from the EQ-i data.

Key Features are:

  • Total EI score with five composite scores measuring distinct aspects of emotional and social functioning
  • Deeper understanding of how the results affect a participant’s performance (conflict resolution, change management, teamwork, decision making and leadership)
  • Make instant connections between subscales, forming decisions based on EI strengths and potential to improve EI weaknesses
  • A Well-Being Indicator to measure your participant’s level of happiness; resulting in additional developmental opportunities
  • Reporting designed with results-driven content and insights for action

As a career strategist, Erin Leslie provides career counselling service as well as the Career & Vocational Assessment Service at CFIR; certified in EQ-i 2.0 to compliment one-on-one coaching tailored specifically to individual client needs and corporate training on emotional intelligence development for teams and leaders.

Body-Based Therapies: Healing from Trauma and Chronic Stress

Trauma and chronic stress deeply affect our bodies and minds, leaving lasting imprints in our cognitive and physiological memory. Physiological memory stores the physical sensations and reactions tied to traumatic experiences, which can resurface through triggers and lead to recurring distressing symptoms. 

Body-based therapies recognize the vital role of the body in trauma healing. By integrating body and mind, these therapies provide effective tools to unlock deep healing potential. They encourage us to reconnect with our bodily sensations, movements, and postures, tapping into the wisdom of the body. This process allows for the exploration and release of tension, leading to increased body awareness. 

A key aspect of body-based therapies is learning to regulate our physical responses. Therapists can help clients gain a better understanding of their bodily impulses and sensations, guiding them in safely navigating trauma-related sensations. By gradually learning skills to regulate arousal levels, we can regain control over our bodies, promoting resilience and regulation. 

Body-based therapies also focus on integrating traumatic experiences into our overall narrative. By bridging cognitive and physiological aspects of trauma, we can form a coherent and compassionate understanding of our journey. This integration cultivates a sense of safety, healing, and wholeness. 

Recognizing the interconnectedness of our bodies and minds is crucial for healing trauma and chronic stress. Body-based therapies offer powerful pathways to overcome these challenges while honouring the wisdom of the body. By embracing these approaches, we can embark on transformative journeys toward healing, resilience, and a renewed sense of well-being. 

Grabbe, L. (2017). The Trauma Resiliency Model: A “Bottom-Up” Intervention for Trauma

Psychotherapy. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 24(1). https:/ 

Fisher, J. (2011). Sensorimotor Approaches to Trauma Treatment. Advances in psychiatric

treatment,17, 171–177. doi: 10.1192/apt.bp.109.007054 

Fisher, J. (2019). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Trauma. Practice Innovations,

4(3), 156-165.


Laura McKinney, B.A., is a therapy and assessment practicum student working under the supervision of Dr. Lila Hakim, C. Psych., currently completing her master’s in psychology. As a practicum student, Laura offers therapy at a discounted rate. She is passionate about helping clients heal from trauma and chronic stress. Please check out her profile on the Toronto team page on the CFIR website for more information.”


Attachment – One of our most fundamental basic needs as a human being. Attachment, in its simplest form, is contact, connection, to belong, to love and be loved. 

When a child is born, they have two primary needs. Their first need is attachment and they simply do not survive without it. Attachment remains important throughout our lives and continues to have survival implications as we need it to form societies and communities. The second need is the need for authenticity. At its core, this is the ability to know what we feel, to be in touch with our bodies, to trust our “gut feelings” and instincts. Authenticity is also to be able to identify and express who we are and manifest it in our activities, relationships, and day to day lives. Authenticity is also a survival need as we need to be in touch with our bodies and instincts to navigate potential threats. However, what may often happen, especially during our formative years is that our need for authenticity might conflict with our need for attachment: if I express my true emotions, wants, needs, I may sacrifice or lose out on my attachment need and thus not feel loved, worthy, or connected to those around me. This does not mean that it was done on purpose or that your caregivers did not love you or think you were worthy, but they might have had their own difficulties, stress, hurt, and were also suppressed. This is not about blame or figuring out who is at fault. Their distress and your distress can coexist and there can be space for both! 

As a child, when we experience this conflict, we ultimately learn that we need to suppress our authenticity and thus our emotions for our attachment that our life depends on. As adults, this might look like not knowing what we feel, what we want, or how to express ourselves. These experiences might have taught us that being authentic is too costly and thus we suppress those parts of us and over time lose touch with ourselves. This may then manifest in various forms of mental health and/or relational difficulties. Therapy can help you rediscover, connect and express these suppressed parts of ourselves and help regain your authenticity and identity while maintaining our forever important relationships! 

Kadir Ibrahim, M.Sc., M.A., R.P. (Qualifying) is a clinical psychology resident at CFIR. Kadir provides psychological services to adults experiencing a wide range of psychological difficulties related to mood and anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, and interpersonal relationships. 


By Davey Chafe, MA, RP(Q)

Too often emotions are dismissed as weakness or as something that clouds our judgment from more “rational” thinking. However, emotions are very important for effective communication and give us vital information about our environments and the people within them. For example, if someone wrongs us or mistreats us and we become angry, it signals that we may need firmer boundaries with this person. In the same way, if we suffer a loss and feel sadness and grief, it may signal for closeness and support from people around us.

Over time, we learn how to listen to, and trust these emotional cues to help us navigate our worlds. However, if we experience traumatic events that we have difficulty coping with, it is not uncommon for people to develop negative changes in mood which can include distorted views of the self (e.g., self-blame and criticism), persistent negative emotional states (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame), feeling detached from others, and inability to experience positive emotions, such as happiness, satisfaction, or even loving feelings (American Psychiatric Association, 2022). These emotional disturbances can be present even without a diagnosis of PTSD or other trauma-related disorders. When this happens, people will often develop a negative relationship with their emotions, often leading to ignoring, avoiding, or no longer trusting their feelings.

Not feeling our emotions can lead to unhelpful coping strategies over time that allow us to “escape” the severe, negative emotions that can come with experiences of trauma. Unfortunately, avoiding these feelings can often result in new or worsening symptoms as our underlying emotions will look for new outlets. The energy from these emotions may manifest as symptoms such as anxiety, outbursts of anger, feeling low or depressed, dissociation, or substance use to avoid these negative feeling states. This is where therapy can help.

The hard part of this work is facing the feelings we have been avoiding, sometimes for years. If these feelings are not acknowledged and worked through, the emotional signals continue to go unheard, and we will continue to experience symptoms. Therapy can help by creating a safe place to begin unpacking and exploring these feelings through building safety and stability in our bodies and then learning to develop a relationship with our feelings again. As we process traumatic events and memories in a safe and productive way, it allows us to get back in touch with our bodies, our emotions, and the meaningful roles and relationships in our lives.

Davey Chafe, M.A., R.P. (Qualifying), is a Clinical Psychology Resident at CFIR in the final year of his PhD at York University and works with both individuals and couples in therapy. Throughout Davey’s clinical training, he has gained experience in a broad range of settings. He has worked with Emotion Focused Therapy for individuals and couples and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for couples through York University, CBT for Mood and Anxiety at Brampton Civic Hospital, and with individuals and groups treating PTSD, mood disorders, and anxiety through community trauma initiatives. In addition to clinical work, Davey has been involved in psychotherapy research for over 10 years and has published in peer-reviewed journals and attended international conferences to present his clinical work. He is currently being supervised by Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych, Dr. Lila Hakim, C.Psych, and Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych.

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.”


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.