Dr. Johan Cloete
Psychology & Neurofeedback Practitioner

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073 458 4079 (Bookings)

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Emotions and emotional expression play a fundamental role in your daily life. Some psychologists believe emotions serve a primal function in helping you navigate and adapt to your ever-changing environment. Emotions shape your attitudes, moods, and behaviors and, in many instances, even determine your success.

Researchers generally agree that at least six universal emotions exist: fear, disgust, anger, sadness, surprise, and happiness. Positive emotions have been widely studied and shown to promote inner strength and resiliency. In your workplace, positive emotions can help you generate new ideas and are considered ideal for effective brainstorming. Positive emotions also promote social bonds by helping you forge relationships with others.

Though there is power in positivity, some researchers have shown that other emotions are just as essential and can contribute to achieving your outcomes. A narrow focus on positive emotions can limit your ability to connect with others authentically. Mainly because it fails to recognize the fact that all emotions can be intelligent, adaptive, and helpful.

Emotion theorists believe emotions such as fear, sadness, or frustration serve a functional purpose: they convey specific needs that stimulate corrective action. While some may try to ignore these so-called “negative emotions,” people with high emotional intelligence know all emotions contain important data and use that information to their advantage.

Emotional intelligence is all about your ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. If you have high emotional intelligence, you can effectively integrate your emotions with your thinking to produce desired outcomes.

Emotionally intelligent people quickly learn to identify negative emotions and use them in adaptive ways to achieve success. There are at least six noted benefits associated with negative emotions:

  1. Negative emotions protect us by alerting us to potential threats and telling us when to change our actions or thoughts. Because negative emotions tend to be experienced more strongly, they must be carefully attended to. Emotionally intelligent people take what they learn from their experiences with negative emotions and use that information to increase their self-awareness. Self-awareness allows them to more accurately identify what they feel in future situations and strategically evaluate whether those emotions will best serve them in that moment.
  2. Negative emotions such as fear or anxiety can be powerful motivators that encourage perseverance. They work by narrowing our field of attention and perception to prepare us to act in specific ways. All humans experience fear, but emotionally intelligent people know how to harness and use their fear to their advantage. The clever use of fear involves recognizing its presence at the moment and relabeling it as something worthwhile. For example, it is natural to feel anxious before giving a presentation at work. People with high emotional intelligence recognize symptoms of fear and use cognitive reappraisal to control the fear. They may tell themselves the fear is just their body’s way of giving them the energy they need to perform well. In many instances, anxiety can facilitate performance just as quickly as it can debilitate it.
  3. According to researchers, fostering a slightly negative mood may be beneficial if you need to review a document for errors. Negative emotions are helpful when engaging in activities that require greater attention to detail. Periods of sadness encourage slower, more systematic cognitive processing. As such, when people experience sadness, they rely less on quick conclusions and pay more attention to subtle details that matter. Negative emotions alert us when situations are new or challenging and when greater attention is needed to respond effectively.
  4. Negative emotions have been linked to greater creative output. Researchers have found that people experiencing frustration or anger are less likely to think systematically and more likely to engage in flexible, unstructured thought processes. This type of processing is associated with seeing the “bigger picture,” which can be beneficial during brainstorming sessions. Furthermore, because anger elicits a more energizing feeling, it can help generate the sustained attention needed to solve problems more creatively.
  5. Anxiety is a helpful emotion when quick solutions to complicated problems are needed. Anxiety and fear stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight system, which can facilitate problem-solving mechanisms. The fight-or-flight process allows the body to metabolize a significant amount of energy in a short amount of time. It, therefore, helps prepare the body to act quickly in potentially threatening or uncomfortable situations. Anger can also be beneficial when trying to problem-solve, as it has been linked to better negotiation performance, especially when they are confrontational.

Emotionally intelligent people are open-minded when it comes to their emotions. They objectively evaluate negative emotions, select the ones that best serve them, put them into practice, and leave the rest behind. This allows them to maintain a high level of congruence between their internal feelings and outward displays of emotion and behaviors. Emotionally intelligent people often value transparency and are generally viewed as genuine and authentic because they are not afraid to share their feelings.