Emotional Intelligence is not about denying your emotions

When first learning about emotional intelligence, you might think that it’s all about controlling your emotions, especially ones that seem excessive.

That’s partly true, but it’s not just that. Yes, emotional intelligence is about regulating your emotions, but it doesn’t mean you should try to ignore your feelings or pretend they don’t exist. Being emotionally intelligent means being aware of your feelings, expressing them appropriately and even learning from them.

Stuffing emotions is asking for trouble

When we “stuff” or suppress our emotions, we set them aside and try to not think about them. Yet they’re not really gone. They sit in a semi-dark closet still having an impact – as if that closet door is still open, they still insidiously drive you, annoy you and push you to make decisions based on those emotions.

What does stuffing your emotions actually cost you?

You see there is a bigger problem here: those semi-hidden emotions can have a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health. You might think you have ‘dealt with’ your feelings by consigning them to this metaphorical closet, but they’re still in there stewing away, creating cortisol and stress and potentially making you ill.

The body generates cortisol when we experience unpleasant situations, it shows up when we have feelings we don’t like (fear, anger, frustration, etc). Cortisol is a toxic hormone which enters the bloodstream and is then circulated around the body. But we are not designed to manage large or regular doses of this toxic chemical in our system. Cortisol can damage our organs as well as the brain – it particularly targets memory areas which affect our ability to remember and to learn. In other words, stuffing emotions, keeps cortisol in our bodies which can lead to illness and mental health challenges.

So what’s the message?

When you encounter something in your life that you don’t like, it’s a good idea to bring it out in the open – in an appropriate setting. Discuss it in a safe space; write or journal about it; or talk to a coach or therapist about what’s going on. Get it out of your system. Teach yourself to calm yourself down and then do something with those emotions from a more controlled state. Work through them, find what you don’t like and see how you can learn, adapt, manage or even change the situation so you can feel more in control of your life circumstances.

See our post How can I feel more in control? for ways to do that.

Other tips

Understand the difference between tolerating and accepting: How do we accept and not just tolerate? What is the difference? Tolerating is really just another way of stuffing emotions. And understand that always needing to be positive can also be toxic:  What is toxic positivity?

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate

This programme teaches you how to manage your emotions without stuffing them.

It also helps you create ways of working that support wellbeing and emotional regulation.

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