Emotional intelligence and health care by Dr. Iraniha
Emotions play an essential role in our lives. Every one of us experiences many different emotions and witnesses the emotions of others on a daily basis. Emotions contain messages and serve special purposes to guide us to survive and flourish in life.
But what is an emotion? An emotion is a complex psychological response to the external stimuli or internal thoughts that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral expression.
The subjective component of the emotion is how we feel and experience the emotion. The physiologic component is how our body respond to the emotion which involves a series of reactions in our brain and autonomic nervous system resulting in special bodily signs such as rapid breathing, racing heart rate and sweaty palm. The behavioral component is how we act in response to the emotion. It is the outward display of the emotion which includes our facial and bodily movement. Cognitive processes of appraisal and interpretation of the stimulus are also the essential processes for experiencing the emotions.
Emotions have special characteristics. They are brief experiences with different intensity and usually an identifiable cause. Emotions usually have valence, positive or negative. Some are just negative like depression, loneliness, and jealousy, some are positive like optimism, joy and love and some work both ways like anger. The emotions are contagious and convey messages to us and others.
Different types of emotions
There are 6 primary emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. These universal emotions are hardwired in our brain and can be experienced and recognized with people all over the world regardless of their ethnicities and cultures. However, human being is able to experience so many other complex emotions and some are the mixture of the primary ones. Normally we express our emotions by verbal and nonverbal cues such as facial gestures and bodily movements and while many of them are innate responses, experiencing emotions is highly subjective and much more multidimensional. So many factors including social pressure, cultural differences and past experiences would influence how we express our emotions.
But why do we have emotions? Our emotions serve a wide variety of purposes. They convey messages to help us to survive and flourish. They motivate us to take actions that maximize our chance of survival and success, warn us to avoid the threatening and harmful situations, motivate us to pursue positive emotions and avoid the negative ones, guide us to create meaningful relationships and cooperate with each other for collective actions, inspire us to take care of our offspring and elderly, find our love to reproduce and be concern about the interest or welfare of others. The emotions drive our thoughts and behaviors and influence our decision making.
The limbic system has a great importance in our emotional life and memories for emotional events. Amygdala is one of the important structure of the limbic system which performs many functions such as emotional reactivity, perception, learning and conditioning to emotion. Emotions are typically responses to the external stimulus or internal thoughts. When the stimulus enters our brain it activates the limbic system especially amygdala. The information is sensed, processed and appraised. This process is associated with physiologic response and the experience of emotion. The cognitive appraisal and interpretation of the information defines and determines the experience of the emotion. Amygdala is heavily involved with fear response but it is also linked with some positive emotions. The limbic system, including the amygdala has a close connection with prefrontal region of neocortex. The prefrontal region is responsible for emotional regulation. It has top down control over amygdala which regulates the intensity of the emotional response. It is also responsible for emotion modulation, bodily regulation, impulse control, delayed gratification, foreseeing consequences and anticipation, flexibility and shifting strategy and self-monitoring behavior. All of those capabilities are the powerful resources for regulating our emotions and behaviors.
Over last two decades, there have been numerous studies in regards to the role of emotions in our lives. Researchers have suggested that the emotional awareness and ability to handle our emotions will determine our success and happiness in life. Dr. Salovey and Mayer initially introduced the concept of “Emotional Intelligence”. They proposed that emotional intelligence involves four fundamental factors including perceiving emotions, reasoning with emotions, understanding the emotions and the ability to manage the emotions. However, that concept was not popularized until Dr. Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence in 1996. He suggested that EQ (or emotional intelligence quotient) might actually be more important than IQ in predicting success in life. He suggested that the emotional intelligence is the ability to handle ourselves and our relationships, and has five components, self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills. Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be trained and strengthened and has potential to drive certain behavior and improve performance at workplace. In other words, the ability to recognize, understand and manage our emotions and emotions of others, motivate ourselves and others to perform the necessary tasks, create meaningful connections, work out our conflicts and enhance our communication at work would help us to navigate through the day with more peace and success with higher performance and satisfaction.
In our current health care system, the lack of emotional intelligence at workplace is evident. There is a culture of mistrust among the health professionals which has affected their performance and satisfaction. Therefore, promoting the emotional intelligence at our workplace would have the potential to make us more resilient in facing daily adversities and improve our relationships and performances. We have the essential tools and resources to practice and train ourselves to be more emotionally intelligent. Some of those practices that could improve and promote the emotional intelligence at our workplace are as follow: be more attentive to our emotions and emotions of others, be mindful, pause and calm down our nerves, anticipate the result of our action and behavior, be more decisive but flexible, boost our self-esteem, stop ruminating about the negative events, stop judging, be more empathic and caring toward others, listen, ask questions, create authentic connection, and promote positivity.