In my most recent two articles on my website, www.thinkingfit.co.za, I have attempted to encapsulate the essence of what it means to be emotionally intelligent and why it is of crucial importance to learn the skills associated with this aspect of mental functioning. A further helpful tool comes from the Rational Emotive Therapy model of Albert Ellis. This approach to psychology distinguishes emotions in four groups in terms of appropriateness. These are:
Appropriate positive emotions The appropriate positive emotions help us get more of what we want such as a better job or more opportunities for recreation of positive emotions such as pleasure, joy, curiosity, love, and interest.
Inappropriate positive emotions The inappropriate positive emotions often have considerable immediate pleasure attached to them, but they frequently lead to poor results like alienation from others and perhaps waiting for good things to happen by themselves. Examples are the rage, mania, and grandiosity.
Appropriate negative emotions The appropriate negative emotions help us avoid or eliminate what we do not want such as a distasteful job or destructive relationships. Some examples are sorrow, regret, frustration, annoyance, and displeasure.
Inappropriate negative emotions The inappropriate negative emotions are usually doubly destructive. They are uncomfortable feelings in themselves and also tend to bring about poor results like alienation from others, inertia, and passivity. Examples are depression, anxiety or despair.
Most of us have perhaps thought all along that any negative emotion is wrong. This is not true and we need to acquire skills to distinguish emotions with refinement and accuracy. It is part of what the Dalia Lahma calls “emotional hygiene.” Consider making it a renewed resolution to attend to this daily. It is worth it and will have positive spin-offs in every dimension of your life. Do the following exercise:
Which inappropriate negative emotions have you felt recently? What have been their results in your life? Was it possible to change them for the better?