Emotional intelligence: An intervention for suicide prevention

By Aneela Jan

Emotional pain, stress and anxiety have become some of the most common challenges of the modern world where people live a robotic life, preoccupied by social media, gadgets, and in competition with their peers. With the growing wealth and virtual reality taking over our lives, anxiety and depression have become very common among people of all ages, class or economic background. Thousands of people are turning to psychoactive drugs because of depression and anxiety every day. A thorough knowledge about emotional intelligence can be a useful tool to decrease depression and anxiety among people. This will help people become familiar with their emotions and live an emotionally stable and healthy life.

Solvey and Mayer in 1990 were the first to formally describe emotional intelligence as ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’ (p. 189). But it captured significant attention later when Daniel Goleman published his first book on emotional intelligence in 1995. He defines EQ, nickname of emotional intelligence. as. “the abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope” (p.32, emotional intelligence).

One of the main causes of growing depression these days is lack of awareness among people about emotional intelligence and its practices. And also, we live in a society where being emotional or expressive has been stigmatized and is mostly seen as a weak feminine trait. People aren’t given enough space to express their emotions neither at schools nor at homes. This suppression of emotions also leads to emotional instability and failure to cope with real life challenges. In addition there hasn’t much been done in the field of emotional intelligence; Emotional health being one of the most important aspects of our lives has been highly neglected in our societies. School curriculum stress much more on IQ (intelligence quotient) while ignoring EQ (emotional quotient) which often leads to the brightest students of the class getting the lowest grades, people dropping out of school and sometimes even committing suicide because as futile of a reason as bad grades.

Over the years the use and demand for psychoactive drugs has increased radically. According to World health organization, 450 million people alive today are suffering from some kind of mental or brain disorder, including those caused by alcohol substance abuse, with 121 million suffering from depression. The projections suggest a 15% rise in these number by 2020 (World Health Organization, 2001; World Health Assembly, 2002).  This growing dependence on psychoactive drugs implies the emotional instability among an enormous number of people.

Emotional instability can be caused by many factors like any previous emotional trauma or parenting type and mostly psychological constructs which are directly related to our environment, personal experiences and encounters. George Kelly in his book the psychology of personal constructs explains how our personal constructs lead to depression “when a person finds his personal construction failing him, he suffers anxiety. When he faces an impending upheaval in his core structure, he experiences threat. A person who construes the construction system of another person sets the stage for playing a role in relation to that person. When he finds himself dislodged from his role, he experiences guilt.” (p.4) Another explanation of the emotional instability among people can be the lack of awareness among people about their cognitive functioning.  As we know that amygdala plays role of the “heart” in our brain causing all the emotional responses. Dr. LeDaux calls it the “precognitive emotion”, which means feelings independent of thought; he notes that the emotional information goes to the amygdala first which processes it before the information is fully sorted out in the brain. He says “but it’s a quick and dirty process, the cells are fast but not precise”. (New York Times).

Goleman further explains LeDaux’s theory in his book that the primitive brain of mammals which is constantly scanning for predators is the main brain system in non-mammals. This imprecise system may save a squirrel away from a potential danger or move towards something edible but in human life that imprecision can have disastrous consequences … (p. 23, emotional intelligence).

Sometimes a situation may be not be as bad as the amygdala may perceive it and knowing the functioning of our brain and its role in our emotions will save people from many emotional turmoil that they may go through unnecessarily and unknowingly. Having knowledge of EQ will help people to understand and manage their emotions and also understand and manage the emotions of others around them. It will also help them become emotionally stable to not let external things disturb their mental peace and take charge their own actions and take conscious and better decisions.

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