You’ve probably heard before about ecological diversity or biodiversity, and how the diversity of an ecosystem is important for its balance and strength. The more diverse and abundant, the more flexible and resilient the ecosystem is. The same applies to our “emotional ecosystem”.
A research study involving more than 37000 people found that those experiencing the largest range of emotions were mentally and physically healthier. And, what is very interesting and counter-intuitive is that it is the diversity and frequency of emotions that matters and makes a difference - not their kind.
Moreover, a propensity to experience a greater diversity of negative emotions seems to predict better mental and physical resilience than a tendency to experience a limited range of only positive ones. There is no definitive answer as to why lots of negative emotions appear to be better than few positive emotions, but it is suggested that, as in nature where an entire ecosystem cannot be wiped out by a single predator, a diversity of negative emotions may prevent particularly harmful negative emotions - such as acute stress and anxiety - pervading and dominating the entire emotional ecosystem.
Because our modern society is ever so focused on the need to feel good, most of us try to escape from or get rid of negative emotions. Yet, in fact, negative emotions are as useful for our mental wellbeing as positive emotions as long as they are diverse and plentiful.
Emotion is engagement with the world. Therefore, a diversity of emotions reflects a deeper and broader awareness of interactions with the world – a deeper sense of connection with the world. However, for many of us, it is difficult to actually pinpoint what we feel because we’ve never been encouraged to express our feelings, or we are scared of negative feelings. We have been conditioned to believe that negative feelings are a threat to our wellbeing. So, we find it tricky to identify them precisely and give them a name. As a result, we get stuck with a sense of uneasiness, a sense of not knowing what is wrong with us – a sense of disconnection.
With the help of a counsellor, you can learn how to identify your feelings more precisely. Sometimes, there is absolutely nothing we can do about them expect giving them the space and attention they deserve, let them go, and make space for other feelings. Yet, at other times, an awareness of feelings facilitates better decision making and choices. Counselling can help you build your repertoire of feelings and nurture the resilience of your emotional ecosystem.
Reference: Quoidbach, Gruber, Mikolajczak, Kogan, Kotsou, & Norton. Emotional Diversity and the Emotional Ecosystem. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(6), Dec 2014, 2057-2066