Is being emotional a strength or a weakness?
- Merriam-Webster defines ‘emotional’ as “markedly aroused or agitated in feeling or sensibilities.”
- Researchers relate that there are eight basic emotions that can be experienced: joy, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, anticipation, anger, and trust.
- Emotional dysregulation is a term used to describe “an emotional response that is poorly regulated and does not fall within the traditionally accepted range of emotional reaction.”
- The phenomenon of emotional contagion, as explained by University of Chicago psychology professor John T. Cacioppo, is “During conversation, human beings naturally tend to mimic their companion’s facial expressions, posture, body language and speech rhythms, without being consciously aware of it…the more expressive someone is, the more likely you are to notice that expression and mimic it.”
- Gallup’s Global Emotions Report found that in 2021 people worldwide were “more worried, stressed and sad than at any time in the past 16 years.”
While in recent years, society has promoted expressing emotions with mental well-being, that does not mean being emotional is always beneficial. It has been shown that having high levels of emotional intelligence--a trait that those who are 'overly emotional' usually exhibit--can actually promote adverse outcomes in life if not controlled or balanced.
First, while having emotions is not bad, it is important to note that there is a downside to having weak emotional control, as not being able to master your emotions can be detrimental to your life and even your health.
Also, while emotional intelligence can be a good thing, too much of it can lead to over-analysis, obsession, and being taken advantage of in different scenarios. Being overly emotional and empathetic can create more problems and stress in a person’s life, where they might get involved in situations they shouldn’t. In the workplace, people with high emotional intelligence can have difficulties in other areas, such as receiving feedback or a reluctance to ‘ruffle people’s feathers.’ It is important to note that “emotionally intense” adults can feel isolated and misunderstood, as well, and some highly emotional people can learn to manipulate others over time.
Ultimately, you should learn to control your emotions, so they do not end up controlling you.
While there is nothing wrong with having feelings, the truth is, being too emotional or too in touch with one’s emotions can create problems and possibly be seen as a sign of weakness. Like all things in life, it is best to work toward balance, where emotions do not rule you, but they do not evade you, either.
In the book Daring Greatly, research professor Brené Brown 'dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.' People are at their most vulnerable when expressing emotion, and Brown suggests that 'our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.' In other words, the less we suppress our emotions, the stronger and more courageous we are.
Sharing emotions is what helps humans connect. Not only is showing emotions a courageous act, but it can also save your life. Studies show those who suppress their emotions could suffer from health implications even more dangerous than 'traditional risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, and physical activity.' And according to an FBI article, expressing emotions can also help predict potentially violent situations.
We make hundreds of decisions a day. When watching others make decisions, it's hard for us to understand or relate to why they do what they do. Only when someone is transparent about their emotions can we empathize and understand their decision-making. And when we can empathize, we can build stronger tribes or social circles.
When exploring whether being emotional is a strength or a weakness, it's important to note that all humans are emotional; some express it outwardly, and others do not. Those who do express it outwardly demonstrate tremendous strength and courage--the rewards being better personal connection and physical health.