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psychotherapy in Toronto: emotional health

Often, emotional health, along with emotions and feelings, gets left out of conversations related to mental health. In our western culture, we still emphasize intellect over feelings. We still want to separate the body and mind. But we are gradually coming to see that the two are inextricably linked.

Emotions and feelings reside in the body and are basic to survival. They are a separate information system, evolved over centuries.

In fact, feelings and emotions were humankind’s first information system. Our thinking abilities (the cognitive, intellectual or mental components) developed much later on.

Someone with good emotional health can access thoughts and feelings

Someone with good emotional health is able to access both systems, and use the information to help them lead their best life. Without good emotional health, you are unable to feel happy, regardless of your success and accomplishments.

Good emotional health contributes strongly to a sense of well-being, and gives you the confidence that you can cope with stress.

Emotional health (also known as emotional intelligence) is when you can accept, identify and manage your feelings and emotions.

It means being comfortable expressing your feelings – or at least being able to choose how and when to express them.

The work of psychotherapy is about integrating thoughts and feelings

The work of psychotherapy is often related to the integration of the mental and emotional aspects of ourselves.  Because it is holistic, Gestalt therapy is highly suited for this task.

Unfortunately, schools don’t teach emotional health. So, unless children can see it modeled by parents or elders, they won’t learn how to have and maintain good emotional health.

Too often in our culture, emotions are labeled as positive and negative.  This is not an approach I favor, because all our emotions were originally built-in to help us survive.  To me, emotions and feelings only become positive or negative based on the way we manage and express their energy.

For example: if you feel angry because you can’t find your keys, you might use that angry energy:

        • to have a hissy-fit, smash a few breakable things nearby, and accuse your spouse or partner of taking the keys


        • to hunt for the keys, and to create a new habit to put the keys in the same place when you arrive home

Currently, there are differing views on how many basic emotions there are, ranging from 4 or 5 to 9 or 10, or even more.  Most agree that anger, sadness, fear and joy are prominent, while others would add surprise, disgust, love, shame and pride.

I don’t think the number of emotions matters, because emotions and feelings are quite subjective and too often avoided or suppressed. This can play havoc not only with our mental health, but also with our physical health.  The suppressed energy can travel through our bodies to the places where we may be genetically vulnerable, and cause trouble there. So good emotional health becomes even more important to our overall health.