The impact of low emotional efficacy on wellbeing and performance

Emotional efficacy plays a crucial role in our overall wellbeing and performance. When individuals struggle with low levels of emotional efficacy, it can have significant negative consequences on various aspects of their lives.

In this blog post, we will explore the relevance of emotional efficacy today, the detrimental effects low emotional efficacy can have and also the challenges it can pose to one’s behaviour, wellbeing, and performance.

What is emotional efficacy?

Emotional efficacy encompasses both our beliefs about our ability to navigate our emotions and our actual skills in doing so. Individuals with high emotional efficacy possess the capacity to effectively experience and manage challenging emotions, using healthy coping strategies and aligning their actions with their values.

On the other hand, individuals with low emotional efficacy often find themselves trapped in patterns of maladaptive behaviours as a response to emotional distress. These behaviours, driven by a desire to avoid pain, can perpetuate and worsen psychological difficulties.

Emotional efficacy therefore plays a crucial role in our ability to navigate and regulate our emotions, ultimately impacting our overall mental well-being.

Is emotional efficacy really such a big problem still?

In short, yes. We continue to find low emotional efficacy everywhere, for many reasons, including: lack of emotional awareness, ineffective regulation strategies, adverse life experiences, cognitive biases, neurological factors, learned helplessness, and insufficient emotional education and modelling.

An interesting example of the impact of emotional efficacy came up recently. With Father’s Day approaching gift card company Hallmark, partnered with men’s suicide prevention charity ANDY’S MAN CLUB, to launch a study around men’s messages of love, appreciation and understanding. 19% of the 1,000 men questioned revealed that they find it easier to express their emotions in writing than face-to-face. Reasons for this included fear of embarrassment (42%), feeling awkward (39%) and concerns about appearing weak (30%). That’s nearly 1 in 5 men who are saying they struggle to express their emotions, which is an indicative feature of low emotional efficacy.

Watch the Hallmark x ANDY’S MAN CLUB video 

Individuals may struggle to identify, understand, and adaptively express their emotions. This can stem from many things, including underdeveloped emotional skills, distorted thinking patterns, and invalidating environments during formative years.

The problem with low emotional efficacy

  • Limited awareness and fluency around emotional experience: People with low emotional efficacy often struggle with recognising and understanding their own emotions. This lack of awareness and fluency around emotional experiences can hinder their ability to effectively navigate and regulate their emotions, leading to difficulties in managing stress and interpersonal relationships.
  • Chronic reactivity or over-control: Another common characteristic of individuals with low emotional efficacy is the tendency to exhibit chronic patterns of reactivity or over-control. This can manifest as emotional outbursts or suppressing emotions altogether. Both extremes can be detrimental to mental health, hinder communication, and strain interpersonal connections.
  • Disconnection from values, meaning, or direction: Low emotional efficacy is also associated with a sense of disconnection from one’s values, meaning, or direction in life. This disconnection can lead to a lack of purpose and motivation, contributing to feelings of emptiness, apathy, and a decreased sense of overall wellbeing.
  • Rigidity in beliefs, biases, and behaviour: Individuals with low emotional efficacy may exhibit rigidity in their beliefs, biases, and behaviour. This inflexibility can limit their ability to adapt to new situations, consider alternative perspectives, and hinder personal growth and development.
  • Preoccupation with past and future: A preoccupation with the past or future is another challenge faced by those with low emotional efficacy. This preoccupation can lead to rumination, anxiety, and an inability to fully engage in the present moment, hindering overall wellbeing and performance.
  • Unhelpful behaviour patterns: Low emotional efficacy often contributes to the development of unhelpful behaviour patterns that obstruct wellbeing and performance. These patterns may include avoidance, self-sabotage, or engaging in maladaptive coping mechanisms, further exacerbating mental health challenges and limiting personal growth.

What can we do to encourage emotional efficacy?

Addressing the underlying causes through interventions like therapy and skills training can help improve emotional awareness, regulation, and overall well-being.

Of those in the study mentioned above who did brave talking to someone, 28% experienced relief, 25% felt an overall improvement in their mood and 17% became more relaxed. Andrew Dewhirst, senior writer for Hallmark, said: “Men can find it challenging to open up because society has conditioned them to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness, which came out as one of the top reasons in our research. However, embracing vulnerability is a courageous act that can lead to authentic connections and emotional well-being.

Recognising and addressing low emotional efficacy is crucial for individuals seeking to improve their wellbeing and performance. By increasing awareness and fluency around these emotional experiences, nurturing flexibility in beliefs and behaviours, and reconnecting with values and purpose, individuals can enhance their emotional efficacy and unlock their potential for personal growth and fulfilment. Embracing strategies such as emotional regulation techniques, mindfulness practices, and therapy can be instrumental in promoting emotional efficacy and overall wellbeing. To learn a bit more about how to build emotional efficacy, check out our knowledge hub post on emotional efficacy and ACT.

We are excited to be joined next year by Dr Aprilia West, developer of emotion efficacy training (EET), as she introduces you to this novel intervention, grounded in neuroscience, learning theory and contextual behavioural science. She will introduce you to: the philosophical assumptions and principles for the EET model; basic psychoeducation on emotions; and, the 4 core emotional efficacy skills. You’ll also observe a professional demo of Dr. West working with clients using structured exposure-based practice. Sign up on our early bird deal today!

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