Workplace Harassment

There is nothing more toxic than working in an environment where bullies and harassers are overpowering and threaten us daily. Workplace harassment is not only a belittling situation where the employees have to face situations that harm their psychological, physical, social, and sexual wellbeing. Mostly this takes the form of verbal or psychological harassment, but sometimes takes extreme forms of physical and sexual harassment compromising their productivity, comfort, and safety.

Employees feel that they will be able to recognize workplace harassment and report it, harassment leaves them in a confused and self-doubting state. According to Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, a worker does not report these cases because of fear and most of them are unsure of what behavior constitutes harassment.

Some behaviors, though uncomfortable but seemingly harmless are not reported because of the fear of being called a snitch or a petty. But what they don’t realize is that the sooner they act the easier it will be to put an end to it.

People should educate themselves on this subject so they are more aware of the abusive behavior directed towards them and have the confidence to report it. What most of them don’t realize is that any type of workplace harassment is illegal and will put the organization in jeopardy.

Types of Workplace Harassment

  1. Psychological Harassment- It is covert and consists of tactics like withholding information from employees. It also includes taking credit for someone’s work, posing impossible demands and unreasonable deadlines on particular employees, asking workers to perform demeaning tasks that are outside the scope of work, and persistently opposing whatever the employee says. This doesn’t seem like harassment but it slowly chips away at the person’s self-esteem and undermines them.
  2. Verbal Harassment– It is an ongoing attack on the employee’s health and career. Verbal abuse in the workplace includes offensive gestures, demeaning remarks, and unreasonable criticism. This is generally considered as the grey area because it doesn’t include physical harassment. It has a negative psychological impact on the victim and results in outcomes such as depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
  3. Digital Harassment– It is the newest form of harassment and it is on the online platform but is as dilapidating as physical bullying. This consists of posting demeaning comments on social media, creating webpages to scrutinize the victim by mocking and belittling them, making fake personas to bully their co-workers. Social media has given birth to this new form under the cover of freedom of speech and expression. This allows the harasser to be even crueler and meaner because of the presence of the screen.
  4. Physical Harassment– It can vary in intensity because it involves simple unwanted gestures like touching the co-worker’s hair, clothes, face, or skin or more severe actions like physical assault, threatening to violence, and damage to physical property. It can be considered as a joke if the other person is not physically hurt such as kicking or going through the belongings of your co-worker without actually hurting them. Even if there is no severe physical harm, it can still be considered physical harassment.
  5. Sexual harassment– It is a serious offense and perhaps a more common kind of employee harassment than you might realize. The preparator and victims of such an act could be of any gender be it males, females, or transgender. It includes sexual jokes, comments, gestures, sharing pornography, inappropriate touching, and sexual messages. Even though it is a serious offense it is not so obvious, for instance using inoffensive gestures accompanied by a sexual tone of voice, is generally masked by mild banter. However, if this makes you feel uncomfortable you should report it to higher authorities immediately.

Impacts of Workplace Harassment

The effects of workplace harassment can include physical and psychological health problems which do not leave you when you leave the workplace. They include anxiety, high blood pressure, panic attacks, chronic stress, ulcers and insomnia. 

Workplace harassment also affects a person emotionally and cognitively. People who experience workplace harassment experience an incapacity to concentrate on work and other tasks, they feel a loss of self-esteem, have diminished decision making ability and experience lower productivity. 

They don’t only lose the motivation to work but also the time to earn as they are preoccupied with defending themselves, avoiding the abuser, trying to attain social support and planning how to cope with their circumstances. The targets of workplace harassment may also feel a sense of absolute isolation, powerlessness, disorientation and helplessness. 

How to Report Workplace Harassment?

The human resource department generally deals with such sort of cases, the employees should not hesitate to approach them on such occurrences. The lack of physical evidence should not deter you because generally in such scenarios there is not a lot of physical evidence. If you take charge and report then other employees who might be facing such circumstances by the same preparator and this helps the HR to gather evidence.

These are some of how you can deal with workplace harassment:

  1. Try to approach the harasser calmly and ask them to stop directing such behavior towards you. However, if this is the case of physical or sexual harassment then do not approach the preparator.
  1. Consider escalating it to your HR or manager and report such behavior if the preparator doesn’t pay heed to your attempts to resolve the situation. Approach the HR directly if the manager is the harasser and provide some sort of evidence such as text messages or eye witness accounts to make your case strong.
  1. If the HR and the manager are not able to provide a satisfactory solution to your problems then try approaching NGOs or higher authorities who will help you fight for your rights as a worker and an employee.

How To Deal With Workplace Harassment

Here are a few pointer on how to identify and deal with workplace harassment:

  1. Speaking up is perhaps the most essential step you could take if you are being harassed. You need to be firm in order to discourage such behavior.
  2. Confronting the harasser and explaining them how you felt is often the second step towards curbing workplace harassment.
  3. Document these incidents, jot down the list of witnesses and gather evidence for the same. If it happens repeatedly, if documented, these incidents are easy to report and authenticate and let the harasser know why the complaint was made.
  4. The ultimate step would be to take the matter to the HR, or the management. If the issue persists reporting it to the concerned authority would be the penultimate step irrespective of its effect on your career because at the end your well-being is more important.
  5. Often when the management fails to address these incidents and issues, one could obviously take other routes; report to the top management directly, or go to the media and either these extreme methods often result to a massive shift of the image of the company in the corporate world and can cause disruption even in the top managerial level.

Some behaviors you should not indulge in while dealing with workplace harassment:

  • Try not to retaliate physically as it might just escalate the situation for you. 
  • Do not discuss it with your colleagues as they do not have the power to do anything about it and this just waters down your version if they are asked for an eye witness account.

Workplace harassment laws

The business owner and organization heads must have policies and rules regarding such situations but there are federal and state laws that protect employee’s rights. Along with the preexisting measures taken by the government, a relatively new act was passed by the Singapore Parliament. The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) was passed on 13 March 2014. It strengthens existing penalties for harassment. New offences have also been introduced such as stalking. This act also provides us with self-help measures, civil remedies, and criminal sanctions relevant to sexual harassment.

A person can seek legal redress and compensation in monetary terms against the abuser under section 11 of the POHA for the following offences:

  • Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress under section 3 of the POHA;
  • Harassment, alarm or distress under section 4 of the POHA;
  • Fear or provocation of violence under section 5 of the POHA; and
  • Unlawful stalking under section 7 of the POHA.

Even though there are laws to protect workers and work for their welfare. It is the responsibility of the business and organization to apply these and be aware of the worker’s plight so that they can help them. Workers are the most important resource not only of an organization but the society and we need to look out for them.


Phobias are excessive and irrational fears that may or may not be associated with a certain place, object, situation. These fears interfere with a person’s coping ability or lead them to stay away from the object, situation, place of trigger altogether. The triggers may or may not be normally dangerous or frightening for most people, but people suffering from phobias feel a deep sense of dread or paralyzing panic when they encounter the source of fear. 

Phobias can be annoying or disabling to the extent that they severely impact a person’s day-to-day life and the decisions they make as a whole. Often, people suffering from such phobias are aware of the fact that the fears that they have are irrational, but they aren’t able to voluntarily do too much on their own to help themselves. Phobias are a very common mental condition. As a matter of fact, 1 in 10 people experience phobias at some point in their lives. Individuals suffering from phobias mostly act and behave calmly and rationally most of the time but when they are exposed to their triggers, they become paralyzed by their fears.

What Causes Phobias

Like most other mental conditions, there is no specific cause for the development of phobias. However, there are some factors at play here which are studied, identified and confirmed by some researchers. They are as follows: 

  1. Exposure to traumatic events or experience of certain terrifying incidents: 

For example, if you were, for whatever reason, trapped in a confined space when you were young, you might have developed a fear of enclosed spaces called claustrophobia. 

  1. Learned behavior and responses:

Fear, by certain psychological approaches, is defined as a learned (or conditioned) response to stimuli in the environment. It can thus be picked up by certain factors early on in life. For example, you may pick up the same specific phobia that your parent has as a result of observational learning. 

  1. Genetics

Several studies have shown that some people are predisposed to developing phobias and are more likely to do so than others. 

  1. Long-term stress or illness:

Long term stress or an illness can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. It can reduce your ability to cope in some situations. This can make you feel anxious, stressed out and fearful about being in those situations again and, if this goes on for a longer period of time, you could develop a phobia.

Symptoms of Phobia

The fear and anxiety that a person with a phobia suffers can be experienced as both mental and physical symptoms. However the intensity of the same generally differs from one individual to another. 

A person might be involved in trying to avoid the trigger or thinking about what might happen if they encounter the trigger so much that it can cause fatigue and irritability, difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks, and make it difficult for such people to fall asleep or have any restful, undisturbed sleep. The physical signs of  such anxiety results are  heavy sweating, difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeats or palpitations, dizziness or faintness, muscle tension, stomach problems, etc. 

The most disabling symptom or the peak that having a phobia could lead to, is a panic attack. Not all episodes may culminate in a panic attack, but for people with severe phobias, panic attacks can be a frequent occurrence. The symptoms of panic attacks are as follows: 

Mental Symptoms:

  • Depersonalization: Feeling detached from oneself
  • Derealization: feelings of unreality
  • A fear of going crazy, dying or losing control

Physical Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation
  • Shaking, trembling
  • A feeling of choking
  • Palpitations or increasing heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations in the limbs
  • A feeling of dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain

Difference Between Normal Fear And Phobia 

It is important at this point to talk about the difference between fear and phobia as people often can’t discriminate between the two. It is possible that you have a fear of something, and it isn’t a phobia, or maybe you’re confusing an actual phobia with just a fearful sentiment. There is a basic distinction that psychology as a field of study makes between phobias and fears. A fear is an emotional response to a real or a perceived threat. Fears are common, and are considered normal reactions to certain things. Phobias are similar to fears but there’s one basic differentiating characteristic of phobias: the anxiety aroused by the triggers and experienced by the person with the phobia is so severe that it disrupts the person’s quality of life and daily functioning.

Types of Phobia

There are mainly three types of phobias. Along with those, there are some of the most common phobias listed after these. They are as follows: 


Agoraphobia is a fear of places and situations that causes feelings of entrapment, panic, helplessness or embarrassment. The literal meaning of the word is “fear of open spaces.” The one main defining symptom of this phobia is that people with agoraphobia feel panicked in large crowds and trapped outside of their homes. They avoid social events or situations and prefer being inside their homes. 

Social phobia:

Also known as social anxiety disorder, social phobia is an extreme fear of social situations, meeting new people, and public speaking and can lead to self isolation. The simplest of social interactions such as talking to the person at the counter, placing an order on the call, or even small talk over the phone can cause a lot of anxiety and panic. 

Specific Phobias: 

Specific phobias are fears of certain situations or objects and they interfere with a person’s daily life. A few of the most common phobias are:

  • Claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces)
  • Coulrophobia (fear of clowns)
  • Zoophobia (fear of animals)
  • Aerophobia (fear of flying)
  • Xenophobia (fear of driving)
  • Chionophobia (fear of snow)
  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Aichmophobia (fear of needles)
  • Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Gamophobia (fear of commitment) 

The list of  phobias goes on. For more information on the various types of phobias, refer to the list of phobias in DSM-5.


The treatment of phobias involves therapeutic techniques, medication, or a combination of both. 

Therapies can be of different types depending on the signs and symptoms and their severity of the client. Some of the therapeutic interventions used for treating phobias include eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR) which is based on some concepts of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is also used for treating phobias, systematic desensitization, and exposure therapy among others.

Medication for phobias includes antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication to reduce the emotional and physical reactions of fear. 

Why Seeking Help Is Important

If your condition has begun to interfere with your daily functioning and is negatively affecting most or all aspects of your life, seeking help is a crucial step that you must take. Even though it may be difficult to gather the courage to do so, you must see a mental health professional for your phobia(s). Remember that mental health disorders can be treated and are manageable, and your life has the potential to be the most fruitful, wholesome and enjoyable experience. So, joining a support group, going for therapy and taking your prescribed medication (if any) is absolutely critical. The outcome that you’d gain would be a deeper understanding of yourself and your condition,  the ability to form better relationships and find more meaningful connections, and skills that help you manage your condition and excel in life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Phobias

Q. How to prevent specific phobias?

Many specific phobias can unfortunately not be prevented, but early intervention and treatment can considerably help and reduce the symptoms and instances of any anxiety or panic attack episodes. It can prevent the development of chronic fear associated with the incident.

Q. Which is the most common phobia?

Arachnophobia (Fear of spiders) is the most common phobia in the world, 50% of women and 10% of men have it.

Q. What is the basic diagnostic criteria for phobias?

Phobias are fears that:

  1. Disturb the sufferer’s life in some way, i.e. they degrade the person’s ability to function optimally in day to day life. 
  2. Make the affected person avoid the specific situation, or feared object.
  3. People with phobias are constantly troubled with thoughts about the dreaded object or situation, i.e, there is anticipating anxiety
  4. The exposure to the feared object or situation triggers panic attacks in the patient.

Workplace Stress

Work stress and its symptoms are a response that people may have when certain demands and pressures at the workplace exceed their knowledge and capabilities and thus challenge their ability to cope. This kind of stress occurs often and helps us to work on ourselves and strive for self development and get that extra bonus or promotion at work. But more often than not, it peaks and affects our mental and physical well being negatively. 

Work stress can occur in a wide variety of work circumstances but it can worsen when employees don’t have the proper support of their supervisors or coworkers. It can also be aggravated when the employees have little control over the work processes. 

Some pressures can’t be avoided at the workplace due to the current work culture that has been adopted globally and the contemporary work environment. However, taking care of one’s own mental health and adopting the correct coping strategies is also of prime importance. 

Work-life balance can be created by devoting some time to one’s mental and physical health and setting aside a few minutes each day for processing one’s thoughts and feelings. It is important to let yourself unwind and relax every once in a while. Just the way we eat, drink, and take care of our hygiene, we must realize the alarming importance of taking care of our minds.

What are the Signs of Work Stress?

Feeling overwhelmed at work and losing one’s self esteem and confidence due to the daily pressures at your workplace can cause you to feel out of control, moody and have short outbursts of anger and irritability. It may cause you to withdraw yourself socially. Some of such workplace stress symptoms include: 

  1. Feelings of anxiety, irritability and/or unexplained sadness
  2. Feeling apathetic, indifferent, and losing interest at work
  3. Problems related to sleep such as insomnia or parasomnia 
  4. Constant fatigue
  5. Having trouble focusing and concentrating
  6. Muscle tension, headaches
  7. Social Withdrawal
  8. Using alcohol or other substances to cope
  9. Loss of sex drive
  10. Stomach or digestive problem

Causes of Work Stress

The common causes of workplace include: 

  1. Fear of suspension or termination of employment
  2. Having to work overtime frequently due to the cutbacks in staff
  3. Pressure to work at optimum levels throughout the term
  4. Rising expectations and pressure to perform well without increase in job satisfaction
  5. Lack of control over work processes and less involvement in workplace discussions, meetings, etc.

How Workplace Stress Can Affect One’s Well Being

It is a fact that frequent or constant exposure to stressors in life can lead to severe stress responses in the body and the mind. The same is for workplace stress. In fact, countless researches show that burnout and anxiety disorders and depression are linked. This can lead to severe mental health problems. Moreover, statistics show that the rates of employee burnout are the highest in Singapore. The leading cause of this is that there is an ‘always on’ work culture in Singapore, specifically among women, which requires employees to always be working 24/7, either on call or at the office itself. Another study confirms that younger employees who regularly face time pressures and heavy workloads are much more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Not only detrimentally harming our mental health, workplace stress also has the potential of severely damaging our physical health.  Repeated release of cortisol, a hormone which is associated with the fight-or-flight response, leads to disturbances in the immune system and is linked with a higher likelihood of developing alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune disorders.

Higher levels of stress are associated with unhealthy behaviors and poor decision making. Stressed out individuals are less inclined to make the right choices and perform healthy behaviours such as exercising, eating well, and sleeping properly. 

Work stress can inevitably harm companies and organizations at large. It reduces productivity and harms the relations between coworkers. It encourages absenteeism as well, and the conflicts between employees can cause the stress to spread across the workers, ultimately harming the output and reputation of the corporation.

Methods to Cope With Workplace Stress

The following tips on managing stress at work can help you conquer your mental health and achieve better productivity, help you manage stress at work and achieve a healthy work-life balance. You will most definitely benefit from learning the following skills and habits that’ll help you reduce stress and anxiety by considerable amounts:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ability that allows us to be fully present in the moment, aware of what we’re doing, thinking, and our surroundings. It allows us to limit overly reactive behaviour and helps us in not being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The things that make us stressed are usually associated with the past or the future. That is where most of our worries lie. Other than that, stress arises when we complicate our situation by reacting to things in our environment rather than responding to them wisely. Mindfulness is not only an ability, it is a way of life that helps us be healthier, more content and more loving of ourselves. It can be added to your daily routine with the numerous mindfulness apps available or going to classes. Mindfulness based therapies, too, help reduce stress and anxiety.

2. Better Time Management

Time management is a skill that is considered to be the most invaluable one these days. It is rightly considered so as mastering this skill can greatly improve one’s state of mind, body and bring much more success and joy in one’s life. Learning how to prioritize well, establishing healthy work boundaries, creating a balanced schedule, etc. are all components of the time management required at the workplace. A great way to think about time and scheduling is to perceive it as something you use to negotiate with yourself to create a schedule that you would be happy with. Negotiate with yourself to give an important work-related task a number of hours in exchange for giving yourself a short break in which you do something that rewards you for what you did. At the same time, you get to unwind during that time. In this way, design a day that you would be satisfied with and happy going through, at the same time the day should be productive enough to leave you satisfied and fulfilled.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques help calm down the fight-or-flight response and help us recompose ourselves. A few examples of relaxation techniques are: progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, music and art therapy, biofeedback, creative visualization, yoga, etc. While relaxation techniques take practice to master fully, the benefits are endless and rather fruitful. These are some of the most profitable investments of time, energy and/or money, as the output that you’d get would be of a calmer mind, improved decision making, self-awareness, healthier body and in turn higher productivity!

4. Problem Solving

Problem solving is a coping strategy that allows you to plan your way out of a challenge faced at work or in your personal life systematically with specific steps involved and an assured outcome (if you follow these steps through and through with sincerity and commitment). This can include brainstorming, ranking solutions, making an action plan, and testing a solution.

5. Rediscover meaning and satisfaction at work

At the end of the day, when work becomes dull and mundane and when we are not in a position to chase our dream jobs, we have to figure out how to start liking what we do and how to effectively contribute at the workplace. Focus on how you can add value to the lives of the people you’re working and providing for and how your service helps the people around you. Focus on the responsibilities and duties assigned to you that you actually enjoy: this could be interacting with your coworkers during meetings, contributing to ideas in brainstorming sessions, or maybe even making aesthetically pleasing presentations. Changing your attitude from a negative one to a positive one in this sense will help you lead a happier, more meaningful life at work and otherwise! 

Why Seeking Help Is Important

Stress management is certainly important at the workplace, and seeking help for it can be imperative at times. You might be at risk of developing mental health problems and stress can also make existing problems even worse. When you seek help and see a mental health professional, you get to understand yourself in ways that you can’t do on your own. And so, when you get the kind of empathy, unconditional positive regard and acceptance by someone who’s trained to guide you through working upon yourself, you build the much needed resilience of character and bring back essential balance and stability in your life. This doesn’t only help you in performing well at work, but also in all other areas of your life.

How to Recover From Work

How to Recover From Work

Find out what could help you heal from burnout.

Nowadays, many people are experiencing that working is no longer clocking in at 9:00 am and clocking out at 5:00 pm. Work is now physically or virtually arriving between 7:00 am and 10:00 am and leaving between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm, all while juggling personal phone calls, work e-mails, doctor’s appointments, social media, conference calls, news reports, in-person meetings, the list goes on. At home, the work phone still buzzes from colleagues around the world or from people burning the midnight oil. There is no longer a concept of ‘work-life balance’ but now a concept of ‘work-life integration’. We now have more tasks to squeeze into a day, without scheduled ‘on’ and ‘off’ times for each task. 

​This integration is particularly problematic when new research has now shown that we need fully detach in order to recover.  Researcher Bakker and his colleagues recently published a meta-analysis* to help us understand what helps us recover from all the hard work we expend during the day. What did they find? Some findings seem to be common sense. For example, all demands will make us more fatigued. Demands such as job ambiguity, conflict with others, overload etc. will make us feel fatigued. However, some demands will also invigorate us like solving complex problems or achieving results under a tight deadline.  The less ‘common sense’ results were how to recover from these demands. ​

​*A meta-analysis is where a researcher examines all the available studies on a topic and statistically combines them to see overall what effect they have

There are four typical ways people recover from work:

  1. Control (e.g., schedule their evening or next day to reduce chaos)
  2. Relaxation (e.g., nap, be a couch potato)
  3. Mastery (e.g., take a night class, learn a musical instrument)
  4. Detachment (e.g., mentally check out, completely submerge into another task)
Source: Photo by Kelvin Valerio from Pexels

Okay, so what did the research say was the best technique? Of course, the answer is “it depends”!

If you experiencing fatiguing demands during your day, the best thing you can do is to detach to rejuvenate. Some examples of how to detach include turning off your work email/phone, engaging in group activities, or reading. Detaching will allow you to complete your home tasks without distraction allowing you to focus solely on work the next day. It will also allow you to sleep better at night by stopping any ruminations over tomorrow’s workday.

If you facing invigorating demands, the best thing you can do is control. Scheduling your work and non-work tasks will allow you to keep control of your demands, ensuring they remain a source of energy rather than become a source of fatigue. Other suggestions on how to control your demands are to make to-do lists and set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Having greater control will increase your self-efficacy and allow you to feel that you accomplished more.

Even though the research found these are the best techniques, it doesn’t mean ignore the other techniques. If you can, combine them! For instance, meditation will allow you to detach and relax. Using multiple techniques will have an incremental effect to reduce your fatigue. 

Overall, although work-life integration can increase flexibility and autonomy, we run the risk of not recovering from our demands. Ensure you schedule time to detach to avoid burnout and to remain energized at work.  

Blog Author:

Lauren Florko, Ph.D., is an industrial and organizational psychologist based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is the owner of Triple Threat Consulting.

Reproduced after appropriate permissions from original author . Original link

Managing Emotions to Innovate

Managing Emotions to Innovate

Negative reviews. A hoped-for invitation. Something happens, and an emotional reaction is triggered. Creative work is full of such triggering situations, including the excitement of inspiration, frustration in the face of obstacles, disappointment at rejections or failures, and elation of positive reception by the field. Emotions have to be managed or regulated to overcome creative blocks and maintain effort.

Although it can feel like you are hijacked by emotions, you have control over it . It is possible to react in ways more effective than the most immediate and habitual. To do that, we need to insert a moment between a stimulus (trigger) and the response. We can employ strategies to manage our emotions to better achieve our goals.
Emotion regulation is one of the emotional intelligence abilities. This is the most complex ability of emotional intelligence because it depends on several others; to regulate emotions successfully :

  • We need to be able to perceive emotions (realize what is going on emotionally)
  • Understand emotions (know how emotions change, and what are the likely causes and consequences of different emotions).

    We regulate emotions when we proactively act before potentially triggering situations happen (before meeting with a challenging colleague), or when we employ strategies to maintain helpful moods and reduce ones that are unhelpful for either our well-being or work goals.

Emotional Regulation For Creativity

The most dramatic demonstration of the importance of emotion regulation for creativity is the phenomenon of creative mortification. This term, coined by the educational psychologist Ron Beghetto, describes the loss of willingness to engage in a creative activity after being harshly criticized and experiencing strong, unpleasant, self-conscious emotions about it. This can happen when a teacher angrily criticizes a child for failing to follow directions on an art project in front of the whole class, and the child becomes, well, so mortified that she does not ever want to color or draw again. Creative mortification happens more often in younger children, likely because they have not acquired effective strategies for regulating their emotions.

My own research examined how emotion regulation ability helps creativity. High school students who had a predisposition for creativity—they were curious and open to experiences—were more likely to be described as creative by their teachers if they also had high emotion regulation ability. Emotion regulation ability predicted students’ persistence and passion for their interests.

In other words, emotion regulation ability helped students transform their creative potential into creative behavior. Other research shows that people who started their workdays in a negative mood and shifted to a more positive mood described their days as more creative than those who did not experience such a shift. Changing and regulating one’s emotions was beneficial for creativity at work.

Managing emotions to innovate
Creative thoughts

How does this work? How can creativity benefit from emotion regulation?

To examine this, in my lab, we surveyed a broad range of people . Artists, painters and sculptors, writers and designers, composers and choreographers. They described three distinct aspects of emotion regulation in the creative process:

1. Creating emotional conditions beneficial for creative work

A sculptor described working on a painted mask and regulating emotions to create conditions likely to evoke the flow state:

“Before renewing the initial inspirational emotions, I had to create a ‘zone’ in which they could be evoked without the distraction of my current fluctuating emotion; in order to do this, I go into meditation briefly, and tune out my surroundings. I then create an atmosphere in my blank mind with music, or by feeling my work and soaking up the emotions embedded in its every inch.”

2. Choosing the best strategies for emotion regulation

A writer working on a piece of non-fiction listed specific strategies he employs for managing emotions in the process of creative work:

“During my process I take breaks, I go for walks, or I think it’s important to listen to music or enjoy artful food. Community and being in the world help me transform emotion just as much as my own meditation and time spent alone. I try to control my working environment so it is pleasant and stable, even if I have to move around while I do this.”

3. The creative process is in itself a form of emotion regulation

Artists describe their work as a way to regulate emotions caused by events outside of the creative process. A choreographer working on a dance described:

“These emotions were about my boyfriend being far away and my missing him deeply. They were about my performance anxiety and my recent lack of confidence due to having been screwed over in a freelance job and feeling totally unmotivated. It was about my persistence and the fact that despite my depression, I forced myself into the studio. The second I did, I didn’t need to work to transform; it just happened, as I knew it would. I’ve always known that dancing (choreographing) does that to me.”

Successful emotion regulation can influence and change emotions to enable creative thinking, maintain motivation, and sustain effort in the face of challenges. Emotion regulation is important to change unpleasant emotions (e.g., when anxiety creates a writer’s block), but also pleasant, but distracting emotions (e.g., when one cannot focus on the current story because of the joy of a recently published one).

Emotion regulation ability can come into play for creativity in two different ways:

1. By affecting emotions outside of the creative process (e.g., when emotions from family life spill into one’s work)
2. By affecting emotions that happen during the creative process (e.g., when dealing with criticism of one’s work).
To develop effective emotion regulation skills, one will have to understand the consequences of potential reactions, gain knowledge of what strategies are more or less helpful, and evaluate what strategies would be most useful for a particular situation.

Blog Post Author : Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D. is a research scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and studies emotions in creativity. She has also authored how to teach creativity skills through the arts.

Blog reproduced after appropriate permissions from original author. Backlink to original article :

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