Skip to main content
SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor

empty
Hockey players
We are emotional creatures - fundamentally hard-wired to process information about our environment using emotions before even beginning to think logically.

Though I'm a big hockey fan, I rarely write about the sport. Today though, I'm feeling inspired. Full disclosure on what you're about to read: I'm a huge Edmonton Oilers fan.

Last night, the hockey world bore witness to a memorable goal celebration by the Oilers' rookie forward, Nail Yakupov. With 4.7 seconds to go in a game that seemed destined to end with a 1-0 Los Angeles Kings victory, and in which the Oilers were subjected to a litany of terrible penalty calls (really - it was farcical. Look at the penalty summary here.) and a questionably disallowed goal with about a minute left, Yakupov batted the puck out of mid-air and into the Kings' net, tying the game with seconds to play and sending it to overtime and an eventual Oilers win. What followed can only be described as pure, unadulterated joy from the goal scorer:

Not surprisingly, it was only a matter of time before controversy erupted, with many feeling Yakupov's celebration was over the top - that it was unprofessional, that he should have toned down his excitement, "acted like he's done it before," and generally restrained from such an obvious display of his emotions (I can only imagine what Don Cherry will have to say about it).

However, it seems that most hockey fans are okay with the it - 70% of fans say they liked the celebration in a tsn.ca poll.

I'd like to hope that the larger reason why fans are more accepting of young Yakupov's jubilation is that we've progressed as a society in our view towards emotions, and more specifically, the display of strong emotions. That might be wishful thinking, but let me elaborate.

There are a few North American contexts in which the outward display of strong emotions hasn't traditionally been viewed positively. One of those is the sport of hockey, with it's "old boys' club" mentality. Another is the world of work. Of course, in Yakupov's case, these are one and the same, but for most people the similarities are more figurative.

In Canada at least, hockey is a cultural institution. As such, it reflects,  influences, and is influenced by, the culture in which it is embedded. There are some intrinsic ideals in hockey that I'd like to think reflect positively on Canadian culture (at least, what we like to think of as Canadian culture): hard work, fairness, team play, and so on. Of course, there are others that don't really make sense at best, and contribute to unhealthy, psychologically destructive patterns at worst.

The suppression, repression, and occasional outright denial of emotional states is one of those ideals.

Trust me, as a trained counsellor and psychotherapist, I can tell you without any hesitation: when it comes to strong emotions, repression is almost without question A BAD THING. Like, psychological disorders bad. Like, school shooting bad.

You might be thinking, well - in hockey, players express emotions all the time - look at how angry they get! And you'd be right - anger is a very accepted emotion not just in hockey, but in most sports. It's accepted because, in addition to conforming to a stereotypical masculine ideal, anger is extremely motivating and can therefore be quite useful in a competitive environment. But outside of anger, and occasionally sadness, emotional displays in hockey are usually frowned upon, and viewed as unprofessional. It's not hard to see that this same way of limiting and repressing emotions is similarly prevalent in many professional workplace environments.

But does it make sense to equate the display of emotions with unprofessionalism? Why does being a professional have to preclude showing emotions at work? And what harmful effects might this be causing?

We are emotional creatures - fundamentally hard-wired to process information about our environment using emotions before even beginning to think logically. It's an innate quality that's allowed us to survive, evolve, and thrive where we surely wouldn't have otherwise. Somewhere along the way though, emotions got a bad rap. Sure, there are lots of situations - especially in a work-related context - where emotions can get in the way of logical, rational decision making. Yet it strikes me that that line of thinking has gone a bit too far.

When most people think about emotions and the work place, the fact that depression takes such a toll on the economy via leaves from work often comes up, and rightly so. But right now, I'm thinking more about more positive emotions. So, I'd like to pose a question.

When’s the Last Time You Expressed Joy at Work?

I mean, really expressed it? Like, had to get up our of your chair/office and actually tell someone how excited you were? Maybe you jumped up and down a few times?

Unfortunately, the answer for most - including me - is "a long time ago." And I think there's something profoundly unhealthy about that.

For Nail Yakupov at least, the answer is "last night."

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor
David Lindskoog is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Health & Counselling who used to work as a Career Advisor with Career Services. David is passionate about suicide prevention, social justice, career and professional development concerns, and the use of role-playing games in therapy. Check out his group: Dungeons & Worry Dragons. While you're here, check out Dave's Diary! It is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Want to hear Dave's thoughts on a particular topic?  Send him an email, and he'll do his best to include it in his next post!  

You Might Like These... Professional Development, Personal Development, Career Exploration, Life Experience

Marble statue of Socrates
Know Thyself

So you have graduated from university and are hanging your well-earned degree on your bedroom wall, and all of  a sudden, a tiny, yet unavoidable voice in the back of your head is quietly screaming “No time to celebrate, you need to find a job!” or “I’ve got my degree…what do I do with it?!’.

Mike, author
Indigenous Stories: Mike, SFU Alumni

"I have no solid plans for the future and I love it...I know that every experience that I have had, every failed plan, was really an excellent mistake that gave me the skills I need to handle any situation that gets thrown my way in the future."  Read Mike's story of career exploration, and how to handle constant change.

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

You Might Like These... International

Statue of deities
Durga Puja 2011

Unlike just any festival, Durga Puja is likened to "Disneyland, the Olympics, Christmas and an art gallery all in one." Join Martyna, Silvia, Lindsay and Christine in their celebration of Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival in Kolkata. As they weave through busy streets and celebrate festivities, the girls share their exciting experience with us in this blog entry. 

Three part diagram intersecting the Mind, Body and Spirit
An Elders Teachings on Being a Student

Saahiilthit (Gerry) Oleman, an elder of the Stl’atl’imx Nation shares his teachings with Aboriginal students about education.

Portrait of Ronil
From the Lecture Hall to the Office

Ronil Desai’s eye opening journey through his first co-op position with Teekay Shipping Corp. Attending university involves many deadlines and countless interactions with fellow students and professors, not to mention a constant effort to prepare students to succeed in the workforce......