Why we let emotion take over logic

Why do we let emotion take over logic?

Years ago, I chose a college based on my desire to find a Journalism program. None of my immediate friends were following me, but my current boyfriend and his best friend wound up tagging along. Move-in day was exciting and terrifying. Little did I know I was about to endure a whole year of torturing myself… or learning how to deal with my emotions. It was the first time I experienced large bouts of depression and jealousy. I had to deal with heartbreak alone in my dorm, with my friends and family 100 miles away. I couldn’t think logically, I couldn’t focus, I even went back to my ex and agreed to an open-relationship I wasn’t ready for, just to keep him in my life.

I was a quiet, reserved, shy and studious student. I wasn’t ready for heartbreak or the parties I was supposed to be going to. I think I could have handled one or the other, but not both at the same time. Often times I showed up to his friend’s parties, which never made me feel any better. Looking back, I’m sure there are many things I should have done differently, but I had to experience it to learn and know there are better things out there.

The logic didn’t kick in right away because my emotions clouded everything. I couldn’t think about anything besides what I was losing and how sad I was. Lucky for me I’ve learned a lot in 10 years about the way I process things and how I can adapt or adjust better and more efficiently. I also had the chance to become friends with a few people I wished I would have spent time with in college. For some reason my brain was not letting me process the bigger situation –that I was missing out on exciting people and opportunities. I let my emotions rule my better judgment.

So, why did I let this happen?

I really did not know any better at the time. It was hard to fathom everything I hadn’t yet experienced . I did not realize how much this wasted time could have played a bigger role in my life as a whole.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than IQ” explains why sometimes our emotional mind makes decisions that rationally don’t make sense.

Goleman says we really have two minds: Our emotional mind that feels, and our rational mind that thinks. Our rational brain grew from the emotional brain and since it is the core brain it “gives the emotional centers immense power to influence the functioning or the rest of the brain –including its centers for thought.”

Although our emotional brain might be more powerful, humans are lucky enough to be able to have feelings about our feelings, which means we can think with one brain about the other brain and try to think things out before we act. This can cause an internal fight, and is often why we can’t seem to logically make sense of why our feelings want us to do crazy things we know we shouldn’t do. This is often something most people like to refer to as “your head vs. your heart”.

So why do we even have emotions?

“Our emotions, they say, guide us in facing predicaments and tasks too important to leave to intellect alone –danger, painful loss, persisting toward a goal despite frustrations, bonding with a mate, building a family. Each emotion offers a distinctive readiness to act; each points us in a direction that has worked well to handle the recurring challenges of human life as these eternal situations were repeated and repeated over our evolutionary history.” [1]

“There is a steady gradient in the ratio of rational-to-emotional control over the mind; the more intense the feelings, the more dominant the emotional mind becomes –and the more ineffectual the rational. This is an arrangement that seems to stem from eons of evolutionary advantage to having emotions and intuitions guide our instantaneous response in situations where our lives are in peril –and where pausing to think over what to do could cost us our lives.”

Goleman continues, “While our emotions have been wise guides in the evolutionary long run, the new realities civilization presents have arisen with such rapidity that the slow march of evolution cannot keep up…In terms of biological design for the basic neural circuitry of emotion, what we are born with is what worked best for the last 50,000 human generations, not the last 500 generations –and certainly not the last five. The slow, deliberate forces of evolution that have shaped our emotions have done their work over the course of a million years…”

So even though certain emotions may seem silly or sometimes terrible, they evolved to keep your chances of survival high; a sort of “trust your gut” type of reason.

Goleman even says, “We too often confront postmodern dilemmas with an emotional repertoire tailored to the urgencies of the Pleistocene.”

The world is changing so fast, but our emotional brains aren’t. We often let our emotions replace our logic because we had to, to survive –sounds strange to say but it makes sense. We just have to remember there was an emotional brain long before there was a rational one.

What crazy things have you experienced, done or had done to you because you/they were too emotionally charged? Do you prefer more logic or more emotion?

[1] “Based on Paul Ekman’s essay “An Argument for Basic Emotions”, and "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman

Puns, writing, photography, design and psychology. CoFounder of The Social Reserve Twitter: @Apryl_Cave
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