Warning: this post may irritate you into thinking.
I will say this short and sweet:
Emotions are not God. Stop listening to them like they are.
Your emotions, and visceral bodily feelings are not designed to carry the burden of proof you put upon them. Yes, you! Stop looking around like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Emotions were never and are still not infallible guidance systems like certain gurus (who are usually quite bright) stupidly say.
You actually need to think, not just feel. Despite what the shopping channel says.
Use your emotions as your major decision making tool and you are sunk.
Now, do you want to know why?
Let me set the scene. As we grow we experience bodily and mental ‘feelings’ as we experience current or think about past events. We win a race, everyone cheers, we see our parents smile, we get feelings we come to label as ‘good’ or ‘positive’. We also get feelings that are not so pleasant which we often label as ‘bad’ or ‘negative’.
These are mental classifications, ways we categorise our experience, and we then respond to those as if they were real when in fact they exist only in our body and mind.
Emotions are created in the psychological-physiological space between the way we think about the world and our actual experience of it. When we get what we expect we tend to feel the nicer emotions. When we get less than we expect or something different and unwanted we experience the ‘negative’ emotions.
Emotions, as a general rule, only tell us about OURSELVES and what already think. They are a feedback mechanism giving us the ‘temperate’ of our current thinking, so to speak.
To make this clearer I will quote Albert Ellis, author of the wonderful How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything Ever Again (Yes, ever).
“We feel our thoughts.”
There – that’s it in a nutshell.
We feel OUR thoughts. But we are not always AWARE of those thoughts – sometimes we have the feeling that “it just feels right.”
The UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Now, whilst I think part of that is due to the general decline of sensible moral boundaries (and yes, I do love my country!) the other reason is probably that “it felt right at the time”. Try telling that to the aborted babies, the children born outside a stable relationship. To be clear I am not down on single parents per se – I was raised by one.
But those children could have been born into better circumstances if the people involved were not thinking with their groins or with the awareness elevating participation of alchohol.
If we elevate good or bad feelings to the role of the deciding factor in our decisions we are setting ourselves up for trouble. Emotions, essentially exist as echoes of our thoughts manifested in the body (we are not just a body carrying a brain, our brain expresses its responses IN our body – what is called somatism) and they reflect our current thinking.
How can a feeling (however strong and labelled as ‘right’) evaluate the quality of a decision? How can it compare options, decide the worth of criteria? How can it reason, eliminate, take different perspectives etc.
Its not designed to do that. It’s a symptom of a cause – the Energy in Motion (E-motion!) in your body proceeding from the thoughts you ALREADY have. Primarily using your emotions as your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ indicators cannot give you the quality of decision that learning to think things through can.
Emotions do work as information but a very poor quality information overall. The quality of the feeling from ‘wonderful’ to ‘awful’ can only tell us about how we feel about a circumstance.
It does not evaluate the usefulness of that thinking in the first place.
Let me give you an example. I know someone who invested a great deal of money in a foreign property because it ‘felt right’. If this person had done their due-diligence (that is investigated and thought about the results of the investigation) on the company they used they would have found out that people worldwide were having terrible experiences with them, there were opposition groups and so on. Now he has had to take them to court for years and stands to get back maybe half of what he put in. For what?
35K lost for trusting a feeling?
Something to realise is the effect of ‘state dependency’ on our thinking. This occurs all the time. It means that:
“when you’re smiling…the whole world smiles with you”
…and when you’re in a bad mood anything someone says has the potential to be interpreted wrongly. Know someone you don’t want to meet on a bad day – that’s state dependency – their state of mind depends on their current mood.
This is another reason it’s not good to make decisions when you’re not in a good state of mind. What is ‘not a good state of mind?’
Too many good feelings lead to over-optimism.
…bad feelings …lead to stupid, impulsive decisions.
A clear headed objective state (not that such a thing really exists but one where you can think carefully about your choices!) is best.
Am I advocating becoming an emotionless robot? No, I am advocating treating emotions and feelings as the bodily function (haha!) that they are. It’s ok to check in with them (how do I feel about this?) AFTER you’ve thought it through.
What do I mean thinking it through?
The following is a list of healthy thinking styles (you can look up cognitive distortions on the net and find thousands of them):
Contextual Thinking: What, when, where, who, how? How much?
Both and thinking: win-win, combining options for the best result.
Reality testing thinking: What is actually happening? How is this really going to play out as opposed to how do I wish it will play out?
Responsibility thinking: How much of this am I responsible for? What am I not responsible for?
Tentative predictive thinking: What could happen? What might happen?
Perspective thinking: what is the point of view of other people involved? How does this look to me from the outside? What would an objective observer think?
… and many others.
There is a time when it’s useful to put emotions at cause. That is when you want to use them to boost your emotional state of mind. You can do this using the Meta-Stating Process designed by L. Michael Hall.
I give several powerful and useful examples of this in the Personal PowerPack which you can get at www.personal-powerpack.com/ppp.html . Here I teach you how to use emotions to build powerful states of self-acceptance, appreciation and esteem.
To your highest and best,