“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”
Emotions are critical to understand. If you want to increase the quality of your life fundamentally and sustainable, this is where you have to look. This is where you have to put in the work.
I said before in my post You Have To Face The Challenges Of Life Alone. that a skillful and healthy relationship with your emotions, in short emotional mastery, is key to self-efficacy, self-love and self-reliance. These 3 qualities in turn, massively influence how well your life goes. Today, I want to dig deeper into the topic of emotions. I plan on doing a 101-post on all major emotions, and this article should serve as background.
You might think, that emotions are such an obvious thing, since everybody has them. After all, you have been feeling emotions since you were born, so by now, you should have easily figured them all out, shouldn’t you? Nope, this is not the case, except you already have spent 10000 hours on focused introspection. Emotions are one of the trickiest things in life and it will take you so much time, to gain a real handle on them.
What is an emotion?
Good question. Psychologists, psychotherapists and neurologists haven’t come up with a definition to agree on. But that’s okay, we don’t need a technical definition. What we need is simple, practicable understanding of what is going on inside us. In her book “The Language Of Emotions” Karla Mclaren calls emotions tools. I think emotions are more than tools, but for now, this is a good way of seeing them. For example, anger helps you to protect yourself. Sadness helps you to heal and let go. Fear helps you to spot possible threats. Keep the metaphor of emotions being tools, in mind as we continue.
When I said that emotions are tools, I meant that they can be tools. If you are like most people, you have a unhealthy relationship with your emotions. Most people are either the slave of their emotions or their tyrant. This is not what we want. What we want, is a skillful, balanced relationship with your emotions, where you engage in a conscious dialog.
Logic Vs. Emotions
If you don’t do that, emotions, and the fight against them, will continue to control your life. Right now, you are not even aware of how much this is true. You think logic and reason govern you behavior? Think again. Logic and reason come in only after you made a decision based on your present emotions. Logic and reason justify your decisions, but they don’t make them. A logically justified decision does little more, than to satisfy your emotional need of being reasonable. Your e-motion-s move you, they set you in motion. Logic on the other hand, doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning. It has it place, but logic and reason are highly overrated, especially in western cultures.
This is a big claim. Not so long ago, I thought very differently of this matter. I deeply believed, that I am a rational person. I tried to make rational decisions and even prided myself on doing so. Oh boy, was I full of shit. I thought logic is superior to emotions, because emotions are irrational and that this is somehow “bad”. I fought harsh battles, trying to get my emotions in line with reason. I paid this battle against myself with a lot of suffering and a good dose of depression. Don’t follow me one that path, reevaluate your relationship to your emotions now.
Look for yourself!
Go verify the importance and the impact of emotions for yourself, in your direct experience. Don’t think logically about it, just look inside yourself! Need some examples?
Logically, you know that smoking damages your health and wastes a lot of money. Does that move you to stop smoking? Nope.
Logically, you know that junk food is bad for your heart and might cause you to die an early, painful death. Does that stop you from indulging in burgers and pizza? Hardly. And even if it does, it is not the logical conclusion of pizza being bad for you, that stops you. It is the fear of the consequences that stop you. And what is fear? An emotion.
Logically, you know that a presentation in front of others is not a threat to your life. And yet, there are many, who cannot speak in front of others, because they are afraid.
Logically, you know that spiders won’t harm you. And yet, many people fear them like crazy.
Spend a minute and think about how often you have done something stupid out of unjustified, irrational anger. A minor annoyance in traffic and suddenly all rationality flies out the window.
Emotions are tricky because the influence our thinking. This opens the door widely for self deceptions. The emotional influence goes unnoticed by us, because the influenced thought tells us, that there are no emotions involved. Ingenious, don’t you think?
All this should open your mind to the idea, that the deep understanding and mastery of emotions is a top priority in life. Emotions come in different forms and all of them are worthy of being studied and understood. In the future I will talk more about each of the major emotions. This is meant to support you, in your quest to understand yourself and human nature in general. For now I leave you with the following:
Start taking emotions seriously. Notice, that everything, that anyone ever does, is fueled by emotions.
Notice, that emotions are prior to, and much more potent than reason and logic will ever be.
Notice the significance and impact of emotions on your life. Make it a priority to deeply understand your emotions. This will increase your life’s quality in quantum leaps.
Writing a journal is very potent. Take a piece of paper or make a journal on your computer and start writing on a daily basis. 10 Minutes per day is a very good start. Write about your emotions, how they feel, when they do arise and what influence they have on you. Ask yourself: What is this emotions? Why is it here? What is its purpose? You will get to know your emotional patters. This will make you more authentic, more confident and more relaxed. You will feel more at home inside yourself.
Second thing I recommend, is, of course, meditation. Sitting with you emotions, watching them, playing with them, will make you familiar with them. Through plain, non judgemental observation huge learning can occur. I consider meditation the most important and most effective habit, to set yourself up for a good, well lived life. I have written a comprehensive beginners guide about meditation, how it is done, and what enormous benefits await you, go read it!
Thanks for reading!
That is the article for today. Don’t forget to leave your mail in the subscribe-box at the bottom of the page! This way you get notifications when I post something new. No spam or ads, guaranteed!
Here are some more links, to articles I deem very important for life. Go check them out!