By Brianna Wiest
Imagine getting into a political discussion with someone who is highly passionate about their beliefs. If the conversation is a good one, those beliefs will likely, at some point, come under question. If their emotional PH is high enough, they’ll interpret that as not only their ideas being threatened, but their identities too. Soon, you’re not having a conversation anymore, but a back-and-forth defense match. It’s not about listening, it’s about being right. You reach for over-generalizations, they argue with singular, personal anecdotes, you make sweeping assumptions, cite studies you read once-upon-a-time, their faces widen with bewilderment at how you cannot possibly see what’s so logical and self-evident to them.
This is a really common example of what happens when people allow their emotions to color their thoughts.
Being passionate is fine. Feeling a lot is fine. But when you lose your ability to differentiate what you feel from what you think, you debilitate yourself. Your arguments lose their edge. You can no longer think clearly. You panic. Irrational fears take hold, because you have corresponding emotions which make them seem true.
Twist your wrist really hard with your opposite hand. Enough so that it hurts a bit. Enough so that the sensation is comparable to what you feel in your chest when you have anxiety. Are you panicking as you twist your wrist? No, because you haven’t assigned meaning to that sensation. In other words, your emotions are not coloring your thoughts right now, because you know better – and that is the key.
Your emotional child cannot run the show. Your mental parent must do that, which is something you develop over time.
It’s rare to see an intelligent person become overly-emotional about one fixed, definitive idea. They’re often passionate about concepts, topics, or subjects, but never singular “truths.” This is because well-read, studied, informed people are aware of complexity, possibility, valid, opposing arguments. They know they don’t know everything, and they also know that almost nothing is black-or-white.
You must learn to apply the same logic to your emotional life.
Most things people become extremely emotional about lack depth. They get stuck on one idea, and convince themselves it is unfailingly, unquestionably true. They assume they know everything. They leave no room for growth or learning or possibility.
Your feelings can inform your thoughts, but they cannot color them. Your feelings should be utilized as a mechanism to guide you – show you what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable. From there, your mind must discern. Is this discomfort healthy, or indicative of a problem? Is this pain coming from true hurt, or making meaning of a situation where there is none? From there, you can choose a course of action. You are no longer flailing around, being thrown by temporary, subjective, illogical, inapplicable emotions. You are using your feelings to guide you, not govern you.