Our Two Minds & The Irrationality of Emotions

By Nico Gurley

“Ordinarily there is a balance between the emotional and rational minds, with emotion feeding into and informing the operations of the rational mind, and the rational mind refining and sometimes vetoing the inputs of the emotions” -Dan Goleman

According to Dr. Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence”, there are two parts to our minds; the emotional brain and the rational brain. Identifying this dichotomy as such would imply that the emotional side of our minds is not rational and come to think of it, it is anything but. When you have emotional reactions to environmental stimuli you have a tendency to behave somewhat or in some cases completely irrationally.

“In many or most moments these minds are exquisitely coordinated; feelings are essential to thought, thought to feeling. But when passion surge the balance tips: it is the emotional mind that captures the upper hand, swamping the rational mind” (Goleman, pg. 9)

However, if you think things through taking a step back from the emotional experience, you are more likely to react rationally to the situation. This, of course is much easier said then done. This is likely to be because, as Dr. Goleman points out, the emotional brain is much older than the rational part, therefore, it is far more ingrained in our nature.

This means that for those who are more sensitive to emotions, you are more likely to frequently react to certain situations with behaviors that, in hind sight, you end up regretting, as that behavior works against your benefit in some way or another. This is not too say that being emotionally sensitive is a bad characteristic of your personality, but it may end up having certain negative effects on you personal and social life. Although emotional sensitivity can be seen as a good quality, because it tends to make you a more likable person in general, it also comes with certain obstacles and issues that could negatively effect your social life. I am not going to make a claim that I can wave a magic wand and make you less emotionally sensitive through therapy. However, through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other forms of talk therapy, we could together develop and implement tools that you could use in your day to day life to eventually react to environmental situations more rationally, being less fueled by emotions.

“The fact that the thinking brain developed from the emotional reveals much about the relationship of thought to feeling; there was and emotional brain long before there was a rational one” (Goleman, pg. 10)

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