Emotions and Logic
Integrating Two Powerful Sources of Wisdom
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2016 (Edited December 9, 2020)
Healthy living isn't all logic or all emotion but a smooth blend of both. The aliveness of feeling mixed with the preparedness of thought.
The emotions are not logical, at least not on the surface. Many philosophers discredit emotions because of the seemingly illogical action of passion. We evaluate, measure and find meaning in life with words—a logical process. And thus, excess emotions confuse. But experience is too expansive to be beaten and corralled into a few defining words. Experience is much more. The value of life is felt—not explained. The colors of the sky, when identified, cheapen the experience disrupting the quiet awe of gazing into the heavens.
We need language to sort through the complexities. Our words and deeper meanings organize data to achieve great feats. But all our successes ultimately are desired because of the pleasure they generate. We live in a world where emotions and logic collide, each giving and taking value from the other.
The ambiguousness of emotions creates vulnerability. When awash in emotion, we feel fragile, at the mercy of an unexplainable power. The answer, for some, is to seek immunity, blocking feelings to create a measure of security; but the security comes at a great cost. In vulnerability, we find strength. The emotions become building blocks of connection—connection with self, others and experience. When we inhibit felt experience, denying the interaction with the world, we become rigid. The rigidity of action is born from emotional disconnection. The unfelt life cripples experience, diminishing value, relationships are superficial, and the connection to the unknown destroyed.
Emotionally driven lives also have notable flaws. Too much sensitivity creates chaos. Emotional flooding derails long-term goals—we say hurtful things, we damage important relationships, and chase unobtainable dreams. The emotionally driven soul, full of unbridled passions, rushes into unknown thickets, risking security while chasing imaginary prey.
"The desire of perfection became the ruling passion of their soul; and it is well known, that while reason embraces a cold mediocrity, our passions hurry us, with rapid violence, over the space which lies between the most opposite extremes." Edward Gibbon
The flourishing life integrates the awe of emotions with the rationality of thought. Neither emotions nor logic is better than the other. We have both and must blend them. Each offering different qualities to experience. We can’t blindly default to one or the other; but purposely shifting focus back and forth, examining the role of both emotion and logic.
Key Definition: Integration
Linking different elements into a functional whole that functions superior to the individual parts.
A common approach to logic and emotions, in a less adaptive way, is to react emotionally then justify the unruly behavior, never scrutinizing the emotionally driven actions for constructiveness. Ego-protecting defenses (often a function of language) interfere with healthy futures. We explain away foolishness to protect our delicate image. Intelligence doesn’t prevent destructive action. Often intelligence creatively articulates complex justifications, difficult for others (and the self) to discredit. No matter how well articulated, some behaviors destroy futures, weaken relationships, and leave us lonely and sad.
Smooth integration of experience is an art that few master. But even with slight improvements, we derive great benefits. We must awkwardly stumble through new experiences while consciously working to integrate, alternating attention, examining emotions, checking logical explanations, and then re-examining the whole again. As we become more practiced, we notice less rigidity—or chaos. We can stand tall to the defining moments where important decisions are made; not destroyed by a reactionary huff, but carefully guided by emotion and logic to a mindfully felt and organized approach. In balancing emotions and logic, we find joy in the moment, and guiding wisdom for the future.
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