BLENDING RATIONAL THOUGHT WITH FEELING When actions, feelings and habits are mismatched
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We experience life as a unified whole. Our mind smoothly blends information from diverse sources—senses, memories, and internal feelings; blending and organizing the scraps of information the mind makes sense out of the chaos. When functioning well, the final story provides a useful guide for predicting futures. Wisdom is born from well-functioning systems, gathering, interpreting, and storing for future direction.
The story-making mind doesn’t always produce timeless wisdom. The blending of data has a few drawbacks. The rational thought easily is tainted and becomes quite illogical. Emotions quietly working beneath the scene, occasionally with powerful leaps bust into awareness, also guide behavior, establishing connection between events and the actor in the event. Overly simplified, emotions tell us what we like and don't like—I like this smell, I dislike that person. Our brain constantly scans the environment, reacting to any significant stimulus that appears threatening or beneficial to our well-being and survival; no matter how subtle the threat or benefit.
This biological alarm system directs behavior to avoid possible hazards and approach promising opportunities. Instinctively we avoid walking in front of speeding cars and giving out too much personal information. The built-in warning system isn’t completely functional at birth. The hardware needs input through learning, slowly evolving—becoming more refined or grossly distorted over time. Our rational mind’s story making becomes part of the learning, separating more complex evaluations of beneficial and dangerous. Accurate representations of reality are very helpful. Distorted are not. Our cognitive powers attempts to gather meaningful pieces of information, identifying correlations between actions and consequence. When the correlations are misguided, we misinterpret important messages and act in ways that potentially damage our futures.
A misguided belief or bias ignites feelings of fear, anger, sadness or even a joy not appropriate for the circumstances. These misinterpretations are not isolated, since we feel then act on the interpretation, furthering the distortion—eventually leading us from the life we desire. Conversely, ignoring emotions because of their fallibility may put us in greater danger, or alienate us from meaning.
"The story-making mind doesn’t always produce timeless wisdom."
As we grow, gathering diverse experiences, thoughtful reflection on emotions and consciously identifying the subsequent interpretations invites expanded understanding. Reflection exposes hidden emotions and the connected habitual reactions. From a mindful position of knowledge, we identify then adjust errant behavior rather than justify. We take a giant step closer to reality.
With a healthy partnership between the rational-story-telling mind and the emotional waves flowing through the body, we can blend rich sources of information to direct us toward a better life. Without careful observations, we disappear from the well-lighted streets and drift down the dark diverse paths of habit; we flounder instead of flourish. Fine tuning the skills of reflection and integration is a process that we never perfect. The liveliness of existence is not static. Much like a garden—our neglect mind quickly begins to deteriorate.
Live life, feel it, examine the thoughts it generates and the stories our mind tells. Slow down to question and skeptically examine these coherent stories for correctness, gently redirecting when they drift from reality and push us away from our dreams.