We are inundated from media, advertising and even our political leaders that how we FEEL is the most important thing to focus on, that our emotions should drive all of our decisions. It is called Emotionalism and it wreaking havoc to our society and personal lives. Maybe, just maybe they are wrong and leading us astray.
Lets first define what is Emotionalism?
Free Dictionary defines it as 1. The tendency to display emotion freely or to rely on or place too much value on emotion. 2. Undue display of emotion
Merriam-Webster defines it as 1 : a tendency to regard things emotionally. 2 : undue indulgence in or display of emotion.
So why is this wrong? Or a better question, what outcomes does this ideology produce? I see it causing inconsistency in logic, priorities, and decisions, which causes internal conflict, relational damage and reduced trust from others.
The solutions starts with first answering another question “Can emotions be trusted? Are they trustworthy?” The answer is No, not necessarily. Here is a situational story to show what I am talking about.
You are sitting at your table and invite your 17 year old and their first date to join you. You look at them both and say the following: “I know this is exciting, your first date, without parents, and I know you are going to have all sorts of emotions, feelings and hormones flowing. Just remember embrace them all, whatever comes to mind…go for it!”
And everyone in unison responds “NO!!!!!!” Even young boys say “NO!” Why? Because we all know that emotions are all over the place, that some things we feel should never be acted upon. The problem is that many people never take this logic to the logical end, which is emotions are not a good way to make decisions, that ultimately they are NOT trustworthy and they never become trustworthy! Read that last part again..they never become trustworthy. We all can easily agree that teenagers should not trust their emotions, but somewhere along the way we become adults and forget this truth.
When I was first hit with this truth my response was “How am I supposed to make decisions without emotions? What else is there?” Why, because I was an emotionalism addict myself. As a now recovering emotionalism addict, still in the trenches, I can tell you that there is a better way.
Now I am not suggesting that we all become like Spock, that is not my point. We are not Vulcan, thus we cannot stop experiencing our emotions, but we can put them in their proper place. I believe this is best accomplished by putting values, principles and personal goals ahead of emotions and let emotions add to the value of the decisions.
Consider that you, yourself and your other self are in a car. With emotionalism, your emotions are driving, but driving erratically, with no destination except wherever the next turn takes you, sometimes on the road, other times on the sidewalk, in someone else’s yard, etc. a proverbial joy ride from hell. And this is how we are told to live our lives, to find happiness. Yet this ultimately produces anxiety, depression, stress, and fear, caused by our own chaos.
I suggest the better road is towards “Joy”, which is life fulfillment regardless of the situation. The only way to accomplish this is to live by values.
So here comes the hard part. We need to identify our personal or foundational values to live by. But we don’t have to look far. Surprisingly they are already deep within us and drive us already, just on a weakened subconscious level. When we bring them to a conscious level we can use them to help us make decisions. Decisions that are consistent with who we are, so we don’t lose ourselves, but become our “better” selves. This allows us to reorder ourselves and our lives to reflect the real and authentic us.
Ultimately we don’t need to change all that much. To change a joy ride from hell into a positive successful joy ride,we just need to adjust the seating arrangements.
Emotions should never be in the driver’s seat, instead they should be in the backseat making the ride exciting and enjoyable.