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In the film Me, Myself & Irene, Jim Carrey’s character had the misfortune of watching his wife drive off with another man, leaving him to fend for himself and their three children. When asked for the reason for leaving she said: ‘I guess the heart just wants what the heart wants.’ What she revealed with this response was that her emotions told her that this was a decision she had to make for her happiness. Dazed and confused with her irrational choice, Jim Carrey watched as they sped off in a cloud of dust.
How often have any of us made irrational decisions that we then had to rationalise that we were correct in doing it? Why didn’t we use our rational brain to make the decision in the first place? Science is proving that emotion trumps logic and reason in most of our decisions so it makes sense that we need to know more about our emotions in order to better understand our actions.
Throughout mankind’s history the heart has been used as a metaphor for our emotions. Our emotions have been proven to be what motivates us to do what we do. Emotions are irrational sometimes and we can’t use logic to explain them. Our emotions are opposing in nature to logic and reason. So I think that the meaning of the saying, ‘The heart wants what it wants,’ tells us that certain emotions such as love are not under our conscious, reasoning control. You cannot simply decide to fall in love with somebody, no matter how suitable. Similarly, you cannot just decide to stop loving somebody, no matter how hopeless. Other emotions may be more controllable.
Dr Paul Ekman has shown us that certain basic emotions are universally present at birth, regardless of all variables of life situations. Because of the fact that it is our emotions that create the majority of our perceptions, this opens up the possibilities that many of our perceptions are pre-programmed by our genetics. When we are making a choice or a decision about something, maybe we are just expressing what is already preset within us.
Some of our emotions are animalistic in nature and are there for our survival. These emotions serve animals quite well in the wild but many of these survival instincts that we have in us can cause us much unneeded stress and anxiety. Some are quite irrational indeed and need to be controlled.
In theory, it should be fairly easy to control these types of emotions, because with your rational mind you can re-appraise a situation. People with analytical natures are more likely to believe that choices can be made with pure logic and critical thinking. But emotions are never that simple and easy to manage as some might insist. Even our logic is backed by an underlying emotion.
Some say that emotions are just reactions to physiological changes, such as heart rate, breathing and hormone levels. This view of emotions fits well with the idea that the heart wants just what the heart wants, putting feelings outside of our control. But mere physiology doesn’t explain how some people can gain control and learn to become more emotionally intelligent. So do we have control over our emotions or don’t we?
The totality of our emotions can be like the many layers of an onion. Once you peel one layer back, you expose another. With great intention and much effort, our rational mind can be responsible for the peeling. A reconditioning of thinking needs to happen by pointing out the irrational natures of some of our superficial emotions. Primal emotions that are fear-based have been shown that with logic and reason it is possible for us to overcome some of them in order to make more intelligent decisions.
The late, great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say that F-E-A-R is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. He also said: ‘F-E-A-R has two meanings: “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise”. The choice is yours.’ He understood the power that the emotion of fear has on us and he reinforced the idea that we can override some of our fear-based emotions.
Overcoming fear is one of our greatest challenges of being human but is essential for us to grow as a person. Being more in tune with our deeper emotions can involve uncovering your core nature that has been masked by our irrational fears. On this interpretation, it is true that the heart wants what the heart wants, but it can be altered by the right kind of rational thinking that contributes to emotional change. This capacity can change some of our heart’s desire by getting more in touch with our deeper emotions.
Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves.
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