I blame Descartes.
Natch, in actuality it likely involved way more dimensions and people that just Descartes, pulling on various conversations and directions of thought that had been already developing, the general thrust of the renaissance, and, given the hundreds of years its been since his death, many more people have continued it and even reinforced it… so really it’s a much more involved thing than just one person. That statement is not entirely fair.
But it’s more fun and attention getting* to just say, “I blame Descartes.”
For what? For “cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am”… for the idea and elevation of “rational thought” as the pinnacle, in western philosophies, of what makes a person a person. Thought is truth. Reason is truth. Emotions are suspect. Feelings are bad. To be a great human is to be a being of pure detached thought.**
And wow, I assert, did society ever take that and run with it.
In many ways, we are taught to be Vulcans. Since emotions aren’t “real” and can’t be “tested in the physical world” and can “lead us astray”****, we’re told to ignore them or, even more so, resist them.
Now, in no way will I be saying that rational thought is itself bad, or useless, or even that we shouldn’t engage it. Far from it, thinking is great.
But the thing is, there’s a huge deleterious effect to all this shaming and vilification of our rich, emotional life. *****
We aren’t robots, and our emotions do influence us. They do. And the more we ignore our emotions, the more we discount them, the more we do not develop our emotional intelligence/health/awareness, then the more at their effect we are.
In other words, the less we integrate ourselves as a whole being of emotions, feelings, and thought, the more we’re actually controlled by our emotions, without realizing it.
We are great rationalizing (not necessarily rational) creatures – we can get pushed down a path by that invisible internal world and our “perfect” logical and thoughtful minds will come up with darn good reasons and evidence and justifications for this path we’re barreling down.
We think we’re so smart. And that’s the problem as well as the punchline… our hubris blinds us and robs us of the very agency we’re trying to attain.
Like many things, there’s a middle path here that has gotten missed. A wholistic embracement of all of the amazing things that constitute who we are as human beings. It isn’t a matter of being emotional or rational, of being governed by every feeling that arises or to be the perfect android, it’s a matter of listening to all of the above: emotions, feelings, thinking, imagination, logic, moods, deductions, and so on.
Emotions and feelings can be great indicators. They are a signal. And when we embrace them, we get to use those signals rather than be thrown by them or have them sneakily dictate our actions. The signals become just that, signals, that we can merge with our active mindfulness to give us presence from which we can then choose. Agency becomes ours and, as a bonus, we get to enjoy the glorious experience(s) of being alive and the vast catalogue of feelings and emotions.
We end up making the better choices we’re aiming for. We gain freedom and we love our life more.
Sorry Descartes. We think therefore we are, but we also feel, and together we do more than just exist, we blossom with relish.
* and truth be told in many ways it is completely irrelevant to the true exploration of this post…
** This, of course, is why women were relegated as lesser people, for they are more emotional, “governed” by their feelings, and prone to hysteria… true great humans are all men, and men are the thoughtful, reasoning type.***
*** Which, doubly of course, is all absolute caca.****
**** It gets extra silly and super double standard-y when you realize the accolades and admiration that are lauded onto a guy who “follows his gut” as some sort of honest strong paragon when, well, what is “following your gut” other than being guided by your emotions/feelings?
***** Which come on here everyone, we’re all seeking love and pleasure and happiness and excitement and aren’t those all emotions and feelings? Further, why are we being taught to suppress our emotions, yet love is supposed to be a first-sight-head-over-heels type thing and that we should blindly follow our emotion in that instance?