Don’t let emotions control your life

Plus – recommended article on the prosperity gospel

Feelings are more dangerous than ideas because they aren’t susceptible to rational evaluation. —Brian Eno

Have you watched this video? If not, please do so.

I am surprised by, and sometimes frustrated at, some people’s submission to emotions. Emotions dominate their lives. Rational thought is ignored and facts are resisted. Like the lady with the nail in her forehead, life is seen exclusively through the lens of emotions.

I do understand and appreciate human emotionality—I even wrote a book on the subject. But let’s pursue a balance between emotions and rational thought. Don’t live your life based on emotions, and for sure, don’t make decisions based on emotions.

Can we agree on the following?

Learn to tell the difference between feeling and thinking.

Mark Twain said, “We do no end of feeling and mistake that for thinking.” Often, we’re simply not aware of which part of our brain is most active at any given moment: our limbic system (emotions) or our frontal lobe (thinking and reasoning). When you’re feeling angry, sad, happy, rejected, overwhelmed, fulfilled—those are feelings. When you’re considering data and facts and you favor rational discourse and the thoughtful weighing of evidence—that’s thinking.

There is often an inverse relationship between feeling and thinking.

Sometimes the more emotionally stirred-up we are, the less rational we are. In extreme cases, when someone is emotionally peaked, he or she may be incapable of thinking rationally. Likewise, if we view life exclusively through the lens of rationality, we won’t fully understand the human condition and we’ll miss out on the depth of human experience. Strive for balance. Avoid emotional incontinence.

Don’t immediately act on feelings.

In his must-read book, The Road to Character, David Brooks said, “The point of all this (self-regulation) was to separate instant emotion from action, to reduce the power of temporary feelings. A person might feel fear, but he would not act on it. A person might desire sweets, but would be able to repress the urge to eat them. The stoic ideal holds that an emotion should be distrusted more often than trusted. Emotion robs you of agency, so distrust desire. Distrust anger, and even sadness and grief. Regard these things as one might regard fire: useful when tightly controlled, but a ravaging force when left unchecked.”

When making decisions, rely more on facts.

To make a sound decision, you need facts. Seek them out and prioritize them. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions but not to their own facts. Occasionally, opinions and personal perspectives need to be considered, but not before the facts are examined. For sure, when you’re peaking emotionally, refrain from making major decisions.

In general, rational thinking trumps emotions.

All humans are inescapably emotional, so we can’t ignore human emotionality. Our lives are filled with both positive emotions (I feel affirmed, satisfied, happy, content, supported) and painful emotions (I feel sad, neglected, hurt, alone, unsupported), and they are part of the human experience, contributing to our very existence. But logic and reasoning provide a surer path to truth and progress.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]


What? – Live a balanced life in which both emotions and reason are in their place and at their best.
So what? – Don’t let emotions rule your life.
Now what? – If you tend to be overly emotional, work on establishing a more healthy balance of emotion and reason.
Leaders – Emotional intelligence is an important skill for leaders to have. Learn how to control your own emotions and how to properly respond to other people’s emotions. Base your leadership and particularly your decision-making on facts and rational thought.

[callout]Recommended Article

Occasionally, I’ll include in a post, the link to an interesting article which addresses a different topic than the post.

Here’s a fascinating article – Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me – by Kate Bowler (February 13, 2016; New York Times). It raises some thought provoking issues about the prosperity gospel. Click here for the article.[/callout]

10 Replies to “Don’t let emotions control your life”

  1. Don,

    I learned from the late Rev. Dr. Ken Diehm, that we have two basic decisions when it comes to living life.

    First, we can choose to “react” out of emotion, or
    Second, we can choose to “respond” out of our faith / core values & principles.

    This information has served me very well in life, especially when faced with sudden adversity, dissapointment, and set-backs which are sometimes the result of someone else’s decision.

    I appreciate you.

  2. Incredible what I got from this article today..I was on the edge of a cliff getting ready to hurl myself off because of emotional turmoil. Thank God he urged me to look at my email which I never do. Thank you for a timely piece that has calmed me down and made me look at things for what they really are. God bless you

    1. Alma, I’m so glad my post was helpful. I’m sorry for the distress you experienced and hope things are better. Don

  3. This is such an important aspect of life, thank you for articulating it so well Don. We are always susceptible to outward influences on our emotions with the constant inflow of various media. Movies, music, commercials, print adds, and more are seeking to move our emotions towards decisions. Factual reasoning is the enemy of such. Let us strive rather, as in Ephesians 4:14, that we “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” Here’s to being balanced!

    1. Thanks, Cody, for sharing your thoughts. I had not thought of the Eph. 4:14 passage but that fits well with this thought.
      I like the word “balanced.” Take care, Don

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