What’s the worst thing someone can say when you’re panicking?
How about when you’re feeling like crap?
“Buck up, life’s not so bad!”
Of course, in these scenarios people are telling you exactly what you need to do. They’re completely right from the standpoint of logic. But from the standpoint of an emotional state? Let’s just say they better run before they get hit with something.
The most ineffective, and sometimes even harmful thing to introduce to someone in an emotional state, is logic. The rational and emotional sides of our human nature just don’t mix – they’re completely different systems that rarely overlap. One tells us why we shouldn’t touch a hot stove, and the other tells us who we should marry… apples and oranges, right?
Our minds are comprised of separate parts that help us handle completely unrelated pieces of information. So in regards to knowing, there must be two kinds of knowing.
People know that they should exercise. They know the health benefits; they’ve read the studies. They absolutely, logically know. But how many of them spend an hour of their day at the gym instead of propped in front of a computer screen? Very, very few. It’s because their emotional side hasn’t grasped it – it doesn’t know. When you see athletes gleefully bounce into the gym each day, it’s not because they’ve read the studies – it’s because that other, more irrational part of their brain latched onto exercise in a positive way, which makes exercise a breeze for them.
This goes for everything else as well. A lot of us don’t have the motivation to keep a healthy diet, go for a job we really want, or repair a strained relationship, for example. However, we say that we really, really, really want to! What are we stupid or something? No. That’s just our logical side, cooperating pleasantly with what we know we should want. Meanwhile, our emotional side is often the equivalent of a tantrum throwing child. It doesn’t want to do any of these things, and it’s going to stand in our way every chance it gets.
This is the reason mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can’t be cured through many of the common techniques: reading books, educating oneself, taking medications, self-talk, tough love, etc. These are all logic-based approaches. Sometimes they may be effective, but typically, they don’t make a dent in the issue.
So what’s the solution? How to we get from point A to point B with our goals despite fear, a lack of motivation, failed attempts, negative expectations, etc, etc, etc?
We have to use a solution that’s not based in logic. Knowing logical information will only help with purely logical problems. For emotion-based problems, we have to find the other kind of “knowing.” This kind is more intuitive, kind of like faith.
If your washing machine was broke (logical problem), you probably wouldn’t try to fix it by singing and chanting at it (illogical solution). So why why why why do we always try to solve our emotion-related problems with logical solutions? For example: “I hate my job because it makes me miserable. However, if I just tell myself I need it in order to make money, I’ll get over it.”
No! No no no no no. It just never works. And it makes people feel like failures for not being able to solve their own, fairly simple problems. What if we were to instead ask ourselves, “What would make this feel better?” (And before you berate yourself for coming up with a silly answer, remember that it’s not supposed to be logical.) Maybe the thing that would make you feel better about your miserable job is white water rafting. It doesn’t make much direct sense, but sometimes when we start taking action based on what feels better, emotional problems begin to unravel on their own.
Warning: In some cases, taking this new approach may result in others telling you you’re a nutcase. But remember, that’s because humans are used to approaching things logically and dismissing other approaches. (If we can’t see how point A would lead to point B, we’re going to resist the approach and get skeptical fast.) So consider their comments as an indication that you’re on the right track..you’re being illogical..because you’re supposed to be! As long as you don’t do anything dangerous or harmful, like dive off the roof of your house, you are probably on the right track.
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