We’re often taught that emotions get in the way of good decision-making, and that it’s our logical, rational selves that are most human.
And, of course, it’s true that emotions can get in the way of deciding well:
Deciding your future in an outburst of rage…
Choosing who to recruit to your team from the midst of your frustration…
Making a commitment from fear or panic…
Or getting blinded by love, by resentment, by shame.
But your habitual, reactive ways with emotions are not all that are available to you.
Emotions can be cultivated, refined, mined for their deep intelligence, if you’re prepared to pay attention to them over time, allowing them to reveal their complexity and depth instead of pushing them away. Behind your hot, of-the-moment reaction, which for some emotions may be very narrow indeed, can be something more rarefied, more significant, and with a deep intelligence all of its own.
So before you act, before you decide, you could ask yourself:
What is this emotion drawing my attention to? What is it trying to say? What is it trying to protect? To what in my history is it attached? What care of mine is it expressing? What bigger commitment? What does it want?
Is there anything in all of this that seems true? That I want to take into account?
Reacting to your emotions in an unsophisticated way can be shortsighted, yes. But leaving emotions out of your decision-making means leaving out what matters most intensely to you.
Because emotions are always in one way or another intelligently associated with our deepest cares, and our deepest concerns.