Heart Vs. Mind

I am going to boast a little here. I have done a good job at developing my ability to leave work at the office and my personal life at home. Every so often though, I have a session that throws me for a loop. It is one of those sessions that hits close to home for one reason or another. It stirs up emotions and leaves me pondering hours, or even days, afterwards.

As a mental health professional, it is not just about listening to people’s problems all day long. The job requires much more energy than that. Graduate school trained me to keep my emotions in check in session. I do not want to be overly emotional, but not lifeless. Not to be over the top, but not a robot. I have to be able to gauge my client’s emotions as well. Simultaneously, I have to be able to provide constructive feedback, guidance, insight, and education to my client. I tap into conceptualizations, theories, trauma, coping skills, and an array of learned topics. By the time I get home, I feel like I was hit by a semi. Being a counselor might not be physically demanding. However, I am spent every day by wrestling with the tug-of-war between my heart and mind.

The ongoing struggle between emotion (heart) and logic (mind) has been an philosophical argument for centuries. The question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one was around to hear it, does it make a sound?” comes from this debate. The objective perspective would say that it did indeed make a sound regardless if there was an observer present. The subjective point of view would state that the sound could not be perceived through opinion, emotion, or values.

The truth is that the two are inseparable. For instance, the philosophy behind science says that scientists should remain totally objective. On the other hand, scientists regularly research their respective areas of study after developing a passion for it. In this case, the emotion propelled the scientist to follow his or her dream, but they use their logic when conducting experiments.

However, having too much or too little of either one can be problematic.

Too much emotion can cause the following:

  • Acting impulsively. Following through on a decision based on pure emotion is providing a temporary resolution for a long-term issues. Also, there are normally other negative consequences that follow impulsive actions.
  • Difficulty relating to others. Humans are social creatures. Emotions are what makes us humans and separate us from other species. Therefore, difficulty managing one’s emotions can interfere with and damage relationships. Extreme emotions are difficult even for others to handle- both good and bad emotions. It can push others away or lead to you falling into a dark abyss.
  • Using too much energy on others. If you are pouring out all of your emotional energy, there will be none for yourself at the end of the day. You will be drained.

Too much logic can cause the following:

  • Not taking appropriate risks. If we rely too heavily on logic, we can reason ourselves out of almost anything. As a result, there will be missed opportunities for potentially life-changing events. Life will pass right on by without remorse.
  • Difficulty relating to others. I wrote a paper back in college about how robots will never be able to replicate human emotion. There are parts of the neural network that they will never be able to mimic. It is more than neurotransmitters that create emotions. It is the experience, the memory, and the associated feelings. It is what makes us human and gives us the ability to relate to other humans. Straight logic shuts out the part of our humanity.
  • Using too much mental energy. It is amazing what some people could accomplish in the same amount of time they spend rationalizing their actions. Some individuals drive themselves into oblivion by thinking too much and not allowing their true feelings to show through even a little.

I purposely wrote the three reasons the way I did. Having too much of either one puts an individual at one of the spectrum or the other, but the results are similar. Instead, tapping into both sides can lead to an overall better quality of life. Our heart can provide some direction through emotion, passion, and values. Our mind can then help us decide if we are making a rational decision utilizing logic, cognitive strategies, and problem solving.

The key here is having a balance where both heart and mind can co-exist.

-The Caring Counselor

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