how to balance emotion and thought

Published December 30, 2020

If we are discontent because of a decision we made and we are not happy with the consequences, then it is a matter of reason. You did not act reasonably.

If you find yourself in a struggle to find what would be the reasonable thing to do, you will suffer from your indecision. It’s one of the worst dilemmas to be in, especially if the stakes are high.

The mystery of reason

Everybody knows what is meant when we talk about reason. “Remain reasonable!” is a sentence we hear more than once in different shapes and forms. Momma told us several times. 

We know it’s something positive. We know that good people behave reasonably. Unless we do not actively choose otherwise, we want to strive as a reasonable person.

One could also say acting reasonably is a matter of balance. Because that is essentially where reason originates from. Balance of the two most powerful forces that drive us as human beings: Emotion and thought. Rationality and irrationality. Reason lies in between as well as most of our answers.

When rationality tries to solve emotion: Overthinking

Some people naturally desire a comprehensible reason for everything. If something makes sense, it is a reasonable thing to do, isn’t it?

For me personally, rationally retracing things brought a lot of value to me in my life, which is why I often tend to rely on thinking things through. Short, it helped me get through some pretty hard (emotional) times, considering I was all emotional before finding answers through rationality. 

It is essentially the core of problem-solving. Questioning things why they are the way they are to figure out how to fix them. 

So relying on rationality is a good thing? Not always.

In contexts where a conflict is not solely caused by rational reasons, one can find himself overthinking. Trying to find reasons for something that is not necessarily comprehensible from one’s perspective. Opening new doors every time you closed another one. That is a point where your problem-solving causes other problems in an infinite loop. Or you even imagine one problem causing other problems.

Overthinking is always caused by an inability to accept your feelings. By an attempt to solve something rationally, that is not to be solved rationally. When you struggle to find the needed meta-level. 

A basic example of this is dwelling over things that cannot be changed or being in a position of no control. Following (exaggerated) train of thought is common:

  • I embarrassed myself
  • everyone will talk about it
  • Person X will hear it
  • Person X will tell my Boss
  • My Boss is going to hate me
  • I’ll be fired
  • My girlfriend leaves me because I lost my job
  • I’m going to get depressed
  • I’m going to use drugs because of depression
  • I’m going to be homeless because I spend all my money on drugs

Basically, making a mountain out of a molehill.

Overthinking is blowing up a problem that is not that big of a deal.

To stop overthinking, it is mostly enough to let your feelings settle, through a practice like acceptance, where you’ll find balance again. Or ultimately, leaving something behind, because you’re not in a position to change nor to accept. There can be situations in which overthinking happens in a fanatic pursuit of acceptance when you should leave something behind. Overthinking can come in two forms: 

  1. Trying to solve non-solvable problems
  2. Making up problems as a consequence of other problems

Ask yourself these simple questions and answer honestly: What is the core problem? Can I change it? Can I accept it? Can I leave it? Do not dwell on consequences. That is how to reasonably handle problems.

Underthinking, on the other hand, is making a molehill out of a mountain, thus completely overseeing the mountain.

When irrationality takes overhand: Underthinking

It does not need that much explanation as overthinking does, even though it is as basic of a concept. 

Underthinking is jumping off a cliff, not checking the constellation of stones at the bottom. Here is where rationality failed to be a part of the decision-making.

Underthinkers tend to suffer real consequences. Overthinkers suffer imagined ones. In both cases, you have the accountability to adjust. 

An attempt to act reasonably

So what is the solution to act reasonably in the future? 

What I found is the following: balance your questioning with your impulsiveness. I’d even recommend prioritizing questioning, but that is up to you. Just make sure none of both is missing. 

What is the solution to find balance in rationality and irrationality? Acceptance.

Questions to health-check your thinking:

  • Overthinking:
    • Is the problem I’m entertaining in my thoughts real and present? Or did I make it up?
    • Am I trying to solve an emotional problem with rational reasons?
  • Underthinking:
    • Does what I am doing make sense?
    • Is it seriously hurting me in the long-run?

Find your reason, fam.

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