There are intellectual people who use their emotion as a tool, and there are emotional people that use their intellect as a tool. I see no wrong in controlling emotion for benefit, but I do find fault with emotion-driven logic, a kind of reasoning that is used to justify bias. ‘Trust your gut’ is like saying ‘live your life on autopilot’. I have even returned in full force to the idea that saying some thing to the effect of ‘it made me feel this way, therefore’ in argument against an other’s actions is folly. No, I don’t want to hurt any one’s feelings, but it is absurd to believe that some one is wrong simply because their action or idea made you feel bad. Truths make me feel bad all of the time, but truth is goodness.
I am not the first to say that it is okay to be offended. Being offended is an opportunity to reevaluate your values. ‘Why am I offended? Because that was wrong. Why was it wrong?’ If your next answer is circular, try to break the cycle, and try to suspend judgment until you have done so. This practice has changed my personality immensely. I wonder about intent. I wonder about ignorance. Aside from the questions I must ask about my perception of the act or idea, I must ask questions of the source. Did the person mean to upset me? Did the person even know that I would feel negatively about this? Was I personally the target of this? Whether an act or idea is ethically right or wrong or truthful or false, there is no direct relationship between these measurements and how you feel about the act or idea. There is a construct in between that is extremely plastic. This is why there have been entire prolific cultures that have felt that rape can be noble, that revenge is just, and that there is no thing wrong with malice. Knee-jerk or gut responses are learned, and can be learned no matter how awful, counter-intuitive to others, or complex. If it takes an insane person to build these constructs, then any one who justifies their actions that affect any one else’s well being by how it made their own selves feel is out of their mind.
Some decisions require feeling only. ‘Do I want strawberry or banana?’ is not a matter of logical inquiry. ‘Should I refrain from eating this candy because it only serves to indulge my pleasure and reduce my health?’ is a matter of logical inquiry, but is trivial enough to be left out here. Generally, to say that the answer to any question that involves matters other than taste (taste for food as well as art, et cetera) and fancy is ‘common sense’ in the sense that the true and right answer comes naturally is foolish. Our world would be very different, if life were so simple.
The entitlement in our culture today bears a strong relationship to this issue of bias or emotion-driven observation and decision-making. We feel entitled to comfort, friendship, respect, success, flattery, and pleasure. This is wrong. Concerning personal relationship, the only right you have is to being left alone. No one is obligated to act on your behalf unless they have agreed to be obligated to act on your behalf, this being communicated via messages, not cues (which the exception of becoming a parent, which leads to the obligation of care for the child). If I consider one to be my friend, they do not necessarily consider me a friend in return, or the same kind of friend that I consider them to be. This is fine. If we feel offended because some one says that they do not want to be our friend, it is because we feel entitled. If we expect respect without having earned it, it is because we feel entitled. If we take offense when others refuse to indulge us or cater to our world view, it is entitlement again.
If a person’s words seem unnecessarily harsh to you, but they had not intended to insult you, they are ignorant of how you perceive such things. Pure ignorance is not wrong. If a person is aware of the severity of their words but meant for this severity to impress enlightenment on you, their intent and your perception of insult do not line up. In this case your perception has you feeling insulted, not their words.
Emotion is a lower level of processing, so we develop it first when we are young. Intellect develops much more slowly. Because we are emotional creatures first, it is easier to be dominated by emotions. Because emotions are powerful slave drivers, it is easy to be dominated by emotions. Once we were dominated by instinct. To submit to a master is never right at face value. Emotion gives us love based on flattery, comfort, and passion. This love that we feel in our bodies serves to curb the demands of our pride and our tendency to feel lonely. It feeds our need for love, and often becomes confusing and destructive once that need is fulfilled. This love that we feel in our bodies is responsible for jealousy, desperation, and brings us to make irresponsible sacrifices. This kind of love asks the question ‘what can others that I adore do for me?’
Many would argue that these are heavy costs paid gladly. Unless you already know where I am going with this, please suspend judgment until I explain an alternative. I present to you intellectual love, some thing that is rarely experienced, and even more rarely acknowledged as separable from emotion-based love. Now, obviously intellectual love is capable of giving some one joy, so to think of it in terms of separate from emotional love because it is devoid of emotional stimulation is a mistake. Intellectual love stems from respect in stead of flattery- not respect in terms of courteous behavior, but in line with the phrase ‘I respect you’. Intellectual love stems from intimacy (particularly of ideas) in stead of passion. Most importantly, intellectual love stems from sharing goodness, righteousness, wisdom, in stead of sharing comfort. Comfort is easily a byproduct of this, but comfort is not the goal. This kind of love asks the question ‘what can I do for others that is best for them?’ What is best for a person is not necessarily what will make them feel the happiest and most comforted. What is best for any given person involves discipline, and discipline may involve punishment, and punishment is typically treated on an emotional level as bad.
Before you submit your self to a life dedicated to searching for and maintaining passionate love, for emotional love, consider the differences presented in my last two paragraphs. Do you prefer respect or flattery? Which is more likely to establish an undying trust? To put things in terms of Plato and Socrates, the intellectual love relationship is noble, while a person who is a slave to their needs, their passions, their emotions, their ‘intuition’, is base. Emotional love is arguably a biological need, but so is food; it is commonly accepted that a life devoted to the eating of food is a base and vice-ridden one. Aside it, Plato has made some pretty convincing arguments that the opposite of wisdom is folly…
Seeking wisdom is an intellectual pursuit. It is the challenge to find the good and become the good. Emotions are helpful servants, but also greedy fools with a love for power. Emotions may not be inherently evil, but they can and often do lead us to evil, whereas intellect only leads us there when at the reigns of emotion. It has been said that we should ‘calm the mind to find the truth’. This is often interpreted as ‘silence your thoughts to let your heart guide you’. I see it as meaning ‘quiet your emotions to remove bias from your intellect, so that logic can naturally develop its patterns of discovering truth and goodness.’ Racing thoughts are a product of emotion. Lack of focus is a product of emotion. Anxiety and depression put you in thought loops? Emotion is tampering with your cognition. The rational parts of our minds can only be considered responsible for our inability to be mindful of our full selves, our environment, and our present moment in that the rational parts of our minds allow us to understand new ideas, and with more ideas comes more subject matter for us to feel about. Mindfulness is not simply quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness is quieting our emotions so that we can think rationally in stead of in cues sent to us by our feelings. We must take the responsibility as interpreters of our emotions in stead of simply taking the cues that they give us at face value. ‘This responsibility makes me nervous’ probably does not mean that the responsibility is bad. At the very least, we must remain in tune with how we feel in order to properly take care of our bodies, but we can not respond accordingly if all we do is blindly believe what we feel.