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Emotional Genius

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Emotional Genius

Current research from the fields of neurology, behavioral economics, and cognitive psychology is showing us that — contrary to what we’ve been told — emotions actually help us make decisions.

The old wives’ tale is that we make decisions by ignoring our emotions and using only our rational faculties. Thinking was long-supposed to be better or smarter than feeling, but the truth is coming out. As we’re learning more about the brain, emotions are no longer seen as the opposite of rationality. Instead, science is helping us understand (finally) that the so-called rational aspects of our brains aren’t able to hold enough conflicting information in working memory to organize a complex decision. Instead, our emotions help us attach value, meaning, and weight to information. Emotions help us separate the wheat from the chaff, identify valid or important information, and make decisions.

Without our emotions, we can’t organize or attach value to conflicting information; we just stand around looking confused. Without our emotions, we’re actually incapable of making deep and multifaceted decisions.

But what about really bad decisions?

Good question. As your emotions help you think right now, you may be recalling multiple images of highly emotional people making highly questionable decisions. The comments sections on far too many websites these days are perfect examples, where people aren’t talking about the story; rather, they’re ranting and flaming about ideas that the story has triggered in them. They’re not being informed by their emotions; they’re acting as the unwitting puppets of their emotions, and it’s painful to witness.

We see unhealthy and irrational emotional behavior all over the web, every day. In many cases, other commenters will chime in and try to calm down the ranters, but the topic and the actual story get lost in the turmoil, and we see the worst examples of emotions influencing people’s decisions. In many people’s hands, emotions are truly ugly things, and they do lead to irrationality.

But that’s not the fault of the emotions. Emotions are an integral part of our capacity to think and experience the world, and just like any other part of human nature, they can be used for good or ill. Emotions are not rational or irrational: Emotions are simply data; you are the interpreter of those data, and your behavior determines whether the outcome is rational or not.

Because emotions stand at the center of our decision-making processes, we simply have to become smarter about how we use them. Here are some ideas:

Photo: Evgeni Dinev /

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Read more: Emotional Genius, General Health, Health, Mental Wellness, ,

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Karla McLaren

Though Karla McLaren created her empathic approach to emotions to help people heal from trauma, she ended up discovering how emotions help us think, decide, and relate to each other brilliantly. Her newest book and audio learning set, "The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You", teaches you how to use your natural empathy and discover the gifts and messages inside every emotion you have. Karla and her husband Tino live in Santa Cruz, California.


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2:49AM PDT on Apr 12, 2014


12:25AM PDT on Apr 11, 2014

you are amazing

4:44AM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

very nice share

8:49PM PDT on May 9, 2013

Interesting concepts to ponder.

1:43PM PDT on May 1, 2013

Thank you, Karla. I think it's important to try to make friends with our emotions, even the ones we see as negative. I'm quite 'in the head', but even so I tend not to make decisions intellectually it may even be the body more than my emotions that I listen to - noticing how the different choices make me feel physically.

7:04AM PST on Nov 5, 2012

Meditation helps me to make decisions that turn out better than logic. Thanks for the great article. Bill D.

10:46PM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Thank you.

6:37PM PST on Jan 10, 2011

What do you think women's intuition is? AND it wasn't an old wives tale, which is the oral tradition of women's intuition that dumped on emotional reactions - it was the old boys' defamation of women's emotions so that they could abuse with impunity.

9:55AM PST on Jan 10, 2011

I think this author is referring to balance and that emotions are a gift of experience. When you're out of balance, you're either highly analytical or emotional which brings about unclear thinking. In my own opinion though, I think when she is referring to emotions helping one make decisions - it sounds more like instinct (what some people refer to as a gut feeling). Have you ever had the feeling that a place wasn't safe and you needed to leave? She calls this emotion - I call it instinct. Regardless, it is a very vital part of being human indeed.

10:08PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

Interesting advice, thanks.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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