Logic Versus Emotion

counselling in brightonA recurring theme when working with communication difficulties is how to find common ground when one person approaches life’s challenges in a very logical, thinking way and the other is much more inclined to focus on relationships and feelings. How might counselling or psychotherapy help?
Pros and Cons of the Logical Mind
It is not difficult to imagine the benefits of an ability to think logically, decisively and calmly in a range of different circumstances. With an emotional response put on hold or over-ridden completely, the logically-minded person can think clearly about problems that need to be solved and take appropriate action. If I’m stranded in a burning building, this is the type of person I want around to get me out. But are there any disadvantages to this approach? Might there be situations where logic alone is not enough?
In my experience, the downside of a purely logical approach to life is an inability to appreciate how what might appear to be reasonable solutions to problems has a negative impact on key relationships. This might be particularly relevant in the long run; if, in an effort to get our own needs met and do what we think is for the best, we continually step on other peoples’ toes or ignore their feelings and needs there might come a time when they have had enough and decide to retaliate or decamp elsewhere.
Pros and Cons of the Emotional Mind
People who are very aware of their own and other people’s feelings often prioritise maintaining relationships and managing anxiety or risk over solving problems or completing tasks. Such people are often good negotiators, working towards getting enough of what they need for themselves without losing the goodwill, loyalty or respect of others. They might also be skilled at looking at complex problems from different angles as well as bearing the inevitable uncertainty of life, particularly when it comes to the sort of problems that can’t be ‘solved’ e.g. our own or others’ mortality.
The downside of a purely emotional response to life can often involve an inability to make timely decisions or get on and complete tasks coupled with a lack of clarity. This can be especially tricky in working relationships where an absence of clear boundaries from a manager can leave staff feeling insecure or unsupported.
Some Examples
When Sarah and Mark sort out who does what around the house, Sarah gets upset when Mark repeatedly delegates his responsibilities to their teenage daughter. When Sarah protests, Mark provides a perfectly logical response e.g. ‘what does it matter who pegs out the washing so long as it gets done?’ What Sarah might be acutely aware of (and Mark oblivious to) is the emotional impact of his words and actions. When Mark repeatedly delegates, Sarah may have a creeping sense that Mark would not be there for her if she really needed his support. Over time, this might start to undermine her feelings for him and lead to frustration and resentment; the washing might get pegged out but the relationship suffers.
Conversely, Sarah might be the type of person who, when faced with an unfamiliar situation that requires some action on her part, manages her emotions by repeatedly going over different ‘what if’ scenarios, fearing the worst (to which Mark might say – ‘but it hasn’t happened yet!’), working herself up and achieving very little. Just as Mark failed to understand why Sarah gets upset when he delegates, Sarah might fail to understand that the way she manages her anxiety can be enormously frustrating and irritating for a logically-minded person like Mark who, if he were in her shoes, would just get on and do something. She might also be unable to clearly state what she needs from him e.g. a hug and a listening ear rather than help fixing the situation (which would probably be his natural, logical response).
How Might Counselling or Psychotherapy Help?
When faced with a stressful situation, it is very easy to find escalating tension between people who mostly think and those who mostly feel. The former might accuse the latter of being ‘over-emotional’ and the latter accuse the former of being ‘unfeeling’. Whether it is as an individual or as a couple, therapy can provide a safe space in which to hold conversations about how you can learn to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of both your own and the other’s approach to the world and work together to find better solutions to the many challenges we will all face across our lifetimes.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke – Counsellor in Brighton and Hove
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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