Do you think our heads and our hearts are separate, equal forces? ~A question posed on Twitter.
The human mind and the human heart are distinctively different, separate, but equal originators for our human behaviors.
On a biological level, all of our emotions and every decision that we make originate in varying areas of the brain; what we synonymously refer to as “the human mind.” Our thoughts and feelings technically originate in the exact same place.
But on a distinctively “human” and spiritual level, it feels as if “the human mind” (logic, intellect, and rationalization) and “the human heart” (emotion, instinct, and nature) operate separately but parallel within us: they are different but equally strong and parallel forces that influence and affect how we live, act, and speak. It also seems as if these two distinct sides to ourselves have equal influence in our thoughts and actions, and could be the very cause of severe inner conflict and turmoil that we often feel within us.
Although our minds (logic, intellect, rationalization) and our hearts (emotion, instinct, individual nature) influence us to feel, think and act in opposing ways, we can ultimately make better decisions by combining them to create mental-emotional synergy. But how do we combine opposite forces that influence our behavior?
Developing Mental-Emotional Synergy
Envision the traditional Taoist symbol called a Taijitu (often incorrectly referred to as a “ying/yang” symbol). The symbol represents the concepts of “yin” and “yang,” or how polar opposites and seemingly contrary forces are always interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. In other words, in nature, what appear to be opposites often give rise to each other.
When we discuss mental-emotional synergy, we are likewise considering two seemingly contradictory, natural forces — the human mind and the human heart — as interconnected sources of our individual behaviors. There cannot be one without the other, and each necessarily gives rise to its apparent opposite.
The ideal goal is to develop a mental-emotional synergy within us, a conscious decision is to melt the two opposites into one; to discover and nurture symmetry, balance and harmony amid two conflictual opposites. And when our minds and our hearts begin to work together — off one another rather than against one another — we can make stronger, more sound decisions that will improve the quality of our lives, every day.
And thankfully, developing mental-emotional synergy is really much simpler than it might seem. It begins with three simple steps:
Step 1) Identify the Primary Motivator: Head (Logic) or (Emotion) Heart?
Depending on the conflict or situation at hand, you need to first identify whether your primary response is driven by your “head” (logic, intellect, rationalization) or your heart (emotion, instinct, and nature). Here are some examples:
- You have been dating someone for several months and have grown very attached to them. However, you’re about to move across the country and realize that, as much as you care for the other person, the distance will give way to too much suffering and ultimately cause the relationship to slowly and painfully end. In this situation, logic and rationalization are primarily influencing you over your emotional love and attachment to the other person.
- You have worked at the same job for three years and are making a $50,000 salary. The job is grueling, demands long hours, and you’re not very happy there. You are thinking of quitting this job for another, and although the hours are better and you think you will be happier, the salary is $40,000 per year. In this situation, you are logically assessing whether you value job flexibility and personal happiness over the decrease in pay, which will cause financial impacts on your life.
- You have recently suffered from a bad breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend who dumped you. You were very hurt at how the situation ended. Suddenly, you bump into the boy/girlfriend in a social setting and react aggressively or dramatically in front of a large crowd. In this situation, your emotion superseded logic, which would have dictated prudence and good-judgment and helped you not cause an embarrassing scene (however warranted it felt).
Step 2) Assess and Inject Secondary Motivator
The second step is to assess how the secondary motivator, or the opposite of the primary motivator, is influencing the situation, if at all (remember: the head is opposite the heart, and the heart is opposite the head). How is the other motivator impacting you? Is it at all?
- If your emotions are driving your thoughts, words and behaviors, is logic or prudence interjecting?
- If rationalization wants you to play-it-safe, is another instinctual side of you saying the opposite?
After assessing whether or not a secondary motivator is influencing you, if its opposite is absent, then you need to forcefully inject it into your thoughts and deliberations.
Step 3) Create Mental-Emotional Synergy:
Remember that our goal is to develop an ideal process through which we make better, smarter decisions that will best benefit us and those we care about the most. Mental-emotional synergy is when both our heads and our hearts work together, complimenting each other rather than against each other.
We create mental-emotional synergy by making the conscious decision — the choice — to not think in terms of mutual exclusivity: that we must either think with our head, or act on our hearts. We can melt the two opposites into one. Simply with this realization and by choosing to assess the influence of our minds and hearts on our behaviors and attitudes, we begin to discover and nurture symmetry, balance and harmony amid two seemingly conflictual opposites. When our minds and our hearts work together, off one another and not against one another, we deny inner conflict, create mental-emotional synergy and foster inner peace.
Without a doubt, mental-emotional synergy will help us all make better decisions that will improve the quality of our lives, every single day.