Enunciate the word emotion in front of a professional group and immediately you will have to clarify -and clearly justify- why such word was even brought out from the shadows to the forefront of any conversation. Misunderstood and demonized, emotions are instinctual powerhouses of information. But far from being all-irrational, absolutely inferior to intellectual outputs and make us dangerously weak, emotions convey the essence of our human nature and what is makes us different from bots.
Years ago, Antonio Damasio (neuroscientist) demonstrated that emotions are pivotal to the human decision making process. What he did was study the brain of individuals that had some kind of physical damage in frontal lobe area, right where the brain processes emotional expression, inhibition, etc. and discovered that these folks were simply paralyzed to take decisions. Most recent research has also vastly shown that there is a lot of emotional charge in so called perfectly rational decisions.
So, here is where the paradigm comes into place. In spite that neuroscientists, educators, trainers, coaches and other professionals in similar areas have embraced the strong body of evidence that neuroscience has built over more than twenty-five years to demonstrate the link between reason, emotion and decision making; people still refuses to accept it.
Mainstream thinking about reason over emotion is generally based on a couple of puzzling and obsolete assumptions: the first is that we have a choice whether to feel or not, and second, that emotional “suppression” works. So, as turns out, the more you withhold and restrict your emotional expression, you become more successful at not being contaminated by pesky emotions and uncomfortable feelings that are part of that mushy experience that is called Life. A third assumption is also casted on stone, that being resilient is about “controlling” your emotions while enduring hardships without becoming weaker. Interestingly, notice that these two tenets are stronghold especially among genX and genY. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been outnumber by well-intended patients, cohorts and friends explaining how the brain is the absolute all powerful master in the human body, resulting in the rest of the organs just obeying and pleasing it.
Yet to my absolute surprise, even elementary students, protest when they are presented with their learning styles organizers and some of the graphics are slightly tilted to the emotional side. I sure can understand this. Popular culture has taught us to equate emotions with vulnerability, a weak and undesirable trait. On the other hand, I have little doubt that we are a society that is profoundly craving for connection and meaning. Every day, we witness individuals and entire organizations that are turning to Emotional Intelligence learning as an effective tool to help them traverse personal and organizational challenges. So how is that we are so caught up in brain/cognitive superiority meme? Not only that, this meme is still propagating in spite of the huge P.R that Emotional Intelligence receives on every given day through social media, news outlets, etc. This may be a good great case for a deep research on neuro-memetics… I just wonder if, in fact our brain cells are highly flexible to the point to be constantly adapting to new information, what kind of purpose does it serve to look the other way when it comes to brain superiority meme? Will it be perhaps that a very specific part of our brain is orchestrating the effort as a way of defending itself and protecting its status quo?
Hmm. I may be running out of sugar but I can only add here that perhaps exercising conscious awareness in our conversations and engaging in deep examination of our bias would be needed to counter this meme for once at all. Let’s not forget that both our brains, the uber rational and the politically incorrect emotional brain have been refined by tons of years of human evolution. More precisely 200,000 something years in the case of the rational brain and just over several hundred million years for the latter. So, it’s time to speak up and contribute to keep momentum and create real change, so more people are willing to educate themselves and pass on true knowledge based on respect for our ancestral emotional brain.