When your head and your heart are at war, which one do you follow? This may have stumped songwriters and philosophers for centuries, but don’t let that get to you. The answer is easy – both of them, of course!
In reality, our thoughts and our feelings are made of the same stuff – namely, all that squishy gray matter we keep upstairs. Our logic-based impulses are the domain of an area in the brain called the cerebral cortex, while our feelings originate just inches away in a group of neurons known as the amygdala. So in many ways our hearts and our heads are one and the same. It’s no wonder we feel so utterly torn when they they’re at odds!
Honor your instincts
When your head and your heart are pulling you in different directions, stop and take notice. The first step is to acknowledge your instincts – all of them. Instincts from your “head” are impulses you can explain. The ones in your “heart” might not be as clear yet – they may be “just a feeling” – but they’re no less valid.
Sometimes reservations are cerebral, like when you’re crazy about someone but you just can’t get past the fact that he’s cheated on other girlfriends. And you know it’s the “heart” at work when all systems are “go,” but you just don’t feel right about a new job or a left turn.
The magic sense
Intuition isn’t magic, but it’s pretty close. It’s what some neurologists refer to as pre-thought, or the ability of your mind to assemble information you haven’t consciously registered. You might have felt funny about the new boss because something in her body language belied dishonesty, or you avoided that narrow alley because you unconsciously picked up on a shadowy figure – or the lack of a ready escape route. That’s not to say you should start jumping at every shadow – just trust your instincts, and realize that those “feelings” are unrecognized thoughts. They’re there for a reason.
Understand your impulses
It’s not always easy – but once you identify them, it’s worthwhile to understand your impulses. It will make you a more self-aware person, and you’ll become more practiced at identifying your instincts and acting on them. Once you know that you distrust a coworker because they remind you of someone who betrayed you in the past, for instance, you can begin rebuilding a new, unprejudiced impression. If, on the other hand, you find that your distrust is rooted in the way he gossips about another associate, you can proceed in that relationship with caution.
Make a team effort
Think your feelings don’t have a role in a paper you’re writing, or a crucial business negotiation? Your ability to make sound judgments, choose powerful words and earn the confidence of associates are all under the jurisdiction of your less-logical, but equally powerful, intuition. And if you believe your analytical mind doesn’t get a say in matters of the heart, you’re depriving yourself of the benefit of all your previous experiences and observations – a pretty serious handicap.
The good news? You should never have to choose between your head and your heart. Either one alone can lead you into risky, uncertain situations – but when the two operate in concert, they result in what we usually call wisdom.
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