Thursday, January 8, 2015



The path to morality is not the territory
~Soph Laugh

"There's an old-fashioned word for the body of skills that emotional intelligence represents: character." (Daniel Goleman) 

George Washington University social theorist Amitai Etzioni describes character as "the psychological muscle that moral conduct requires."

I love to philosophize about the nature of existence and my/our place in it, but when it comes to interacting with people, psychology is my go-to field for emotional balance. The snide philosopher in me would like to claim that there is a difference between thinking and feeling and that psychologists belong to the latter group of individuals (a remark made in derision by one of my professors skilled in striking egotistical cords in young, impressionable students). 

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio blew my professor's theory right out of the water in a groundbreaking study where he discovered that emotions were linked to our ability to make decisions. Apparently there is no rational way to think ourselves through a decision without simultaneously having an emotion. 

So it's,
Off to see the Wizard of Emotions ... 

From here (the place where one receives or can give to oneself good or expert counsel) I can better evaluate the efficacy of actions I wish to take. I can also modify actions that have a less intense but cumulative affecting value which will hopefully result in my making better decisions over time.

Consulting my inner psychologist does not mean that my behavior will radically change without this type of study and reflection, but the thoughts I associate with my behavior will differ. This buffering (the time between reflection and action) buttresses a new stable foundation from which I can better see how the majority of my every day life decisions interact to create a whole. The trajectory our decisions take is directly related to the forms our decisions erect. 

When one's decisions come from a place of self-discipline, emotional intelligence is controlled by human will. When one leaves decisions up to fleeting or *ignored emotions, the corresponding behavior often times lacks what is commonly referred to as good moral character. 

The nature of our existence as it relates to our present bioenergetic form requires our coparticipation with forces that do not always feel harmonious to our own. When this happens, studies in virtue, empathy, compassion, and understanding can temper quick and whimsical emotional reactions that ignore sound emotional reason (which takes time to cultivate) in favor of (unreflected upon) easily adopted biased stereotypes, which breed intolerance and rejection of differences. 

Unreflected upon (and thus unmanaged) emotions can detour human reason from its rational course, resulting in a person's inability to function, to control and channel their urges. Reflecting upon emotions more easily results in our ability to make sound decisions. 

But how does one reflect upon emotions? Do we seek out books on emotional intelligence? Do we consult wisdom literature? Do we look to world leaders and the successful for guidance? Who is the ultimate authority on human idealism, and is there such a thing? 

One could consult a variety of sources, or one could even consult humor for insights into human behavior. One could push the snooze button on all this thinking business and go pour oneself another cup of coffee (one moment, please, I'll be right back). 

(I'm back. Now, where was I? Oh yes, where do we turn for sound advice?)


THIS EMOTION versus THAT THOUGHT are our two expert sources. The result of the specifics of this engagement become our rationale for acceptance or rejection of a thought or idea. 

There is not one single source of material that can answer our questions on which actions to take, but we are more likely to experience successful outcomes if the material matches our highest goals and desires. 

To determine whether or not the material you consult is aiding your emotionally based decisions look to the results of your actions for answers. If your life closely resembles that of your desires, then the material you are consulting is directly proportional to your innermost hopes. If your life does not resemble that which you desire, then consider exploring new material. 

All material is relevant to a given area of existence or it wouldn't exist. As such it is not about finding the best among all the materials available for human consumption. Success comes from choosing the correct material to aid us in making decisions that feel effortless ('effortless' does not imply the absence of work). When decisions feel sound they usually result in positive outcomes. 

Nature suggests that polar opposites exist. As such a positive outcome for one might indicate a negative one for someone else. This negative outcome could be as innocuous as someone simply not choosing to formulate an opinion on a given material (rejecting stereotypes in favor of purposeful non-judgment) until such time consideration is due. 

Not all information is necessary for human beings to make sound life decisions. So long as the decisions we make relate to our highest goals, ideals, and personal desires - keeping in mind the understanding that everyone has their own version of happiness - we can make decisions that feel like the best choice among the many. 

We cannot consult all material sources in the world (it is physically impossible). We cannot manifest every experience by mere human will given the limitations of nature. BUT if from within this sphere of existence we can manifest the best that our specific experience can offer us, we can be sure that our expert guides (emotion & thought) will be available to guide us so long as we invest equal interest in both their well-being (well, as in health; being, as in existence). 

*late 15th century in the sense 'be ignorant of'from Latin ignorare 'not know, ignore,' from in- 'not' + gno-, a base meaning 'know.'

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