A common concern voiced by patients starting treatment is that thinking things through, instead of living by impulse, leads to a boring life. In other words, logic is joy subtraction rather than joy addition. Another way they may say it is “I lead with my heart instead of my brain.”
How do you lead?
I have to believe that if leading with emotion instead of logic were a sound strategy, these patients wouldn’t wind up in my office confused about how to live good life. The good news is that they recognize that their lives could be more satisfying, and they want to improve them.
Let me break down the problem. These patients are really saying that they value emotion over thought. But thoughts generate feelings. So if you’re living by feelings, you better be sure that the thoughts that generate them make sense! This involves some reflection, some reality testing of one’s thoughts, what’s known in psychology as having an observing ego. This means you develop the habit of asking yourself the following questions: Does this make sense? What’s likely to happen if I do this? Is that a consequence I want or can live with?
What are the consequences?
This is an acknowledgement that every action and inaction has consequences, positive or negative. If you want to have a satisfying life, you need to think through those consequences. If you refuse to do that, you may wind up making lots of messes in your life and making messes in the lives of those you love. It’s more satisfying to prevent messes than to clean them up!
Thinking things through, living by logic, may sound like it takes all the joy out of life, but it adds joy.
Living from emotions can wreak havoc
If you want to buy something on impulse, you may have a wonderful trip or piece of furniture or article of clothing or jewelry that you may enjoy tremendously—till the credit card statement arrives! Then you have to juggle paying for the thing you wanted against paying for the things you need, such as rent or mortgage. If you led with logic, thinking through the consequences including the anxiety you’d feel when opening the credit card statement, maybe you wouldn’t make the impulse purchase and you’d protect your living situation and peace of mind.
Or maybe you wouldn’t “blow up your life” by impulsively going outside your relationship and would instead emotionally invest in making your relationship more passionate and meaningful.
Or maybe you’d think through whether you’re staying in an unsatisfying relationship out of fear of change. And instead of continuing that unsatisfying relationship, you’d decide that it’s better to be alone than to be in an empty relationship. Instead of just counting down the clock of your life, you can build a meaningful life that feels good!
Does logic mean the end of everything fun and joyful?
No!!! It means having more fun and joy by doing what makes sense, so that you don’t live your life plagued by anxiety and regret. Does anyone enjoy the feelings of anxiety and regret? No, I didn’t think so!
Maybe you grew up in a chaotic home environment with lots of drama. Now, as an adult, you’re unconsciously drawn to recreate chaotic, dramatic situations in your life. If there’s no drama, you may experience your life as pointless and boring. At first you may miss the adrenaline rush of danger, but that chronic adrenaline is not good for your health or for the overall quality of your life.
The new math is this: logic=joy addition (not joy subtraction)
If logic seems like joy subtraction instead of joy addition, therapy can help you learn to recalibrate your “enjoyment meter” so that you can have a life that makes sense—and is more fun and joyful! If this is “math” you’d like to explore, give me a call at 212-353-0296 or use the contact form. I look forward to helping you find the joy in everyday life!