Rational Emotions


I tend to make decisions based on logic and reasoning, rather than on feelings and a desire for harmony. I think in very rational, intellectual terms. I approach situations asking the question, “Does it make sense?”

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test measures four dichotomies. One of those dichotomies is a pair of judging, or decision-making, functions: thinking and feeling. The thinking and feeling functions influence how we make decisions. Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things based on logic, reason, causal relationships, and consistency. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by empathizing with the situation, and attempting to achieve the greatest level of harmony and consensus. Everyone has both thinking and feeling functions to some extent, but the question is which function is more dominant.

My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging), and being a thinker, I tend to make decisions based on logic. I think objectively, and I weigh the pros and cons when making a decision. I often check my motives so as not to make a decision based unfairly on some emotionally weighted issue.

My friends know that I can be very empathic and understanding. While I do not have the natural empathy that a feeler has, I am able to logically conclude how someone may be feeling based on similar situations I have experienced. In addition, my intuitive function enables me to be sensitive to non-verbal forms of communication, which increases my sensitivity towards others’ emotional state. Having such an internal personality, I feel things deeply, and I can understand those feelings in other people. And I have learned how to be compassionate and understanding by listening to my friends and asking what they need. Finally, as everyone has both feeling and thinking functions to some extent, I have a fairly well-developed feeling function, particularly in comparison to other INTJs.

While I can easily appreciate emotions in other people, my bent toward intellectual analysis creates a lot of cognitive dissonance when I experience emotions myself. Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort created when a person has two conflicting ideas, feelings, or beliefs. For instance, if a woman is staunchly pro-life and then a dear friend has an abortion, the woman may feel very conflicted over how to best support her friend.

Because my analytical thinking is so strong, I tend to have the belief that my emotions are not valid, especially when my emotions conflict with what I rationally believe to be true. For instance, if I experience loss, I expect to feel grief and sadness, and that is okay. But if I feel jealous or sad and I cannot pinpoint a logical reason for it, I think that I do not have a right to those emotions. Paradoxically, I often reassure friends that their emotions are totally valid, and I speak truthfully; yet, at times I do not have patience with my own emotional reactions. We are our own worst critics, and it is very hard to be gentle with myself when I have emotions that I cannot rationally explain.

A related struggle for me is that at times it takes me awhile to figure out how I feel about something. This is frustrating to feelers, who are more in tune with how they are feeling, and especially to extraverted feelers who tend to process their feelings externally. I need to process through an event or situation internally and understand it before I can access and understand the related emotion. Again, this processing time is especially important when my emotions do not match the logic. It is very stressful for me to be pressured into discussing how I feel before I have time to process it, as I may not really understand how I feel.

God has brought me a long way in learning about myself and growing in my areas of weakness, as well as in my strengths. As I place myself in His hands, I have faith that He will continue to grow and sanctify me. I trust that He has given me my unique personality for a reason, for His ultimate glory. I struggle with my emotional reactions to experiences. But if you need someone to help you see things objectively, I’ve got your back.

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    • db
    • January 20th, 2010

    Commenting on an intellectual's blog entry is a little intimidating. But my desire to share with another IN overcomes the insecurity. You're brilliant. Love the way you think. Love the way you help me understand me. Sign of a good counselor. Professor counselor…keep writing.

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