Archive for the ‘ cognition ’ Category

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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Pop! Quiz

Perhaps, like me, you are still struggling with reacclimating yourself to your full-time work and/or school schedule after the minor procedure (e.g. Lifestyle Lift, LASIK, mini-lobotomy) and major relaxation (minus the hassle of family and friends) you experienced over the holidays.

So, the last thing you want is a pop quiz from the teach or a surprise test on the new Mission and Vision statement of your church or organization.

It can certainly be a daunting and challenging task to regulate alertness and clarity during the day, especially after a holiday hiatus. One effective yet unhealthy way to adjust would be through the measured use of uppers and downers; pop some caffeine or Benzedrine to get you going and keep you alert during the day, and use alcohol or Xanax to help numb and quiet your mind at night. I personally like to read books (hence, my handle) in the early morn’ and late in the eve (while cuddled up in my Snuggie) to help regulate my brain waves.

Alternatively, and as practice for potential surprises at school or work, I’ve devised a pop quiz to help warm your noodle and help you get adjusted back to reality. Should you answer incorrectly, you will be immediately disgusted and appalled by the appearance of a popular yet nerdy television character portrayed in the form of a doll with an oversized, wobbly head. If you answer correctly, you will be rewarded not just with the good feeling that you got the answer right, but with a visual affirmation that you are correct.

One important value you will learn in school is giving credit where credit is due. Plagiarism can lead to expulsion and ridicule. Hence, I thank my fellow blogger, Classic Culture, for the quizzical idea.

1. Coldplay’s popular song title, “Yellow,” released in 2000, was inspired by

a. The dry, dusty coating pollen phenomenon that occurs every April in Georgia, lasting about three weeks, that turns the air, cars, and eyeballs yellow

b. The color of the stars in the night sky

c. A metaphor for joy and happiness

d. The Yellow Pages phone directory

2. The little red cooler that I tote around with me and that sits affectionately on the extra chair in my office contains (at least, as I’ve convinced Randy “the Communications Guy” Renbarger)

a. Fiber supplements that support a healthy digestive system

b. A severed head

c. Tofurkey and Nayonnaise

d. A spare kidney in case I need a transplant on short notice

3. During staff prayer on Tuesday mornings at the large southeastern Presbyterian Church where I am employed, it is socially acceptable to

a. Check and reply to emails on your mobile device of choice (e.g. iPhone, Blackberry, etc.)

b. Confess to God that you are experiencing spiritual warfare

c. Slouch in your seat and begin to nod off if you are sitting near the back of the room

d. Laugh at Bob Carter’s jokes

4. The behaviors that most annoy me at the fitness center where I work out are

a. Lecherous men who incorrectly assume that because they wear tank tops and walk around with their chests puffed out that they are playas and mack on all the young attractive ladies

b. People who use the ergometer incorrectly by letting their legs bend before releasing their arms on the return stroke

c. New Years’ Resolutioners who clog up the equipment and lose an average of 3.2 pounds in January before promptly returning to a state of Oprah-watching and bon-bon-eating whereby they gain 10 pounds in the first week of February

d. Would-be bodybuilders who swing the equipment with poor form so as to impress the passersby with their “strength” but who actually look ridiculous because they don’t know what they are doing

5. My Myers-Briggs personality is (the best one to be)

a. INTJ

b. ENFJ

c. ISFP

d. Personality theory is bunk

6. According to a prior post on my blog, I celebrate Christmas by

a. Crying exactly one tear into a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, preferably the cranberry (for the promotion of a healthy urinary tract, of course) flavored variety

b. Decking my humble abode with twinkly lights and a life-sized Santa

c. Slaving in the kitchen all day to prepare a delicious Tofu turkey with vegan dressing for all my friends and relatives

d. Protesting consumerism by purchasing absolutely nothing for anyone in my life

Self-Esteem

People everywhere in this country are struggling with high self-esteem and inflated egoism. Overconfidence and strong self-regard run rampant. Sadly, there is a paucity of research and information from our psychologists and physicians to address this problem.

Granted, I do not have an official “medical degree” from an accredited university, but I have long suffered from what society has casually labeled a “disease” or “disorder.” As if suffering from high self-regard isn’t painful enough, I now must deal with the stigma associated with having an illness, and a mental illness at that.

Nonetheless, if I can use my experience living with this atrocious condition to help others in some small way, I may feel a minute measure of existential relief, like my existence is worth something in this cold, hard world.

One effective method for knocking down one’s ego a few notches is to peruse fashion or health magazines. Women, look through the pages of beauty magazines at the flawless, taut skin of the models. Admire their perfect (albeit airbrushed) physique and skin, the shininess of their lips, the sparkle in their eyes, and meditate on how far you fall short. Really stop to consider how dull your eyes and flesh look, how flabby your stomach feels, how jiggly your thighs are. Men, examine the musculature of the burly males in the fitness mags and spend time pontificating on the puniness of your own pectorals in comparison. Remind yourself that you can never, ever look like the models that grace the glossy pages because you are unattractive and do not have what it takes.

Another inexpensive method (you may already have the supplies at home!) for lowering your self-image is to gaze into one of those vanity mirrors that magnifies your reflection 2x. Why stop there! The higher the magnification and the brighter the lighting, the more effective this technique will be. Carefully scan for every blemish, mark, stray hair, and pimple that you can find. Tweeze and pluck, pick and pinch until you start to understand how ugly and flawed your skin really is.

Never underestimate the power of the mind. Try being honest with yourself. When you start to have confident, assured thoughts, immediately stop and tell yourself in a firm voice (aloud if you like) that you are ugly and worthless. This type of “thought-stopping” may feel awkward at first, but once you get in the habit of countering your irrational thinking, this technique will seem natural and you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

Your friends and co-workers can be an enormous source of toxicity as you struggle with this issue. When your friends are supportive and encouraging, refuse to listen to their nonsensically affirming feedback. When your co-workers advocate one of your ideas or compliment your new outfit, refuse to associate with them any further. Decline future meeting requests and business lunches on the grounds that they are being egocentric, mocking you in your difficult and very real struggle. It is important to surround yourself with people who will make you feel hopeless and helpless, folks who will undermine your happiness and belittle your successes. Choosing friends who are passive-aggressive and/or manipulative can really help you in your battle against high self-esteem.

Finally, physical activity is your enemy at a time like this. Any type of exercise in which you engage will cause your brain to release harmful endorphins that will make you feel happy and energetic. Eschew this type of behavior in favor of sitting on the couch watching TV. Watching television burns fewer calories hour-for-hour than sleeping, so try to stay awake. While you lounge around randomly clicking the selector, engorge yourself with foods that will make you feel lethargic and bloated. Choose foods that are processed and contain a high amount of salt and saturated fat. Select snacks with virtually no fiber or vitamin content. Eat plenty of refined sugar because it will cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, and you will feel miserable.

Remember, you are not alone in your struggles. The first step in getting better is to admit you have a problem. Help is out there.