Putting Emotions In Their Place

As I’ve said, I’ve been on a journey. In this journey, I’ve come to have a more whole self–a self that is no longer fractured between the cognitive and the emotional.

We–whoever “we” are–tend to privilege the cognitive aspects of ourselves over emotion. Somewhere in western history, we decided emotions were inferior to reason. I’ve decided not to argue about the intelligence of emotions or how emotions really guide us in our intellect.

Instead, I want to value emotions for themselves.

Now, I have a history of practicing Stoicism. You’d think, then, if you took a stereotypical view of Stoicism, that I’d value emotions less than anyone. But that’s not the case.

I think the devaluation of emotions is linked to the oppression of certain humans, animals and nature. Somewhere along the way, emotions got to be associated with being wild, free and, sometimes, “womanly.” (And, of course, woman is thought to be inferior.)

It’s true that emotions can be wild, free and unchecked. But that doesn’t mean to suppress them. That doesn’t mean to rely solely on the cognitive aspect of yourself. Because, even if you don’t think so, the cognitive aspect without the check of emotions–without being a whole self, together and integrated–can run you afowl, too.

Think about my case: I knew in my cognitive self that all humans were equal. But it was only after integrating the emotional self that I actually came to practice this. The virtue of justice has now (finally!) been more integrated into my character because of emotions!

That’s no small feat. And emotions were, perhaps, the cause.

It wasn’t fellow-feeling. I had that already. It was me being entirely integrated. It was me being “in tune” with my own emotions that made me develop virtues.

So let’s not denigrate emotions anymore. If we are in fact two halves–one part cognitive and one part emotional–each half should be given an equal share in your life.

And we don’t have to resort to talking about how emotions are “intelligent” or are the prime cause of our ideas and thoughts in order to do this. Each part of you should be in equal proportion. So let your emotions do their thing. And, when that happens, you may gain virtues, feel whole and complete and you won’t have to worry too, too much about either your emotions or your intellect running amok.

Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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