The Great Dualism

We’re not talking here about THE great dualism (being and non-being), but about the great dualistic argument between thinking and emotion that is always going on in our heads. The argument goes back and forth thusly – I think this, but I feel that. This battle between thought and emotion remains one of the great management issues in our personal lives – and in the work of coaches.

The problem is that emotion has such a primacy in our hardwiring that we must often take great pains just to bring our more “rational” side to the table as it were. I have flashes of emotion that can instantly bring my whole body into sync with an emotional state. I have yet to have a flash of cognition that does the same.

This is important because I need to recognize my filters if I want to change something in my thinking or my actions. In terms of the Ladder of Inference the battle looks something like this:

  1. Something happens in the Real World.
  2. I select “data” from that event. The great dualism begins for me at the conscious level here, even though a great deal of processing has already been going on “beneath” my consciousness. The great battle begins over what I think about the event – and how I feel about the event. I select data, typically from both camps.
  3. I add meaning to this event from my culture and my personality. The great battle rages between intellectual meaning and emotional meaning. Emotional meaning carries more force unless I aggressively manage it.
  4. I now make some assumptions from this meaning that I’ve added. The great battle continues. I make immediate assumptions based on my visceral feelings. I make what I hope are fairly objective assumptions based on reason.
  5. I draw some conclusions. I hope I’m being fairly logical. I also hope I’m in touch with how I feel and why.
  6. From these conclusions I adopt some beliefs. I think this, therefore I believe that. I feel this, therefore I believe something else.
  7. I finally take actions based on these beliefs. Either passionately, coldly and rationally, or some combination of both.

That’s a pretty quick and basic thumbnail view. And of course, we’re not even addressing drives and gene expression and the other basic parts of Ted that influence our behaviors.

The point to keep in mind, both about ourselves and others, is that this great dualistic battle is always raging, and that it takes a bit of effort to keep one side from dominating the other. That’s why we have family and friends. That’s why there are coaches.

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Driven to Distraction

Maslow’s Well-Known Hierarchy of Needs

The title says it in a nutshell. The third primary division in our brain processes, at least in the model that I use, has to do with drives. When you’re hungry – it’s hard to think about anything else. As is the case with thirst, or sex, or any of the other fundamental drives that determine significant aspects of who we are. Literally, we can be driven to distraction.

It’s a similar situation with less physical drives. Security. Intimacy. Self-fulfillment. And a whole number of others. Opinions differ as to what constitutes a drive. Or even what “drives the drive” if you will. But unmet drives and associated needs have a significant impact on our behavior. And on our worldviews.

Three buckets if we must – thoughts, emotions and drives. Together they define a fair portion (though not all) of who we are. Individually – and collectively. Think of these three buckets as Ted, or everyman. Ted thinks about where he (or she as the case may be) wants to go in life. He has goals. He wants to get along with others. But he keeps doing things that unravel everything he wants. Shooting himself in the foot as the old saying goes. Sometimes wrong thinking does him in. Sometimes it’s his emotions . . . and other times it’s a need. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’ve all been Ted.