Are emotions an obstacle for happiness?

Well, while reading the title one would surely notice the oxymoron or irony of it. Of course happiness is an emotion, and if we eliminate emotions we´ll have no way of knowing if we are happy, certainly not to the usually aspired degree of Happiness. This is some of the contradiction people confront while thinking about rationality and emotions. I mean, if the Aristotelian Eudaimonia is the reason for our actions, then emotions should be the most relevant reason for our actions. This last deduction might frighten any reasonable being because we all know how irrational and terrifying, as well as surprising, emotions can be.

assumptions-rational-choice-theoryThe intuitive manner we live upon can be an obstacle and here is probably where emotions can be somewhat problematic. Today, thousands of empirical and statistical experiments reveal, throughout the world, and with overwhelming conclusions, that in most situations we have no idea what we are doing. For example, we now know beyond any doubt that we are thinking in a heuristic, bias way about everything around us, while believing we are actually being far from bias about anything at all. Fear, love, hate, anxiety, nervousness, so many emotions that dictate the way we think, act, and even how our bodies react to diseases or affect our decision-making abilities. Depressed people cannot manage to estimate clearly success, reasons for different activities. Put a nasty odor in a room and see how people turn to vote more conservative and become less open to change. We, as brainy animals, see and like to share patterns everywhere. We witness them when we think about someone and then see them in the street, when we think we are having a “lucky hand” (usually when we like to taste success) and in countless other occasions.

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On the other hand, who did not feel sorry of acting the way he or she did while being angry (at their partner, parent or even colleagues)? Which one of us don’t aspire to be able to always make the better choice, in business, in love, and all the way to the supermarket? We all saw and loved the movie Life of Pi, right? With so many examples of how it is nicer to simply let our emotions dictate the world around us and not dry calculation and science. But is it really true? Anyway, does ‘true’ really matter?

star-trek-spock1So many of us toy in our head with the idea of being more rational, calculated, pragmatic, but then, remembering Mr. Spock from Star Trek, we dismiss it with horror. Luckily, today, more and more scientific fields are getting together to show a harmonious existence between those two is possible and even very relevant. These new visions about life teach us not to dichotomize or generalize but to know, to understand and eventually to apply it in our lives.

Rationality through emotions! Although it might sound weird to some, it makes perfect sense. Actually, it is both rationality through emotions and vice versa, emotions through rationality. We hear quite a lot about rationality being robotic, mechanic, cold and emotions as warm, individualizing, communal. That is a common mistake for the simple reason that any person with the minor intelligence will never discard the existence of feelings in a person, even the most rational there is. Hence, the simple reality is that it´s irrational not taking emotions into account.

In the next clip there is a co-founder of an interesting center that is dedicated to those questions and more.

Here she speaks about Planning Fallacy:

From the same Center, here´s a checklist of Rationality: http://rationality.org/checklist/ and a recommended reading: http://rationality.org/reading/. Enjoy!

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