Making choices with head and heart

Carmen BryceBlog posts

“The most confused we ever get is when we’re trying to convince our heads of something our heart knows is a lie.” – Karen Marie Moning

Life isn’t easy. Our day to day experiences are enough to make us feel anxious and overwhelmed. That stress and anxiety increases as we struggle to find a balance between what our head says and what our heart wants. It’s this conflict that causes problems in making decisions or even trusting a decision once it has been made. Being able to find harmony between the head and heart can be challenging but it is certainly possible.

The conflict arises because these parts are coming from very different perspectives. The head is rational and clinical and usually makes a decision based on the facts presented. It plans and looks ahead, weighs up the pros and cons then follows the path which makes the most logical sense. The heart on the other hand is based in emotion, you feel a choice or decision. Something inside of you is pulling in a direction, sometimes with no rhyme or reason. There usually is no logic, just our intuition telling us it’s right. Coming from such different places can feel like these parts of us are speaking two different languages which results in confusion.

To have a better understanding it’s good to visualise these parts of us as two separate entities. (There is a great comic strip called ‘The Awkward Yeti’ that demonstrates this brilliantly.) Often our heart is connected to a younger version of ourselves, the side of us that initially felt emotions without judgement and ridicule. While our head is often older, usually more sensible and full of rules we applied as time went on. This can best be demonstrated when we feel upset. The head may try to explain away the emotions, telling us we’re being silly and to move on. While at the same time the heart is feeling hurt or sad. More often than not we listen to our head and try to push away the feelings. When really all we need is to acknowledge what we’re feeling, decide what we need and move forward.

If you have gotten used to minimising your emotions then getting in touch with them can sound like a scary idea. It can seem much safer to live in our heads. However, we are emotional beings. Emotions are an energy and whether you acknowledge them or not, they are there. If you never allow yourself to feel sad/mad/annoyed/hurt/angry or the range of emotions we are hard-wired for, that energy stays in the body. It can build up and result in depression or general feelings of unhappiness.

It’s all about balance, because living from an entirely emotional experience isn’t healthy either. We could end up living in a place of reactions. Where every emotional trigger sends us into a tailspin. Many of us have grown accustomed to living in one place or the other, head or heart. Which is why harmonising the two is so tricky, it’s uncharted territory.  As is often the case, the block is fear. Fear of feeling too much or too little. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of the unknown. Fear limits our experiences and keeps us stuck. The unknown is scary but if we aren’t happy with the way things are now, change has to happen. That means acknowledging that change is scary but doing it anyway.

Ideally it would be great if we could live in a holistic place within ourselves. Making choices on what feels right and what makes sense. By doing that we can stand by the decisions we make and trust that we did the best we could with the information we had. Hindsight can be a hindrance if we use it as a way to judge ourselves and our past experiences. Looking back at past choices and mistakes usually results in putting ourselves down because we ‘should have’ know better. You didn’t know better and that’s okay. You did the best you could and that’s enough. Allow your mind to see all angles and allow your heart to trust that it will be okay. Life is hard enough without you second guessing every choice that has already been made and cannot be changed. Breathe and move forward, you won’t make the same mistakes again.

Written by MyMind Dublin therapist Angela Amirault and featured in A Lust for Life.