By Beatrice Mokwunye
Decisions based on emotions are destructive. According to neuroscientists, the human brain is divided into three parts: the thinking or cognitive brain (neocortex); the emotional or mammalian brain (limbic system); and, the instinctual brain. These brains affect the way we respond to situations and circumstances.
In his best-selling book, “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman explicitly illustrates their impact on our decision-making system. According to him, when one of our sense organs—eyes, nose, ear, tongue, or skin—receives an information from its surrounding, for instance seeing a snake, hearing a gunshot, having someone step on our toes, etc, As Dr Goleman explains, “it sends the message to the thalamus where it is translated into the language of the brain most of these messages are (analyzed and assessed for meaning in the thinking brain–the neocortex) if that response is emotional, a signal goes to the amygdala (the seat of emotions) to activate the emotional centers.” This happens to be the normal action of interpretation. But (instead of going straight to the neocortex), a smaller portion of the original signal goes (directly) into the amygdala from the thalamus in a quicker transmission, allowing a quicker response. Thus, the amygdala can trigger emotional response before the cortical centers (cognitive parts of the brain) have fully understood what is happening.” Simply put, the emotional brain works faster, and most times less accurate, than the cognitive brain.
Any action triggered by emotional response is often regretted. For instance, falling-in-love: when you’re in love, everything about that person seems to drives you ‘crazy.’ You’re overly excited, restless and often incomplete without hearing his voice or feeling his presence.
In fact, to you, he’s the perfect man, and no one can change it, not even your mum or closest friend. Based on this feeling, you make a marital vow to him. After the marriage, when the emotion subsides, regret sweeps in, “this isn’t the man I married. He has changed.” No, he didn’t change; he has been like that even before you met him. What changed is your thought-process. Your emotional brain has died down giving way to right thinking. It is in your thinking that you realise your differences. When you’re at the edge of emotions, you don’t think.
Emotions can only show you the part that glitters. When you’re awarded two contracts: one of 5 million Naira and the other, half a million, what’s the first choice you’d make? The 5 million, right? That’s your emotions speaking to you, telling how much clothes and expensive shoes, jewellery, and all expensive material you can upgrade your social status with, how many cars you can afford and how much respect you’ll command if you choose the 5-million-naira contract. It’ll never tell you how demanding and unhealthy the contract will be to you. And, chances are, if you go for the one that glitters, when the emotion dies down, you realize how your mistake—then regret. Whenever you regret, it’s your thinking brain that is presently active telling the right to have done.
All forms of emotions—joy, peace, anger, sorrow, resentment, sadness, happiness, excitement, fear among others—are deceptive. But, we can tame them by choosing to remain ‘unreactive’ when obsessed about anything. By keeping calm when obsessed, we unconsciously subdue our emotions and automatically active the cognitive circuit.
If you can calm down your emotions, you can think right and make right choices. So, whenever you’re excited, before making a decision, Stop! Count one to hundred.
If you’re angry, before making decisions, Stop! Count one to hundred.
And if you’re deeply in love, before saying “I do,” Stop! Count up to a million. This subjects your emotion and actives your cognitive circuit, so you can think right, weigh all consequences and eventually, make right decisions. Don’t make a decision in the pool of emotions else you’ll find yourself in the mud.