Balancing Desire and Reason

Follow your heart but take your brain with youI’ve said this before – we don’t seem to like moderation or balance.  I don’t know if it is humans in general or something specific to our society. Whether it is diets or medical treatments or even politics we want that all or nothing answer that makes things easy. Some people make all of the choices in their lives in an extreme way. They do it by deciding to either be driven entirely by logic and reason or to only follow passion and emotion.

Both sides can make fairly convincing arguments.  If you live your life by reason and logic, you can (at least in theory) avoid risk and hurt and pain.  If you carefully choose what parts of yourself to expose to others, what relationships to enter into, what life choices to make then you don’t have to put yourself at risk of being hurt.  That sounds pretty good, right?  Never having that overwhelming feeling of heartbreak. Never having to feel the agony or embarrassment of failing at something important.  Who wants to feel any of that?

And the other side, the people the lead by emotion, will tell you just the opposite. If you don’t follow your passion, your desire, then you’ll never have the chance to experience the incredible highs.  The risk of getting hurt pales in comparison to the potential joy you can find.  So not following any opportunity to embrace your emotions and desires is potentially lost ecstasy.

But as is so often true in life there are perspectives that lie in between these extremes. Those perspectives reflect concepts like moderation and balance.  Using moderation is often not as easy as following an extreme.  It requires thought, awareness, patience and judgement. But it definitely has its benefits over following an extreme.

The problem with the pure reason approach is this – you can’t really avoid all pain and all risk.  You just change what risk and what pain you’ll experience.  And while it is true that you may (but not necessarily) have more control over the type and timing of that pain, the bottom line is you will still have it…there is no way to truly avoid all risk.  Things happen to us and to others that are out of our control. Those things can still leave us exposed to pain and hurt.  And one of the nasty facts is that if we try to control our lives and the people in it to avoid risk and hurt, we almost invariably cause it.  You can’t manage life to that degree without causing frustration and irritation in others.  And ultimately we cause ourselves pain because we are essentially numbing our emotions in an attempt to avoid potential hurt.  And when you numb part, you numb all.  Nothing will feel as good, as fun, as loving, as enjoyable…because we can’t selectively numb.

And while the pure emotional approach undoubtedly gives you opportunity for lots of joy and pleasure, it also has a lot of pitfalls.  The purely emotional approach can open us unnecessarily to hurt and pain.  Because when we give up reason and logic in the name of passion and desire, we start making riskier decisions.  We ignore warning signs. Not the signs that “hey, I may get hurt here”, but the signs that say “HEY, YOU ARE LIKELY TO GET HURT HERE!” I’ve seen so many people that use this approach act confused or even shocked when they get hurt.  But sometimes it is just too apparent that this is likely to happen.

So what is the answer?  Do both, of course. Open yourself to risk.  Acknowledge that some pain and hurt is inherent in life.  And realize that in order to get rewards you have to take risks.  But be smart about it.  Use your brain!  Consider the potential for risk.  Ask yourself questions – “How likely am I to get hurt?”, “Is the potential reward really worth it?”, “Am I being honest with myself?”, “Am I overlooking warning signs?”

It is true that taking risks and being vulnerable is a path towards connection, joy, excitement and more.  But you don’t have to rush in with reckless abandon.  And being logical and reasonable can significantly reduce the risk of getting hurt.  But that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all risk and potential for happiness.  Balance.  Follow your passion, your desire.  But do it with your eyes open.  Consider the risks and rewards.  Make smart and informed choices.  Only you can decide how much risk you are willing to take so you get to decide where to draw the line.  Just don’t go to one extreme and then be surprised when you don’t get what you really want.

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About awentherapy

I am Jay Blevins, LMFT (www.awentherapy.com). I am a licensed systems therapist with a private practice in Madison, WI. While I work with individuals and partners around a wide variety of issues, my primary focus in on alternative relationship structures, alternative sex and sexuality, and power dynamics. I am a contributor to various relationship and sexuality blogs and publications and have been a frequent presenter at alternative lifestyle events and psychotherapy conferences.
This entry was posted in Awen Therapy, Challenges, Choices, Connection, Control, Decisions, Emotions, Mistakes, Relationships, Reward, Risk, Therapy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Balancing Desire and Reason

  1. I love this. I definitely needed this reminder today. 🙂

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