Knee-Jerk Reactions Keep Us Kicking Each Other In The Face

I grew up being told I was dramatic, sensitive, emotional, and a plethora of other words meant to gaslight me into feeling like my emotions weren’t valid. Add an “over-” in front of any those words for extra flare, and that was one of the number one descriptors that I saw myself as. Too “emotional” to be seen as logical. Too “emotional” to be seen as strong. Due to being told that I was too emotional, I took it upon myself to learn all the ways in which this might be true so that I could stop being “wrong.” What I learned, instead, is that being incredibly data-driven with your logic isn’t helpful, and letting your emotions completely command your reactions is also not helpful. In both ways, we tend to miss one thing or another.

Emotional Intelligence and Rationale

The popular notion that emotional = illogical is a harmful rhetoric that gaslights everyone. It keeps people from taking women seriously, and bullies men into not showing their emotions. I have strongly fought against the notion that emotions are not to be taken seriously. On the same side of that coin are the people who believe that the colder and more data-driven you are, the smarter and more logical you are. I am strongly opposed to this perspective since most humans are complete individuals with many sides where emotions must be taken into account when collecting data. The classic example of our fear-based response to be able to lift a car off of a child despite it not being something we could “normally” do is my quick case in point. We do not know what we are capable of until we are put in said situation. We have our own blind spots, conditioning, self-denial and other aspects that make it so that we can’t realistically make the argument that emotions are an invalid form of intelligence. Thus, being sensitive to these emotions and that of others is a form of awareness that any human being considering themselves to be intelligent should take pride in developing, rather than scoffing, ignoring, or rolling their eyes at it.

Mental Illness as a Scapegoat
Before I was ever diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or ADHD, I was resistant to a formal analysis because part of me was afraid I’d use it as an excuse to under-achieve. Honestly, the complete opposite happened. Once I was examined and my mental state was discussed by a professional, I felt validated more than anything else. I remember him saying, “I’m surprised it’s taken this long for you to be diagnosed, but I believe your ability to adapt has made it possible for you to hide a lot of these things from yourself.” It was reassuring, and I felt like I didn’t have to feel guilty for the episodes of deep sorrow and hopelessness that I’d get while feeling like “I had no reason to feel sad”. Instead of my mental illnesses becoming an excuse for me to under-achieve, they had given me a reason to become more aware. I wanted to have as much understanding of my mind as possible, and in any way that I could, hack it for my own benefit. Because of this, I have developed a keen sense of awareness, which combined with academic studies and personal experience, have allowed me to embrace emotional intelligence through radical compassion and the courage of vulnerability.

Knee-Jerk Reactions and Tone Policing
Knee-Jerk reactions usually stem from wanting to defend ourselves. I became someone that had a lot of knee-jerk reactions due to the constant need for people to tone-police me. There’s a phenomenal comic about tone-policing that can be found here, but the key factor that I learned about it was that while I was being told to “calm down” one way or another, my emotion behind the argument was actually central to the issue being discussed. Once I understood this, I decided I was allowed to be emotional about topics, and therefore allowed to be defensive.

And sure, I am absolutely allowed to be defensive and emotional. But did I also want to be to be heard? Unfortunately, no matter how valid, valuable, justified, or righteous my emotion, many times a defensive reaction will come off to sensitive people as an attack, causing them to also be defensive. If I wanted to use my privilege to have discussions with people, understand their perspective, or share knowledge and education, then I was going to have to learn to not go on the defensive right away.

That doesn’t mean not protecting myself, which is imperative. It just meant changing my tactic into one that would get me heard. Sometimes, we just don’t have the means or the space to be able to pull away and not get defensive because other people are attacking us and hurting us with their words and actions. But if I could emotionally afford to, I wanted to learn to listen to people and create a space for them, if I felt like they showed willingness and open-mindedness. This isn’t to say that it is the responsibility of those being oppressed to create a space for those doing the oppressing. This is to say that those of us that have the privilege and opportunity, have the responsibility to learn to gather our feelings the best that we can and occupy the spaces that we are afforded with firm compassion and never-ending evolving tactics so as to make it safer for our POC, queer, disabled and other marginalized comrades. As the comic explains, the need for emotion is necessary, and a discussion devoid or emotional intelligence is lacking realistic layers to what the human condition needs and is capable of.

Emotional Logic As Strategy

There are those of us who would pretend that remaining stoic, uncaring, or to borrow a Mexican saying, “vale-madrista” (unphased by anything) is somehow “cool” or more valuable than caring and including emotion in their perspective, are actually following an obsolete and chauvinist mentality that is one of the most harmful aspects of limited and toxic masculinity today. Telling men to remain “cool and collected” at all times and that not showing emotion is being “strong” is going against our very human nature and lacking an open and evolving mind. In other words, it’s lacking emotional maturity.

And on the other hand, acting with pure, raw, unfiltered emotion may also result in bringing about a similar reaction. If we can learn to combine emotional logic to discussions, that’s where we can truly shine as whole, creative, perceptive, and resourceful individuals.

So while I am an incredibly emotional individual that lives with depression and anxiety, have overwhelming awareness of the state of the world, cares enormously for humans and their troubles, and wears their heart on their sleeve, that has also led me to being a logical, astute, and perceptive human that should and wants to be capable of always being better about bringing in my emotions to better serve not only myself, but my community.

And if I ever let my emotions get the best of me, I can strive to be aware of it, call myself in with love and compassion, and reevaluate a strategy to get my message across.

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