The Head-Heart Seesaw

Managing our emotions has been a challenge for men for generations. Many of us grew up having been told to be strong, unemotional and collected. Men should be tough; no argument here. The obvious challenge with that is we are also still human. Men hurt, we get scared, we get overwhelmed, and we have insecurities.

The most successful men I know don't run from or minimize the way they feel. Instead, in a sort of mindful balancing act not unlike a playground seesaw, they walk the line of rationality, using their heads and emotionality, living in our hearts. These men know that like the seesaw, the higher one side goes, the lower the other side falls. Said another way, the more emotional we become, the harder it is to reason.

Rational (Head ) vs. Emotional (Heart)

When we are in a rational mindset, we make decisions based on facts, reason, and logic. We use our heads. More often than not, this results in positive or neutral outcomes. Rational thinking keeps us from taking unnecessary risks or acting on impulse. However, as with any extreme position, if a man is only logical and never listens to his heart, he is a robot. A man can't cultivate when he is purely rational because cultivation is a function of the heart. Read this piece for more on cultivation.

While an emotional mindset will allow us to cultivate, we don't think as clearly, and we make decisions based on our emotions. When we are overly emotional, we are unable to be rational. There are plenty of moments in life where it pays to be emotional, to act on what's in our hearts. Emotions are what make us human. When a child becomes emotional they stop reasoning, they start pretending, or they act on impulse. That's why as parents, we encourage them to take a break, sit down, or get some space when they become overwhelmed; it provides time for the seesaw to come back down.

Now, it would be nice if the seesaw could stay balanced, but that's not the world we live in. Instead, the best we can do is practice being aware of our head/heart state. Just being aware of the state of your seesaw will help you make better decisions. As with any mindfulness practice, the idea here is not to change your mindset but to observe it. Just noticing my state of mind almost always provides me with enough insight to adjust my approach, step back, and regain my perspective.


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