I’ve been in weekly therapy over the past several months. My therapist often emphasizes using reason to counteract overblown emotions. Honestly, I have a hard time channeling reason when I’m very upset. I wrote the following essay to explain my thoughts to the therapist.
I have trouble controlling my emotions, specifically anger. The anger comes from deep within me, part a reaction to self-pity, part defensive mechanism for emotional self-preservation. My Borderline rages – while infrequent – do merit further examination and must be contained or expressed in a more productive manner.
My recent conflict with the auction company customer service staff was a teachable moment. A calm demeanor and strategic thinking prevailed. Indeed, nearly 2 hours after my explosion, returning from a run, the wisdom I needed before the confrontation came to me. Unfortunately, I could not take my explosion back.
After thinking through my feelings and thoughts in subsequent therapy sessions, I have come to a state of ambivalence with respect to emotion and reason. It would appear the superficial solution to my borderline rages would be to use reason in place of anger. The ability to reason was/is obviously clouded by my emotions, so I must simultaneously sooth my feelings to allow my mind to work through the conflict.
I have come to believe that emotion and reason are neither mutually exclusive, nor linear in nature. In reality, they must both coexist orbiting around the human self. Occasionally reason and emotion will line up together, occasionally they will be diametrically opposed.
As a matter of logic, the orbits of both reason and emotion can be divided into 4 different states, with varying degrees of one or the other in between. This produces the following set of four cases for making decisions:
1. The decision satisfies both emotion and reason.
2. The decision satisfies emotion but NOT reason.
3. The decision satisfies neither emotion nor reason.
4. The decision satisfies reason but NOT emotion.
I can only consider emotion and reason in tandem because that is how they exist in humans. The problem I have with reconciling strong emotions with sound reason is that it creates a battle inside me that needs to be waged each time I am tested.
In the famous Star Trek TV series, Mr. Spock – played by Leonard Nimoy – was not human, but rather a Vulcan. He was cast to offset the more idealist and emotionally haphazard human Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner.
Mr. Spock and his species operated solely on logical thought. In his world, for example, it is illogical to lie. Emotion has no place in his vocabulary because it clouds sound judgment. His form of decision making is in fact a step beyond utilitarianism: rather than seeking to benefit the majority, Vulcans could conceivably make a reasoned decision that was potentially dangerous to themselves or troubling to an outside observer.
Denying the emotion inside me is extremely difficult. Reason in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy can diffuse rudimentary emotional development, creating a more sophisticated, mature form of conditioned response. Like anything else, this takes practice.
I obviously have a problem with my stunted emotional and interpersonal development. It is as if this necessary maturation process ceased at age 10, while the rest of me plowed forward. As a result, I have relied on my strengths to keep me functional, yet even these more refined abilities do not prevent the inappropriate anger from surfacing.
We [the therapist and I] often talk about using reason. I agree it is helpful for working through day to day challenges. I must admit, however, that the emotional pain I carry with me is much like a ball and chain that never goes away.
To adequately address my anger, I believe I must rectify my emotional disposition while using reason to live more productively.