In an exchange I had recently, a very intelligent man had a thought that stuck with me, primarily because I had been thinking what he said but had not the words to properly express it:

When emotions rise, logic is devalued.
It stems from a deep emotional disdain..
Emotional attachments lead to suffering.

This is it, mainly the first and third lines: too often nowadays, we get emotionally attached to people and things we should not, and it impedes our ability to reason and act based on it. We are then none the better for it.

It’s no accident that financial advisers are always quick to talk about how we have to be careful of our emotions when it comes to things like investing or buying a car or house. We have to be rational about what we can afford and what we need to save or do about our financial situation. If we get emotionally attached to a house or car we can’t afford or has a serious non-redeeming quality (maybe the house has more in repairs than we think), we’re bound to make a decision that hurts us. Likewise with an investment – we might invest in something that doesn’t have a chance, or hang on too long.

This is hardly the only case of it, though. We get emotionally attached to sports teams, and let their fortunes – or lack thereof – affect us more than we should, while also being unable to see a team’s flaws or when they deserve to lose a game. We get emotionally attached to celebrities or (worse) politicians, and we can’t see their flaws, demons, or even understand things related to them.

We’re so attached, we think we have to leap to their defense, even though they likely have no idea we even exist. Of course, the real reason to leap to their defense isn’t really for the celebrity, but to validate our emotional attachment.

Someone says the Red Sox are a bad team. An emotionally attached fan – I used to be one – would instantly have to respond with something defending them, using no supporting facts, or attack the person saying it. But why? The Red Sox don’t know about this exchange and surely wouldn’t care if they did.

Someone says they think a certain singer is trending down with recent CDs, that their music isn’t getting better. An emotionally attached fan would get upset, attack the person and/or rush to defend them without any supporting facts. But why? That singer doesn’t even know us.

You take issue with something a team did – maybe a detail in a player contract – saying it should be outlawed or was outrageous, and someone points out that your team did that as well with a player. Your response? Not to think deeper and realize that either (a) what the team did isn’t so bad since your own team did it, which means it’s perfectly legal, or (b) your team is no different, so the outrage now seems odd. No, it’s to leap to your team’s defense once again without supporting facts. (Because maybe their situation was different.)

It’s one thing to have a little spirited debate, but that happens when you use facts along the way. Mere emotional exchanges are not good for us; they don’t accomplish anything. They add unnecessary stress to our lives, we waste time and energy, we sometimes cut ties with people we have long-standing relationships with over it, and all for people who don’t even know us. (It’s one thing if we’re leaping to the defense of a celebrity/athlete/politician we have a personal relationship with – a family member or close friend.)

We have to step back and check our emotions when it comes to many things. It’s not that we should ignore them entirely, but they have limits. Our biggest decisions, and even our smaller ones that we make every day, demand that we be as rational as possible. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for more bad than good results no matter the context.

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