My Struggle: A Logical Mind in an Emotional World

Driven by what seems to make sense, but in a world of feelings – here’s a look at one of my biggest internal struggles in life: Being a logical mind in an emotional world.

A logical mind in an emotional world
A shot from Sai Kung, Hong Kong. A bunch of people said this photo looked contemplative, but really it was me just trying to see a stingray that was in the water

For as long as I can remember, I have taken a very structured approach to life. From the earliest ages, my family assured me that I was born 40. Not like Benjamin Button style, but in terms of how I interact with the world. I enjoy good conversation, I like having my ducks in a row, I try to be organized when it comes to events or career, and I don’t usually enjoy unnecessary lead times or standing idle when there’s something that needs to be done. Not always the sort of approach you expect a young child to have, but even in those younger years and into this point of life even now, it’s the approach that others would regularly encounter me taking. One of my older female friends refers to me as “a bit of an old soul”.

To me, in a lot of ways, every issue has a root cause, every end has a beginning, and every decision can be traced back to the ones that came before it. “a + b = c”. I live in the analytical left and I’m probably one of the most logical types of people that my friends know.

So what’s my struggle? It isn’t with the logical aspect of life necessarily, but rather with how this sort of mind interacts with a world that isn’t always logical. Where other people are seemingly driven by factors beyond those that “make sense”. In short, my struggle is being a logical mind in an emotional world.

A track record of success

I think I’ve got to acknowledge firstly that there is a strong reason why I have maintained this approach to life over the years. And the reason is this:

It works.

No, it really does. And it’s rarely actually off the mark.

Let’s take my career for example. I work in IT. I’m a software consultant. Throughout my entire career, I have made a living out of successfully negotiating various logical paths in computer software to help produce some pretty fully featured things. Different services, websites and products, formed of an extended set of logic that drives every decision the application makes. I’ve now been a consultant in this world for a number of years, and have been involved in running and/or advising teams of people around creating and maintaining software, and all the decisions around it. Even outside of the software itself, many problems in the business world can be solved by following a logical train of thought. If a project is starting to blow its budget, then there’s a cause for it. There is some problem with either the way we estimated the project, with a team member’s direction or skill level or morale, or with part of the business process we are following. 100% of the time, following this thought process through produces a helpful and usually profitable result.

But beyond that, I have found that logical approaches also work with people. While not everyone always wants to be reminded or is aware of it at the time, there is usually a root issue behind whatever the surface issue is. For instance, I’ve seen people blow up at other people “out of the blue”. Is it because they suddenly had a lapse of judgment and lashed out for no reason? No. If you probe a bit further, you’ll find that there has been something happen to them earlier in their day, or even earlier in their life, that has come into conflict with whatever situation has been presented to them. When someone’s behaviour is entirely destructive, it’s usually because the heart of the person is frustrated or lost. When there is a negative feeling of loneliness or frustration, it’s usually because of someone’s continued thought patterns down a certain direction, or a continued pattern of isolation… which also has its reasons for being. Just ask any psychologist and they’ll let you know their main job is to guide people towards the right decisions, but also in helping them recognize their true triggers and sources of doubt or difficulty.

I find the truth is much more matter of fact than it is emotional.

My source of feelings

That’s not to say I don’t have feelings. I actually have massive feelings. I feel both good and bad experiences in a massive way. In fact, you wouldn’t even believe how big the feelings are I’ve had while writing this. I just find that my feelings follow my decisions. For instance, if I see an event happening at work, my logical mind will find the situation, examine all the reasons why the situation is good or bad, and based on my internal assessment, I will find myself gleeful in celebration, or quickly building anger or frustration and going to have “one of those” sorts of conversations.

In my relationships, even moreso. I think about a number of the people I’ve pursued in my life, and it has always started with a logical train of thought. I’ll see a person, spend quite a bit of time with them (intentionally), allow myself to see them for who they are in all their qualities and seasons and interactions, consider whether or not we enjoy each other’s company and are heading in a similar direction, and make a decision on suitability. I find once I’ve thought it through and made a decision either way, my feelings grow in that direction.

Not just romantically, but friends, family, work relationships, all the rest of it. It’s the same thing. Assess, process, feel. Usually in that order. I don’t usually allow my feelings to go first – to me, I believe any feelings that I have are already following whatever decisions I’m making, whether consciously or otherwise.

If it makes logical sense, if I’ve sought all the advice and spent a suitable amount of time processing whatever it is, my heart will follow soon thereafter.

The point of conflict

If you’re not this type of person, you’ve already seen a point of conflict with what you’ve read so far, and if you are this sort of person, you can relate. Either way, both types of people know where my struggle lies, and that is in interfacing with others who aren’t as structured or formatted as I am.

That’s not to say I don’t get along with people. Quite the contrary – I love people, and I strive for peace with all men and women. I know there are definitely people who don’t like me (I could even name some of them), but for the most part, my interactions with others are pretty pleasant. I’m a big believer in grace and forgiveness – in giving people chances to grow and become all they’re meant to be.

And yet in my own life I’ve had to balance all this with the inner frustration of running into decisions that you could deem “illogical”. The ones that don’t seem to make sense. When someone’s initial words or behaviour go one way, but then the follow up goes another. In a similar vein, people in these sorts of boats find me frustrating because I have set my formulaic approach that is not playing nicely with their approach where a + b might equal c, but it doesn’t mean c is the answer. In fact, I can think of several big conversations in different areas of my life that have literally started with another person (or a few people) saying, “It is logical, but…”

Factors beyond logic

But maybe it’s not that their behaviour is illogical – perhaps it is that there are factors beyond logic that are more important in their decision making process. Namely, feelings. Ironically, I understand this very well, as my personality type is actually feelings heavy. The conflict is that my personality type seems to be a contradiction of itself. But what do you do when logic says one thing, but your heart says something else?

And my logical mind would continue to go down this train of thought with a few different answers to that question. First of all, how can you understand a situation when you can’t even understand yourself? I think most of the worst decisions we all make in our lives are around a failure to understand or face what’s going on within our own hearts. I think back to times I’ve snapped at people or locked myself in a world of anxiety, and it’s been because I haven’t properly allowed a deep enough understanding of myself to develop. I haven’t been in touch with my own decision making process and led myself into a place of feeling trapped (even inducing panic attacks in one particular work situation). As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

Another thought that comes to mind is that the heart is deceitful above all else. This is probably why I don’t usually follow mine unless I’ve done the due diligence of working it through. Or rather, as described above, I find my heart following the accepted train of thought in my mind. And there are so many examples of really terrible or nearsighted decisions being made by listening immediately to the feelings of the heart on their own. Relationships that shouldn’t have started because there were so many factors that would lead to a dead end… or relationships that should have started, but didn’t for lack of the actions that lead to intimacy and developed trust. Fights with friends over stupid small things that were actually triggered because of a bigger feeling in the heart. Walking away from truth because of an immediate sense that it doesn’t seem to be working out right now. And yet on the other side, the desires of our heart can be very directional in leading us into the path we should take.

The final thought is that we have to learn to live with the decisions of others, whether logical, illogical, or some combination in the middle. Whether it be that the path of logic leads us against each other, or our feelings are incompatible, we have to learn to negotiate life with others in the event we reach the point of conflict. At the crossroads of our disagreements, where will we go from here? Will we adhere to a common path, or decide to go our separate ways? Will we allow ourselves to be challenged, or will we accept our current train of thought or emotional state as the final word?

What’s the right answer? Yes. No. Maybe. All of the above.

And I’m sure you can relate. We all face this in our approach to life. Head or heart, logic or feelings, reason or intuition. I think faith lives in both. In some ways, faith is the most illogical choice you can make, but since it’s always the right one, it’s also the most logical choice to make.

I guess we are all on our journey, trying to find our path. Where do we go from here? The answer, my friend, is up to you and me.

Thanks for coming on this little introspective ride with me. I’ve done quite a few of these sorts of posts and people always tell me in person, comments or messages (yes I see them all!) that these sorts of posts resonate with them, so hopefully this one resonates with you too. How about you? Do you find yourself driven by logic? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and in regular conflict with people like me? Would love to hear from you.

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