Thinking modes and emotion

I am back here, in the midst of busyness, because I have just been triggered between real life interactions and a current post of Michael Jensen about emotion and ethics … now to see if I can bring some of the recent strands together, and link them back to some earlier work of mine.

Incidentially, our current local group study work is on Exodus … and last week it focused on Exodus 1 and included the ethical dilemma associated with infanticide …

Michael is posing a question about feelings possibly informing our moral choices, more than we appreciate.

Last week-ish, it was Religious dispatches asking about memory and identity

and as I know from Dispute Resolution studies, touching on identity is one of the ‘intractable’ disputes and part of the problem is that deep down there are values, values that are very hard to change, compared to beliefs and attitudes (which are progressively easier to change).

Also, recently, I have been exchanging with a friend about emotional thinking – or what Edward de Bono gathers up under his ‘red hat’ (one of my three sets in the Venn Diagram associated with this blog).  I was caught out: not keeping track of pars in papers .. and then having the residual memory that I could not track back to its source, and the irritation of unfinished business.

So far as I can tell the par may have been referring to Jonah Lehrer’s The Decisive Moment: How the Brain makes up its mind (given that the Sydney Morning Herald is reproducing Guardian pars this might have been the original reference).

As I shared with my friend,

I ‘major’ on the MBTI tool for self-awareness, and in that tool there is the two pole dimension of ‘thinking’ compared to ‘feeling’.  In the ‘thinking’ chunk are things like ‘logical, reasonable, questioning, critical, tough’.  In the ‘feeling’ chunk are things like ’empathetic, compassionate, accommodating, accepting, tender’.
As you are also aware, I do not entirely rely on MBTI to explain everything away, but have some other tools … and awareness of other ways of categorising ‘thinking’ modes.  For instance, I use de Bono’s six hats, one of which is the ‘red hat’ for ’emotional thinking’, chunking things like ‘feelings, emotions, hunches and intuitions’.  I have also read Howard Gardner’s stuff on Frames of Mind where he categorises intelligences associated with ‘linguistic’, ‘musical’, ‘logical-mathematical’, ‘spatial’, ‘bodily-kinesthetic’, ‘personal’ (interpersonal and intrapersonal), ‘naturalistic’.  There seems to be a connection between Gardner’s ‘personal’ intelligence, and Daniel Goleman’s ’emotional intelligence’.
I have read Damasio’s Descartes Error and dabbled in his The feeling of what happens
I have shared that I am not-enough aware of emotion in my thinking: things like ‘joy, anger, fear, jealousy, sorrow’.   I have been judged by others as being ‘dispassionate’ and/or the most ‘objective-thinker-I-have-ever-met’.   I suspect there is emotion there, but I am singularly unaware of it most of the time.  When I succumb to depression, thinking capacity, not to mention decision-making capacity, contracts noticeably, and on a couple of occasions I have been dragged out of general depression by someone giving offense, and when my response to being angered by what has happened has been sufficient to get me engaged in endeavouring to do something about the offense, and that means the depression fades, energy is revived, and I have a goal that is meaningful.
Trying to work with people to help them think more effectively means I need to understand these categories, and have some sort of appreciation of what is going on for others as well as myself.
I can’t remember if I have shared this, but one of the key experiences of my dispute resolution studies was during a mediation simulation when I was playing the role of a senior-in-years man who had hit a junior staff member, and was looking down the barrel of possible dismissal and loss of retirement entitlements.  I consciously endeavoured to get into the role, and let the empathy of the emotional have sway.  When I did that I was aware that when the ‘mediator’ in the role play was trying to talk to me about what was happening etc, that though I was physically hearing what was being said, I was not being able to process it, and I was able to operate as an observer to notice this ‘situational deafness/incomprehension’.  The upshot, in the mediation simulation, was that of course the mediation process got nowhere fast.  My learning was that if this was what was happening for one of the parties to the dispute, then, of course, there could be no mediation at this point, the parties were not ‘ripe’, and some sort of process, to help the person involved move from the disabling fear and circular thinking to be able to think of/ and about other elements of the dispute, would need to be acknowledged, and dealt with in some kind of procedural way, as part of any mediation that might move towards success.   But not in the ‘heat of the moment’.
So, I am still trying to work on my understanding of the emotional in thinking (or as the MBTI puts it – in the area of how we process what we are attending to) etc …
I can’t remember whether I shared with you at the time, but during our conversations, I did chase up some stuff about decision making, and found that, compared to MBTI, say, stuff on decision making is much more diffuse.


So, here I am, today, noticing others noticing this ‘nexus’, and beginning to ask questions, Christianly, about it.  It promises to be interesting times …
Another connection from the Sola Panel, from Tony Payne

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