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The Head and The Heart: Which to Listen To?

The Head and The Heart: Which to Listen To?

Does your heart tell you one thing, and your head another?

As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I often sit with people who are stuck in agonizing indecision. Part of them wants to make a change, but another part cautions against it. It could be about a relationship, their career, a move, or another major life event. Sometimes, people can feel a powerful emotional pull towards something that, rationally, seems like a terrible idea. Even more mystifying is when there is an objectively “right” choice that still feels like doom.

So which one should you listen to? It’s so confusing when you’re being pulled in different directions.

Here’s a new idea: Don’t give either too much weight, until you’ve done some work.

Know Thyself

The key to making the right decision is self awareness, and understanding your own vulnerabilities. Only then can you recognize when either your head or your heart is pulling you off track.

It’s hard work to recognize and flush out the “cognitive distortions” you might be most vulnerable to, and instead, cultivate values-based clarity. Likewise, it takes effort and intention to learn how to manage your emotions in a healthy way, and mindfully detach from old fears that are no longer necessary.

The good news is that that hard work pays off. When you are confident in your judgment AND in your emotional wisdom, then you can make major life decisions from a place of strength and confidence.

Start Right Now

Want to find out whether your head or your heart is currently ruling your life? Take this free mini-life coaching session with Dr. Bobby to find out. You’ll start developing self awareness, and also learn a couple new tricks to keep yourself in a good place.

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Vulnerability: The Price of Admission To a Happy Life

Everyone struggles with vulnerability. And potentially vulnerable moments are around us all the time. Here are some common examples that I’m sure you’ve experienced:

  • Inviting a new acquaintance to do something with you. (And opening yourself up to rejection, if they do not want to get closer to you).
  • Allowing anyone to see / read / hear something that you have created. (And opening yourself up to their judgment).
  • Coming to your partner with a genuine need for comfort, for acceptance, or for cooperation. (And risking their refusal: “No, I don’t love you enough to be inconvenienced by your needs.”)
  • Following your dreams, and doing your very best every day to make them happen. (And risking not just failure, but the loss of the dream itself).
  • Loving another person intensely. (And risking the loss of your “irreplaceable other.”)

These moments are scary. It is really so much easier to hide.

To be unseen and unknown is safer. To not try your best brings comfort in the idea that you could have done better, if you’d truly applied yourself. To sail through the world in a sea of acquaintances who don’t really know you protects you from rejection. To keep your creative work safely hidden in your mind shelters it from the judgment of the world. To blame your partner for your feelings rescues you from having to show your irreplaceable other how important they are to you, and humbly ask for their help.

Every time I put myself out there in a big way, I have to cope with a “vulnerability hangover” as Brene Brown calls it. It’s the most unpleasant feeling— sort of a mix of embarrassment, shame, and anticipation of rejection. Yuck.

It shows up for me when I try new things that I’m not good at, or when I open myself up to other people who I don’t feel entirely safe with yet. This is especially true with my writing.

Any good art requires the creator to expose the contents of their mind or heart to others. Our art is therefore an extension of ourselves. Whether we smear our emotional innards on canvas, or heave them out onto digitized paper, or stitch them together to be worn on our bodies, we’re saying: “Look. See who I am.” And then we stand on the stage, simmering in the broth of apprehension, and wait for the audience to pass their judgment: Lame, Boring, Weird, Irrelevant…. Or Not Worth Our Attention At All.

Sometimes it makes me feel like not even trying. Or getting “virtuously busy” so that I don’t really have any time to extend myself anyway. And I know you can relate.

It’s an emotional echo to being fourteen years old. Do you remember? I do– I remember so vividly the effort I would put in to my appearance: Meticulously shredded jeans, angsty black tee-shirt, dark lipstick. The uniform of my tribe, down to the shoelaces and pins. I was frozen in the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, so I generally just glared at the world through lashes stiff with mascara. My crunchy hair turned with my head like a helmet. My facade was bullet proof, and no-one had any idea of who I was (least of all, me).

Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I became real through the years, after I started taking risks and opening myself up to love. Like everyone, I still struggle with fears of rejection and failure. But if I wasn’t okay with saying stupid things that alienate people sometimes,  I would never get the chance to say something wise that might be be meaningful or helpful to someone else. It’s a mixed bag, but here it is. I’ll leave you to sort through and pick out the good parts.

It takes an enormous amount of strength to be vulnerable. To be fully engaged with the world, and with other people, means that you will have to cope with pain, with rejection, with failure, and with loss. But what are your choices?

To not engage at all means depriving yourself of:

  • True love and deep connection, and the chance to be truly known and cherished by others.
  • Being genuinely successful, and taking the chance to manifest your dreams instead of settling.
  • Creating authentic happiness in your life through living in line with your values, and highest purpose.

Being vulnerable to the world, to others, and to love is the price of admission to this carnival that we call life. You pay your way by accepting and coping with fear. The prizes are feeling the excitement and joy of doing interesting things, feeling the love that’s so intense it’s scary, experiencing the satisfaction of success, and having the fullness of a life rich with strong connections.

But you don’t have to. You can stand with your fingers curled in the chain link fence, watching others take the ride of their life, and keep your heart deep inside. Where it’s safe.

When are the moments that you feel most vulnerable? How do you cope with the fear of failure or rejection? I’ll look for your answers in the comments. — Lisa

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