Should You Follow Your Heart or Your Head?

When it comes to making decisions about a romantic partner

This question eludes many. Your mind has a thousand reasons why that person is bad for you, why it won’t work out, and all signs point to danger — get out. But for some gosh darn reason in your heart you want to stay so bad. You want them, despite all the logical reasons you shouldn't. Your head usually advocates the safer option, the heart-the risky one.

What the heck is that anyways? How is it even possible to feel so divided within the same body?

I took it to the world wide web, and turns out there are some explanations for this divided phenomenon we all seem to face at one time or another.

So why are we drawn to people who we know aren’t good for us, don’t care about us? Will probably hurt us? It’s that adrenaline rush baby — doing or wanting something you know you shouldn’t. We remember the choices that hurt us as well. Safe decision making rarely leaves a mark in the memory bank.

“We’re poor statisticians: You remember the choice you didn’t make because, not knowing what the outcome would be, the best you can do is guess as to what might have happened. What won’t have happened, which you obviously can’t remember, are the bad outcomes that could have followed the wrong decision.” — Psychology Today

We remember the things that made us feel. Feel alive. Even if it was painful. Making a sound logical decision doesn’t seem to effect the memory portion of our brains much.

It doesn't work like this: Oh, I am so glad I avoided being hurt by that person I really liked! And pleasurable feelings follow.

It’s more like: Man I miss that person who hurt me or What if? What could have happened? I never took the risk. And then you’ll feel sad or miss them.

Basically, our brains are screwed. We’re tipped to the impulsive, heart-felt side of things. The things that don’t make as much sense, the riskier choices of life, are the ones we long for and spend more time remembering than the safer bets we’ve made.

Another factor in the heart vs. mind decision making process is — your emotional state in the moment you are deciding.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman explains it like this: Your fast thinking is more affected by your emotional state than your slow thinking. If the risky decision would benefit you, then you’ll miss out on opportunities by being in a bad mood. However, because risky decisions, by definition, are unlikely to lead to a satisfying outcome, your good mood will lead you to make the wrong choice.

To put it simply — listening to your heart, especially if you’re under any kind of time pressure, is likely to hurt you or lead to damaging outcomes. According Kahneman’s research, its best not to make a quick decision in the moment.

Take time to weigh all the factors about a person, and what your life would be like together. This will help you make a decision that is a blend of heart and head knowledge. It is okay to follow your heart, but it’s not as safe to do so when you are feeling extremely happy or sad because those emotions can cloud your judgment and influence your decision.

Maybe spend an evening alone, with pen and paper. Write down the pros and cons about this person. And on another paper, about your lives together. This is using your head. Which is good, but don’t completely neglect your heart. The best decision is a blend of both. And when there’s an extreme divide? Well I’d say that means your answer is no. Because being with someone shouldn’t make your life hell or cause you a bunch of turmoil. A healthy partnership is just that, healthy, not all consuming passion and logic-defying. If you can’t find a way to blend your lives, to compromise, and live at peace together, I’d say that is a relationship with a very short shelf life.

You were given a head and a heart for a reason, they both can help you in their own way.

When it comes to your head, it is comprised of knowledge, facts. But there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is facts, raw and undebated. Wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge. It’s a blend of emotion and logic. Some things aren’t so cut and dry, black and white. Your heart and head speak different languages, but they’re both trying to guide you. It’s up to you to know how to listen to them both and make a wise choice.

None of us are perfect at it. But the more you do this, and learn to trust yourself, the easier it gets. And you will slowly start to see you need not neglect one or the other entirely, both your heart and your head can serve you.

Learn to trust your inner GPS. If you find yourself often investing time in people who use and hurt you, you may be operating too much from the heart and not listening to your head at all.

Just a quick exmaple:

You meet a handsome stranger, you learn over drinks he has a long record of violence and drug abuse. You’re shocked. He doesn’t look like that type of guy. It is YOUR HEART and not your head that may make a bunch of excuses to justify the risk of dating him. You’re fueled by lust. It’s best to go home, take a day or two, and realize this probably isn’t a wise choice. Not to mention the influence of alcohol.

So yes, a blend of heart and head will lead you to the wisest most favorable decisions. Rely too much on your heart, and you could be making dangerous and impulsive decisions with harmful consequences, rely too much on your head, and well my friend, you just aren’t quite living enough. What’s life without a little adventure and risk?

Whitney Virginia Morgan

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freelance writer l English lit major l blogger l poet I student of life Email:

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