Blog post written by Dr Trevor Griffiths, co-author of ‘Emotional Logic’.
I discovered the other day, to my great surprise, that men are as emotionally literate as women, but they simply handle their emotional energy in a different way. Those people who say that men are rational and women emotional are like the dodos of old, unable to fly and heading for extinction.
If you doubt what I am saying, please check out the string of books produced by the award-winning neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio. He found that people, men and women equally, need their emotions to make decisions whenever a choice is needed between equally rational options. The reason is: your emotions are gender-neutral, non-verbal information about your heart-level values. They are like the lights on a car dashboard, or blips on a radar screen, telling you that something is changing out there and needs attention. But they need interpreting to make the right decisions for action.
Emotions tell us about our values
Believe it or not, men have values! The thing is, though, that men tend to simply act straight away on the values-driven emotional movements within their hearts, their inclinations, not bothering to name their emotional feelings. Women (however you define gender) tend to be better at naming and talking about those inner movements. But there is one thing that men and women truly do share equally here. They both have heart-level values that move them. And they both, in different ways, tend not to be good at shifting their conversations from talk about feelings or behaviour onto naming their values and agreeing action plans that could build more responsive relationships around them. They tend to get stuck in a rut, a bit mindlessly, with either their feelings or their behaviours. That’s not good. So I wanted to find a way to change that.
By recognising our values we can make action plans rather than simply reacting
It so happens that my wife was quite pleased with my discovery of this. She’s a GP, and started using the method I came up with in her work. Cutting a long story short, we ended up writing a book together about what happened, getting permissions to tell the anonymised stories of how the emotional card-sorting tool and the Loss Reaction Worksheets transformed the way she handled common mental illnesses, and suicidal thoughts, and self-harming or compulsive behaviours for both men and women. I then added some chapters about how I had used the method in various community settings, at what I call the rough end of emotional literacy, where accumulating unrecognized grieving can lead to violence or other outbursts that irritate the law. In both settings, private and public, the same truths emerged. Accumulating hurts affect physical, mental, and social health equally. And learning a bit about healthy emotional adjustments to change reversed the harm.
The power of emotional literacy is gender-neutral but men and women tend to handle their emotional energy differently
If men are willing to learn how their heart-level loss emotions are there to protect their values, in other words for good reasons, they could harness their energy to make better decisions. They could then also become more responsive in their relationships around guess-checking someone else’s values. It opens a whole new way of talking that brings reasoning and emotions into a healthy partnership. Doing so usually sorts out the symptoms that often trouble people quietly in their hearts, or trouble them noisily outwards, removing their peace and driving them and perhaps others scatty. It is all so correctable with a bit of understanding and self-respect for naming values!
“So, what’s important to you in this situation?” Or, even better, “So, what did you miss when things went wrong?” Or, closer still to the point of this blog, “Listen, I’m on your side, okay. What are you worried you might have lost in this situation? Perhaps we can find a way to get that back together?”
Caring for your emotional heart is as important as caring for your physical heart
E-motions are energy in motion! They e-motivate people to act, either moving towards the signal or away from it. Either way, when you are next out taking some exercise to protect your physical heart, and choosing how to watch your diet, then try choosing also to exercise your increased power of choice by revising what you have learnt about naming your hidden heart-level values. You could learn to use the Emotional Logic method to do this, activating it as you face new situations. It has opened doors to people on all five continents to see themselves and life differently, and to get on better than before.