Annie Murphy Paul’s article “Thinking clearly requires feeling deeply” (Ideas, Nov. 22) explores the relationship between thinking and feeling. I have been exploring this myself, rigorously, along with many other people, for decades.
She makes many challenging assertions, as does the book she discusses, “Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain,” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. I agree that we are responsible for our own emotional reactions; they are reminders of something in our past history. I agree that rationality and feelings interact. I agree that giving hugs often works better than talking when one wants to make connections, and I feel awe at the beauty in our world. I agree that our brains work to compare and contrast previous situations.
Where Paul and Barrett and I part company is in deciding what to do about it all. When I erupt “in frustration or [break] down in tears,” I try to find someone who will listen to me, without interruption or judgment, and I release that bewildering emotion, letting myself shake or cry. The confusion lessens, and I can think more clearly again.
I too am a scientist, and I think that rationality, not intuition or empathy, should be our guide to action. Nothing less than the survival of humanity on our planet depends on it.
Dr. Eric Lessinger