If You Get Carried Away By Your Emotions, Are You Less Rational?

If you're more emotional than rational, does that mean you make worse decisions? The truth is that the most intelligent people don't exclude their own emotions from their reasoning. They keep them in mind, regulate them, and use them to their advantage. That's the key.
If You Get Carried Away By Your Emotions, Are You Less Rational?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

We tend to assume that some people are more emotional and others are more rational. In fact, we almost take for granted that those who make more thoughtful and objective decisions eliminate from their cognitive mechanisms all hints of the emotional universe. However, to what extent is this true? Are those who eliminate the variable of ’emotion’ from their lives more successful and happy?

The answer is no. All humans are emotional creatures that reason. Therefore, it’s impossible to eliminate this factor from all of our behavior and decisions. As the neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, points out, if we didn’t have feelings there’d be no justice, medicine, or art.

Problems aren’t ever solved solely with reason. Both spheres are mediators and important in shaping our existence and creating the world we live in. What you feel first connects you with yourself and then with your body and needs. Later, it connects you with everything that surrounds you.

Knowing this, the next question to ask is: what happens if you almost always let yourself be carried away by your emotions? Let’s find out.

Emotions are an essential part of reasoned decision making.

Woman thinking about letting myself be carried away by my emotions
The world isn’t divided into emotional and rational people. We all act following both spheres.

Do you let yourself be carried away by your emotions?

Our popular culture has long made us believe that emotions come from the heart and that the heart is the opposite of the cerebral and rational. Perhaps the person responsible for this premise was René Descartes. It was he who, with his famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”, ushered in a stage in philosophy in which reason and enlightened thought understood emotions as being irrational.

As a matter of fact, these kinds of perspectives cause many people to assume that there’s something wrong with them. Being more intense, experiencing each stimulus, event, and circumstance at a greater emotional volume, causes them to feel different.

Emotional awareness is a benefit, not a problem

It may be the case that, if you find yourself carried away by emotions, it’s because you possess greater emotional awareness. This dimension refers to the ability to connect with your own feelings and those of others. It implies, in turn, differentiating them and understanding what message each sensation and emotional state is transmitting to you so you can act accordingly.

Research conducted by the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa (USA) claims that people with greater emotional awareness exhibit a more reflective mental approach. Emotion and reason, in this case, work in harmony for our benefit, which is a great advantage.

Therefore, although it may surprise you, prioritizing your emotions and making contact with them to manage them is a valuable and intelligent response. In fact, a rational act or response doesn’t exist if you haven’t previously regulated, channeled, and attended to every one of your emotions.

Try not to get carried away by your emotions without reflecting on them

It’s one thing to allow yourself to feel each emotion and acknowledge them so you can understand them. However, it’s quite another to let yourself be carried away by them. This makes you act impulsively. It also means you’ll make mistakes, take hasty decisions, and might even find yourself trapped in emotional states of negative valence.

As you can imagine, nobody wants to experience this type of dynamic. Indeed, getting carried away by your emotions without taking responsibility for them is truly dangerous. It’s okay to give recognize them listen to them, and accept that you’re feeling emotional when you allow yourself to express them. Nevertheless, you must be careful. That’s because every felt emotion has a purpose which is to give you information that you must attend to and value.

That said, you mustn’t get trapped in their messages. You must interpret them and then decide how to act. Only in this way will you be able to adapt more effectively to a complex situation.

Even if you’re a really emotional person, don’t overlook the act of reflection when making decisions or taking action. 

Woman thinking about letting myself be carried away by my emotions
Our emotions are a powerful guide for decision-making. Acknowledging them is advantageous.

There isn’t a rational mind and an emotional mind

Some of us consider ourselves to be more emotional while others assume that they act in their daily lives in a more rational and objective way. Having this perception about personality is both acceptable and understandable. Nevertheless, what you shouldn’t take for granted is assuming that there are two areas in the brain: one emotional and the other rational.

You also need to reframe the idea that to act emotionally means being irrational. That’s because much of your behavior is conditioned by your emotions like compassion, affection, empathy, and even avoiding risks when you feel afraid. Emotions are also logical and even rational.

The University of Colombia (USA) conducted research that claimed we must stop categorizing emotional behavior as non-rational. Because, in reality, much of our behavior is mediated by both spheres. Indeed, the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain where more complex executive functions are carried out, is connected to the emotional regions.

We’re all emotional beings trying to act rationally. Some of us are more impulsive, others have more sensitive personalities, and some exhibit more or less emotional intelligence. That said, the emotional variable can’t be separated from the behavioral. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be human. We’d be machines.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • A. Tversky, and D. Kahneman, Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychological review 90 (1983) 293
  • Lerner, Jennifer & Li, Ye & Valdesolo, Piercarlo & Kassam, Karim. (2014). Emotion and Decision Making. Annual review of psychology. 66. 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115043.
  • Smith, M. Persich, R.D. Lane, and W.D.S. Killgore, Higher emotional awareness is associated with greater domain-general reflective tendencies. Scientific Reports 12 (2022) 3123.
  • Pham, MT (2007). Emoción y racionalidad: una revisión crítica e interpretación de la evidencia empírica. Review of General Psychology , 11 (2), 155-178. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.11.2.155

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.