How to Get Your Heart and Your Brain on the Same Page

Curiosity can help you bridge the gap between intellectual understanding and emotional reality

I know better than this. Why am I still so stuck in my feelings? We’ve all been there — in that uncomfortable space between knowing something to be true, but the intellectual knowledge not being enough to fix or change the emotional experience.

Maybe you last encountered this discrepancy after angrily critiquing your body for its pandemic changes even after your deep dive into the history of fatphobia.

Or you noticed it creep up after weeks of crying over a layoff despite knowing that your workplace severely mistreated and undervalued you. Regardless, you’ve likely judged yourself and your feelings due to the gap between them and your intellectual understanding. For many, this gap between what we know and how we feel generates confusing and overwhelming dissonance. In these moments, how do we create space to acknowledge our present emotional reality without attempting to judge or criticize our feelings?

Last week, I wrote about my first time learning about the imposter syndrome and finally having language to describe a familiar occurrence. Though I didn’t need the academy to legitimize my emotions and experiences and while my learning didn’t automatically translate into changed emotion, it did offer helpful context.

Just because I had an understanding of what the imposter syndrome was didn’t fully protect me from feeling the emotional implications of it. I might know on an intellectual level that I am capable and deserving of my achievements, but that doesn’t always correlate with my underlying emotions. Through practice, I’ve learned to be okay with this occasional divergence.

One approach I utilize to free myself from any harsh self-judgments when I find my thoughts and my feelings misaligned is to lean in with curiosity. How much time have I wasted trying to command my feelings to be different instead of putting down the fight and merely listening to them? What are my feelings trying to tell me and how do I understand them? When I alter my perspective and view the distance between what I know and feel as an opportunity for exploration rather than judgment, I’m able to bridge these two parts of myself while honoring my present emotional needs and humanity.

Our intellect and our emotions are not mutually exclusive. We can grant ourselves permission for them to coexist peacefully.

Black woman, mental health counselor, researcher, wellness consultant, PhD in counseling psychology, and Beyoncé stan. IG: black_and_woman_IG

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