Are our thoughts primary to our feelings, or do our feelings inform our thoughts?
There’s definitely truth to the idea that we are riders on elephants – i.e. we are constantly trying to retroactively justify our gut reactions with intellectual reasoning and then claiming that the reasoning was primary (like a person helplessly riding around on an elephant but trying to claim that they wanted to go that way the whole time). At the same time, sometimes I definitely have thoughts that clearly cause an emotional reaction where no particularly strong emotion existed before.
Or have I? Maybe that’s part of me justifying my elephant.
It’s an important question, especially as it relates to controlling our own motivations. I’m a realist in the sense that I know many of my actions are going to be heavily influenced by unseen biases, heuristics, and other factors besides my conscious and rational decision-making. That, in and of itself, is inevitable – but the more I learn about it the more I can at least predict it. Since I want my actions to mostly follow the motivations that I dictate in my most clear-headed moments rather than at my most emotional.
At least, that’s how I feel.