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Why What We Feel Matters More Than What We Think: Natasha Sharma (Transcript)

Natasha Sharma at TEDxStMaryCSSchool

Full text of Natasha Sharma’s talk: Why What We Feel Matters More Than What We Think at TEDxStMaryCSSchool conference.

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Natasha Sharma – Psychotherapist

Have you ever made a bad decision?

We all have.

Most of the decisions we make are based on how we feel: Overeating, cheating on an exam, maybe staying in a bad relationship or ending a good one. The majority of our decisions are guided by our emotions. So it’s important that we understand this.

We make about 35,000 decisions in a single day. Now, I don’t know how many of these are bad ones, but what I do know is that most of them are guided by our decisions or emotional process.

People say funny things to me all the time. They say things like, ‘I’m not an emotional thinker’, and they say funny things to other people like this.

Have you ever been called an emotional person? “I’m not an emotional person”, but that always seems very funny to me because all human beings are emotional people. It’s part of being a human and yet we hear this all the time.

Here’s something else funny that people say.

They say that when they get old, they’re okay if their body breaks down, they’re fine if they need help going up and down the stairs. They need a little assistance getting in and out of bed, but they want their minds to be intact.

Ever heard that? They want to be of sound mind, and yet how many of us actually take the time to become emotionally fit?

I’ve never met anybody who’s older who actually wishes that they knew how to play more Sudoku. But I have met people who are older who wished that they’d connected more with other people, who wished that they’d experienced more of what life has to offer.

And yet we don’t learn about how to become emotionally fit.

We take care of our bodies all the time. We go to the gym, we put protein in our shakes. We wear a little devices on our wrists that track every single movement that we make in a day, and we put turmeric in our lattes. We drink turmeric lattes.

But what do we do for our own emotional health, our own emotional fitness?

Unfortunately, we’re not actually taught to live in the world emotionally. We’re taught social skills. We’re taught lots of important things, but our parents never came around and said, all right guys, gather around the table. We’re going to talk about how to manage our emotions today. It just never happened, at least not in my house.

What we’re taught is important things, how to read, how to write, how to talk and walk, how to make friends, how to not piss off your boss, but we’re not taught about our emotional health.

Now I’ve conducted in my career close to 500 psychological assessments. And this basically involves me running a bunch of tests and I measure things like IQ and attention, and academic knowledge, and social emotional functioning and memory.

And then I deliver the results and there’s always one score that everybody wants to know and they’re like, ‘I don’t care about the rest of this course. Just tell me my IQ. I want to know my IQ.’

That’s the one they want to know the most, especially when they think it’s high. And that’s because we still have a very strong association between conventional smart or conventional wisdom, and success and happiness in life.

And it’s just not the full picture. IQ plays an important role, but actually people, and this has been shown and proven through studies, people who show higher levels of emotional fitness, they’re much likelier to be happier and successful later in life than those who have lower levels of emotional fitness and higher IQs.

But we don’t learn this.

Things are actually getting tougher in the world and emotional fitness is going to be more important and not critical for all of us going forward. But especially you guys. And here’s why.

The pace of the world is changing at a rate that is faster than it has ever changed in the past. And our brain’s ability to process this world, which we’re doing all the time, we’re constantly modulating, interacting, trying to make sense of it, It has not increased at the same rate and this is just getting worse.

We’re having a faster, more automated world and a brain processing speed that can’t keep up.

Result: more stress and more anxiety.

So it’s going to be more crucial than ever to be able to manage our emotions. And we know life can get tough and it will get tough. And for young people, in some ways it’s going to get tougher.

The average income for people aged between 18 and 35 has gone down for the past 25 years. Meanwhile, the cost of living has gone up. The majority of jobs that are created now are part time or contract. Student debt is the highest it’s ever been and wealth disparity is also the highest it’s ever been.

So we’ve got some problems.

Anybody here seen the movie: ‘Inside Out’? Great movie, great, great movie. There’s so much going on in that movie. When I took my husband to see it halfway through he looked at me and he’s like, “this is a psych movie.”

And it is. Because it talks about the five most basic primal emotions that we all experience in life. And by universal, what I mean is they look the same on our faces across all countries.

But there’s only three emotions that matter the most when it comes to our decision making process. Because these are the ones that drive our decisions more than any other emotion. And those are love, hate and fear.

So if you can understand that love, hate and fear will drive your decisions more than any other emotion, you’re already on the road to emotional fitness.

Let’s talk about love. All since the beginning of time we’ve had the desire for love and it made a lot of sense because to be loved and approved of it would ensure our survival, right? If we got into trouble, someone would help us.

And even today there’s lots of benefits to being loved: companionship, support, help. So it’s very natural that we desire it. As long as we don’t take it to an extreme. And this is where so many of us run into trouble.

We’ve got this idea in our minds that we have to be loved, we need to be loved in order to be happy. And somebody else has got to give it to us.

And we see this in books and TVs and films, magazines, everything. Turn on the television, watch a commercial. You’ll see the product or service that’s being advertised. The message isn’t very subtle: buy our product or buy our service because you need it to be better. And if you’re better, you’ll be loved. And if you’re loved, you’ll be happy.

And we listened to this as teenagers and our music, the lyrics, think about some of the lyrics in our music. I need your love. I’m nothing without you. You’re my everything. And my personal favorite: You’re nobody till somebody loves you.

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