Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Decision Making in Crisis

I took a workshop last weekend about legal and ethical issues, something which psychologists are required to do every two years. For some reason I love to learn about legal and ethical problems and the workshop was quite enjoyable, even if the room was freezing and my back was hurting a lot!

One of the remarkable things based on a various research that was addressed at the workshop was how our emotional state can influence our decision making and behaviors when we are in trouble. Putting it simply according to my understanding, when we are experiencing fight or flight mode, our anger or anxiety/fear can impact our actions more than we realize. Therefore, a major recommendation was to slow down. When we are threatened and in crisis, we need to slow down by consulting with others, relaxing, breathing deeply, and the like, so that we don’t screw things up. Yes, that’s understandable.

At the same time, interestingly, the importance of our emotions in the decision-making process was also emphasized. This means that if we ignore, disregard, or detach our emotional state, our decisions won’t be the best, either. This can be counter-intuitive for some “logical” people, but it has been found to be so, and I have seen it as well.

What is cool about these two important findings is that it aligns with what I have been believing and advocating for: I have been encouraging people to acknowledge, accept, and as needed express their emotions, instead of avoiding and ignoring them. In a crisis situation, for example, we may feel angry and/or fearful. If we can acknowledge those feelings and accept them, that itself would slow down our reactivity. Also if we express our emotions, we can consult with someone or undertake some more introspection. When we do that, we are no longer just emotional beings; we are now aware that we are experiencing our emotions. These two states are quite different.

The bottom line is that in catastrophic situations, we may want to acknowledge, accept, and as needed, express our emotions, so that we can slow down our reactive process, while remaining in touch with our emotions. This way we can make the best decision and take action. It sounds quite reasonable and helpful to me. How about you? 

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