The white horse is rational and moral and the black horse is irrational and willful, given to following his emotions. The driver of the chariot tries to stop the horses from pulling in different directions and instead, get them to pull together towards full enlightenment.
This depiction of the struggle between our rational side and our emotional side still stands as a premise of our thinking about this subject today. In fact, throughout the developed world, our entire corporate bodies are built on a theory that emotion has no place in the boardrooms of the nation. Dispassionate reasoning is the new god of good decisions.
It is true that uncontrolled emotions can cause us problems. They push many of us to make poor decisions, especially if the emotion is fueled by hate or revenge or self-promotion.
But through our Equine Assisted Learning Programs at HorseDream Canada, we are also learning that there are times when both emotion and reason can be brought together to complement each other for amazing results.
As we watch our clients work with horses and see how their ability to be intuitive about emotions can lead them to success in dealing with them, we are reminded that there are other sides to this equation that we have not fully explored.
Scientists are also realizing there is an open field of study here too, to determine what happens when positive emotions come together with rational thinking, and the results can be fascinating.
For example, neurologist Antonio Damasio, in his study “Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex,” discovered that even when negative emotions come together with rational think, sometimes better decisions can be made. In his case, he studied how gamblers made better decisions about avoiding high risks when they allowed their negative emotions to be part of their decision.
What we are learning is, that the interplay of emotion and reason has a great deal to do with the unique circumstances of each situation.
When we are working with horses, for example, they are very emotional creatures. If we are not sensitive to that and responsive to their emotions, all our rational thinking about how they should behave can be futile.
When you are respectful of the horse’s emotions and become its leader, a state of harmony will exist. If you are determined to think in rational terms only, you may not achieve the same result.
When we are not rational in our thinking, it is usually a clue that we are moving past the point of our current understanding, knowledge and experience. Uncertain, we react with fear, anger or other strong emotions. Knowing that, as we work with horses they help us to back up and relearn skills so we can move past them, rather than release those negative emotions.
Can emotion and reason meet? Yes, they can, and they can become strong teammates if both sides learn to understand the other.
Bechara, A., Damásio, A. R., Damasio, H., & Anderson, S. W. (1994). Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex, Cognition, 50, 7-15.
HorseDream Canada, founded by Susan Wilson, provides high impact, quality leadership and team development experiences for individuals, teams, leaders and companies. It is part of an internationally renowned Horse Assisted Education Program providing transformative learning experiences around the world. HorseDream Canada is a division of I DO BUSINESS. Inc., a social purpose business. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for our new book, Leadership 93/7 coming soon!