When thinking about emotions, people will often focus on those emotions that had a high impact or were very visible. They think about those moments for which they remember the emotion and how it impacted them.
Such a perspective is interesting from a point of view of extraordinary events. They help us prepare for moments of crisis. And in this context, I’m using the word crisis independently from it being experienced as joyful or harmful to highlight its disruptive element. These emotions will often be experienced as ones one is subject to, which leads to a desire to be prepared to deal with such situations.
Other emotions are much less visible to us, even though they’ll drive our choices and our perception of the situation.
Think about the following situations: We’ll step into solving problems anticipating success and fulfillment. Frustration may push us to continue trying to solve the problem we are dealing with. When something is worrying or annoying it might just not be enough to act. With time pressure anxiety might grow and push us forward.
All of them connect with some type of emotion. And in all these cases, they can drive behavior. This explains how our habitual or automatic decision-making is based on emotions. The point of attention here is, that emotions drive behavior by guiding us to act on something just as much as avoiding to act on something. Whatever the choice, it is the one we use as a reaction to the emotion.
Without awareness of one’s emotions, people would not be able to set priorities. They’d act on what their emotions tell them to be urgent and leave the other things aside.
The ability to act on priorities and objectives that have been chosen depends on the awareness of one’s emotions. It’s using that awareness that can allow for enough time to choose one’s reaction to the emotion. This time span can allow one to connect the choice one makes with one’s priorities.
However, this is nothing that can be done through a cognitive decision. It would require way too much mental energy to be constantly on the watch-out.
What helps us reduce the mental energy needed is training the mind as well as developing the ability to regulate emotions.