Leaning too far into our emotional world is a dangerous trap.
We like to believe that our emotions are an ineffable reality — that our feelings are a natural artifact of existence. We believe in their inherent truth and goodness.
This has become even more common and pernicious during the past decade. Every morning I open up my news feed to find a dozen articles that drop terms like 'narcissist’, 'empath' and 'emotional intelligence’. We have become obsessed with labels and accusations to sort people out according to how they do or do not feel.
What has been lost in this scramble to appear emotionally superior is the recognition that emotions are a trick that evolution devised to manipulate us, and allow us to manipulate each other. Grief tells others that we are safe to be around. Love tricks us into parenthood and pair bonding. Each and every emotion we experience was developed over time for evolutionary fitness, not for the sake of the experience of them.
The increasing view that emotions are sacred absolutes which we can judge people by is dangerous and false. It has led to an almost religious fervor for manipulative appearances and behavior.
So when I see someone flouting emotional intelligence, what they are really doing is bragging about manipulation skills. When I see someone decrying narcissists, what they are really doing is shaming non-conformists. And when the old empath brag comes out, what is really happening is someone that is just a little to proud that they are a compulsive slave to habits that evolved to trick them.
Emotions do play a major part in our experience of being a human. I am not saying we should denigrate their utility or attempt to abandon them, but rather that we should walk it back a bit. A middle ground between reason and emotion offers a lot more utility and humanity than either of them alone. Hypermasculine culture wants to set emotions aside and hyperfeminine culture wants to elevate them to the totality of existence. Both are dead wrong. As with all things, balance is the wisest path.
And the endless articles about emotional intelligence, narcissists and empaths — those are manipulations, too. They appeal to your desire to see yourself as superior in order sell ads and advance the cause of the writer. Stop reading them for your own good.