Intellect vs Impulse

I have had an interesting dialogue about a common topic with Ram today. I say ‘interesting’ because it was a very deep conversation, which we may not engage into very often. I also say ‘common’ because it is a theme that many of us experience. Intellect vs Impulse is something which we experience almost everyday in our lives.

Lets us consider specific instances.

  • Ram says he reads and understands people well. But in the process he becomes judgmental and forms opinions. He started wondering if he should read people, as it is leading undesirable judgments. I told him that it is a terrific skill to understand people and therefore should not let go. Instead, I asked him, why cannot you stop being judgmental? His reply was: “I know it is bad, but I am not able to refrain. I only end up repenting later!”
  • Ram says he is a keen learner and likes to read, attend seminars and interact with people. However, he says that he often ends up as a poor listener. Once again, he knows that it is important to listen, but ends up with a wandering mind. He also finds himself interrupting others in meetings and regrets later for doing so!

Such instances are very common. We may often find ourselves in such situations where we know what is right intellectually, but end up doing differently at a given moment. Why? Why is this knowing –doing gap?

During my conversation with Ram, we delved on this aspect of intellect vs impulse. The insight that emerged was quite interesting. In such situations, we seem to be carrying high degree awareness at an intellectual level. That is, we know what is right and what is wrong; we can discriminate what is appropriate and inappropriate. The challenge however seems to be ‘application’ of this awareness at a given moment. For example, at a time when a judgment about the other person is emerging out of my thought, I may not be aware. I allow the judgment to emerge and a little later my intellectual awareness returns to tell me that what I did was wrong. Then I wonder what happened to my awareness during that moment!

In reality, at that given moment, my impulse proved to be stronger than my intellect. The solution therefore lies in developing awareness at a given moment and not in hindsight. When we are aware at a given moment, then we will be aware of our impulses and thereby regulate them.

The thought of being aware at every given moment scared Ram. He said, “Oh…it sounds interesting, but looks very difficult”.

Yes, Ram is true; it is not going to be easy at the beginning. Once we get used to it, it becomes a part of us and almost effortless. Think of positive benefits. One can get hold of impulses and thereby manage relationships better, communicate with more sensitivity, listen with more patience, concentrate better and so on.

Now, what are you thinking? Are you aware of what your thought is at this moment?  That is the beginning…

Blog Author : Dr Raj

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