Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baby Boomers vs. Gen-Xers: Feeling vs. Thinking

A baby boomer lady once told me that the difference in outlook and behavior between her generation and Generation X is that the baby boomers have been taught to feel, and Gen-Xers had been taught to think. The first has a reputation for mindlessness, irresponsibility and self-absorption; the second has a reputation for cruelty.

What we see in both cases is a result of the modes of cognition taken to an extreme. We are seeing here the logical outcome of the method when left to its own devices. Rationalism postulates that truth is found through reason, and romanticism postulates that truth is found through feeling. The first produces things such as science and technology, and the second produces art and literature. Both do in fact create valuable things; but both produce garbage along the way. One creates mean-spirited, dry people; and the other produces people who live chaotic lives.

When the two modes work together, they check each other's capacity for producing garbage while working together to achieve valuable outcomes sooner and more reliably than through either acting alone.

I have known people on the sides of both modes of cognition who had a low view of the other. Many people who claim to espouse logic see feelings as an inferior function, and many people who espouse feeling think that people who rely on thought are psychopaths. But there are any number of places where the two work well enough together. Italians and French do not discourage feeling, and both countries are advanced scientifically and technologically. Russians, Jews and Greeks do not discourage thinking, and they are warm and loving people.

When people are taught both to think and to feel, the resulting synthesis is this: Emotional intelligence. And that is something that my generation especially has to offer the world.

I probably have a fairly low EQ; but my former classmates do not. While Gen-Xers excel at technical fields, people in my generation tend to excel in people fields; and a number of my former schoolmates became multi-millionaires. Teaching both thinking and feeling creates people who are more developed than either ones who only think or ones who only feel. They are more complete as people. They have use of two rather than one methods. They achieve wisdom faster and fuller than those who rely on either modality acting alone.

The two modes operate in the model of synthesis within the framework of check and balance. Thinking corrects the errors that are made by feelings, and feeling corrects the errors that are made by thought. Neither thinking nor feeling is good or bad; both are capable of both. With things that are capable of both good and bad outcomes, the solution is to maximize the benefits of each while minimizing the wrongs of each. At the bottom level the two modalities pose check and balance upon one another to correct each one's potential for wrong. At the top level the two modalities synthesize to achieve wisdom faster and fuller than through either acting alone.

When that is being done, the people tied to each side will shout bloody murder. One side, which sees thinking as bad, will regard a person using both modalities as cold or untrustworthy; and the other side, which sees feeling as bad, will regard a person using both modalities as deceptive or manipulative. In fact what we see here is intelligence and feeling working together to achieve understanding of human matters. Feeling allows one to experience life in a way that is felt by its participants. Thinking allows one to analyze it and observe it from without. The result is a full perspective: One that understands both the experience of the participants and its external effects.

I call this process Integrative Cognition. It is a methodology that has application in all sorts of pursuits, from journalism to business to politics. Experience something as it is experienced by its participants and observe it as it looks from without. The result is understanding of both the experience and its impact on others. The result is a full picture.

Every generation learns from the mistakes of its predecessors. Every generation then makes mistakes of its own. I have no idea what mistakes my generation will make, but I have seen the mistakes of both baby boomers and gen-Xers. The two generation are at one another's throats and have been for decades. My generation has a tendency to want to reconcile everyone. The process requires intelligence on emotional matters. That is afforded by thinking and feeling working together.


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