Head vs. Heart: Which One Should You Follow?

Illustration of a heart in a head.

Reason and emotion, represented by the head and heart, fight at night. The two of them keep us awake and ruin our sleep. 

Be careful about taking sides in the fight. Both the heart and the head are important. You won’t go far by favoring either one. 

How can we get them to sign a peace accord and let us get some rest? 

The head and heart, quite simply, have to know their role. 

You need to tell them what they should do.

This is easier said than done, but it can be done.

Indeed, it should be done.

Follow Your Heart 

A common saying people write on coffee cups, keychains, and wall hangings is Follow Your Heart. 

How do you know what your heart is saying? Your heart doesn’t have a mouth. 

Say you think you can figure out what your heart is saying. Is the heart really fit to be your leader? What qualifies it? Why should it get to make all the decisions? Why not your brain? 

Heck, for that matter, why not your elbow? Your shoulder? Why not anything? 

If you decide to follow something or someone you should have a pretty good idea of where it’s going.  

If you do follow your heart, how do you know where it’s going? It doesn’t have a mouth so it really can’t tell you its plans. Furthermore, it’s pretty emotional and its feelings can change pretty quickly. That means it sometimes has no idea of what it wants. If you’re like most people, your heart can change like the weather. 

You could be lost figuratively and literally if you follow your heart. 

Use Your Head

Thinking of other body parts, another common dictum is Use Your Head. 

A person can’t help but visualize the head as a lever or something. 

So what am I supposed to use my head for? Opening beer bottles? 

They never say.  

Just, you know, use it. 

They mean you should think, of course, but how and of what isn’t ever stated. 

Not a lot of thought went into either dictum. Thecall for the misapplication of both of those body parts. 

Follow Your Head. Use Your Heart.

You’re better off following your head and using your heart. 

You might have better results that way. 

The head is the center of planning and strategy. Your head will try to get you the advantage in every situation, to the best of its ability. There’s nothing like using some logic when you’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen next in any situation. 

For those reasons, we should follow our heads. 

The heart is useful too. 

The heart can help you win arguments, express your case and your point of view. Because it can help you increase your perceptivity, it can also keep you out of trouble and help you make better decisions when it comes to justice versus mercy.  

If you work in certain fields like the arts, law, nursing, or teaching, being in touch with what your heart is telling you about other people is a prerequisite for success in the field. It helps you communicate. 

Don’t underestimate the ability of your heart to lead you to contentment either. It can speak to how you’re put together mentally. It can save you from a life of listening to other people who don’t get or understand you and what makes you happy. 

Probably the greatest thing the heart can do, however, is make it possible for you to understand others, even if the understanding amounts to little more than that’s one confused and conflicted person. When someone behaves in confused and contradictory ways, that’s pretty much the limit of the understanding that’s possible. 

As the seat of logic and rationality, the head has its say all the time. To know what it’s saying, all you’ve got to do is try to think or puzzle something out. 

The heart isn’t so easy. When it acts up, it behaves rashly and doesn’t consider the longterm well-being of anything. You don’t want to let it lead to anything. Yet you want to use its insight. 

As someone who keeps a dream journal, you’ve got an advantage in this area. When your dreams are properly analyzed and understood, you’ll understand your true, inner feelings about all kinds of things that run through your mind. 

Your dreams will give you insight into many things in your life. 

In order to Use Your Heart, you can access this insight by intending to try to clarify the issues you’re facing when you’re sleeping and when you’re dreaming. 

When you wake up, the way through the obstacles in your path are often much clearer. 

In that way, you use your heart. It becomes something like a well-honed machete capable of clearing the underbrush of your life and making the way forward much clearer. 

Follow Your Head. Use Your Heart. That’s the key to getting past the eternal conflict between the head and heart.


For Further Reading:

Your guts are an emotional center

No matter your age, the best bedtime stories are affirming.

When should you trust your gut feeling about someone or something?

Why you need to play every day.

How to get scary things out of your head so you can sleep.


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 

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