I’d like to explore here what we mean by ‘emotional reasoning’, and to share some suggestions and ideas on how to do something about it if you recognise it in yourself or others, and your emotions are managing you, rather than the other way around more often than you’d like.
Emotional reasoning has been defined as the condition of being so strongly influenced by our emotions that we assume that they indicate objective truth. Whatever you feel is true, without any conditions and without any need for supporting facts or evidence. You feel stupid, so you think you must BE stupid, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. You feel lonely so you’re compelled to deduce that no one cares about you, that your feeling unequivocally confirms your unlovability.
As indicated in the *graphic, we’re applying emotional reasoning when we take it as read that just because we feel a particular way – anxious, negative, fearful, down – that means it’s true: we take our feelings as evidence for the truth. If things feel negative, we assume that they are. We don’t challenge the validity of these feelings.
Let’s remind ourselves that, just as you are not your thoughts – they’re creations – feelings are current opinions, not facts, with the emphasis on ‘current’ as they’re not set in stone or immovable, and they can change. This is of course easier said than done!
What all this amounts to is that emotional reasoning can lead us to make false conclusions about ourselves, others and/or the world, and as a result prevent us from making the most of ourselves and situations. What can we do about it if this is a problem for us? Here are a few suggestions and ideas:
💡Notice that I’m thinking in unhelpful ways “I notice I’m having the thought that………”
Challenge faulty thinking/cognitive distortions and
💡Ask for the evidence/what’s the counter-evidence for how I’m feeling
💡Consider if there is an alternative view; what would others say?
💡Ask if I was being self-compassionate and kind to myself, what would I say to myself?
💡Acknowledge that whatever feeling I have, it’s temporary, and can change
💡If for example I’m feeling negative, acknowledge that I’ve been here before and the feeling has passed: What did I do last time to improve how I felt?
💡Check what the thoughts are associated with this feeling. Then try and challenge those thoughts.
These are just a few possible pointers which I hope might be helpful.
*with thanks to Nandita Bhaskhar for the inspiration behind the graphic