Emotional Reasoning

Emotional Reasoning

Thought Errors: The Tricky Traps of Our Minds Part 3: Emotional Reasoning

Welcome to the third of a three-part series about thought errors here at the Mental Fitness Corner.

Today, we will delve into a common thought error known as emotional reasoning and see how it can impact our lives. Emotional reasoning involves making judgments or decisions based mainly on subjective feelings rather than logical analysis. It’s like wearing tinted glasses that colour our perception of reality, often leading to biased interpretations. 

Emotional reasoning does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it’s woven into the intricate fabric of our lives, influenced by many external factors. Situations, environments, and the experiences of those around us can all contribute to the emotions we sense. Sometimes, the emotional reasoning we engage in is a response to these external triggers, rather than a reflection of our inbuilt qualities.

Picture this: You receive a text message from a close friend that seems curt, or a friend seems distant and preoccupied during a conversation, and suddenly, your heart sinks. Your mind starts racing, concocting all sorts of negative thoughts about their intentions. Your emotional reasoning might kick in, causing you to believe that you’ve done something wrong or that they’re upset with you. However, the truth could be that your friend had a tough day at work, and their emotions have nothing to do with you at all. 

While emotions play a crucial role in our lives, relying solely on our emotions for decision-making can lead to thought distortions. Emotional reasoning can also hinder our ability to think critically and objectively. When we allow emotions to dictate our thoughts, we may overlook rational alternatives, ignore evidence, and jump to conclusions. This can lead to misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and conflict in our personal and professional lives.

Can you think of a situation where you might have been engaging in emotional reasoning?

The key is to balance emotion and rational thinking.  Simple but not always easy! 

Remember the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and behaviour that we have looked at here at the Mental Fitness Corner? 

Well, to balance our emotion and rational thinking and not just jump to conclusions, we can start by becoming aware of our emotional states (feelings) and how they influence our thoughts and behaviours. This will help us recognise when we are engaging in emotional reasoning and go on to consciously challenge irrational beliefs that arise from emotional reasoning & replace them with more realistic and evidence-based thoughts, including considering multiple perspectives and gathering information before making judgments or decisions. We can also take a moment to pause and reflect on the source of the emotions as just because we may sense another person’s negative emotions does not mean that we are the cause of those emotions. These processes help us to reframe situations in a way that lines up with objective reality.

Another helpful strategy is to develop the skills to regulate our emotions effectively. These skills can include practicing self-care, engaging in activities that bring us joy, and seeking support when needed. Emotion regulation allows us to approach situations with a clearer mind and make more balanced decisions.

We often confuse emotional reasoning with intuition, using them interchangeably. It’s important to understand the difference between them. Unlike emotional reasoning which draws heavily on the intensity of current emotions and feelings, often leading to biased judgments, intuition doesn’t rely on intense emotions. Instead, it often operates quietly in the background, offering insights that arise without conscious effort. 

Intuition is that gut feeling, that hunch, that inexplicable knowing that can prove invaluable in making swift decisions. It relies on accumulated subconscious knowledge, experiences, and patterns, often surfacing as a sudden insight.

Imagine walking down a dimly lit street and suddenly feeling a strong urge to change your route. Later, you discover that your intuition steered you away from a potential danger. Intuition is like a silent guide that draws from your subconscious knowledge and experiences.

Can you think of a situation where you might have been engaging in emotional reasoning?

Takeaway Message

Emotional reasoning influences how we perceive and respond to the world around us. It can skew our judgment by prioritising emotional intensity over objective evidence. By cultivating self-awareness, evaluating evidence, regulating emotions, and restructuring our thoughts, we can navigate life’s challenges with greater clarity and make decisions that serve our well-being, balancing emotions, and rational thought. Remember, emotions are a powerful guide, but they shouldn’t be the sole navigator on our journey through life. 

Stay tuned for our next article where we will explore the “Psychology of Enough.”

Get in touch with Shire Doctors and Dentists today

Important: If you find yourself struggling to navigate your emotions or are experiencing significant distress, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and help you develop personalised strategies to manage your emotions effectively.

Dr Rosanna Francis is a clinical psychologist who believes in the inner strength of the individual, and the value of tapping into these strengths and learning new skills to help one live a more comfortable, fulfilling life. She has over 20 years experience working across a diverse range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, complex trauma, relationships, stress, self-confidence, and emotion regulation; and, a special interest (research & clinical) in working with people with high intellectual ability who struggle with anxiety.