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Overcoming Emotional Reasoning (A Cognitive Distortion)

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Thank you for stopping by for my ongoing positive self-talk series.  Self-love starts with positive self-talk, and all of that starts with you.  Shifting the way that you think requires the ability to recognize the power of your thoughts.  You can learn to love yourself by changing what you think about yourself and how you talk with yourself.   

We all struggle from time to time with cognitive distortions.  The healthiest person you know will struggle with a little cognitive distortion here and a little exaggeration there.  Doing this here and there won’t have an impact on your mental state in the short term.  However, when you start to do it constantly and become your everyday thinking style, your mental health will suffer. 

What does emotional reasoning look like?

In a nutshell, it is “I feel therefore it must be true.”  Whenever someone concludes that how they feel about something must be the reality of the situation, any evidence that contradicts how they are feeling is dismissed in favor of the assumed “truth” of their feelings.    

In other words, if a person feels overwhelmed by something, then it must be because the task at hand is too big.  This is a key aspect of procrastination.  If you feel that the task is overwhelming, then you are more likely to put it off or not even attempt it. 

This particular cognitive distortion can look similar to catastrophizing and mind-reading.

This type of thinking is common in people that struggle with panic attacks, anxiety, depression, low self-worth, and self-criticism. 

“I feel” Emotional Reasoning

Here are some examples of this cognitive distortion. 

Concluding that because you feel fat you must be fat even though you have a healthy BMI and know this.

Deciding that because you feel lonely you deduce that no one must love you and that you are unlovable.        

You had a close call on your drive home and felt a spike in your heart rate and blood pressure.  Because of this close call, you conclude that your usual route home is no longer safe and refuse to drive it again.     

How this cognitive distortion can be harmful.

While it is important to listen and validate your emotional experience, it’s equally important to include rational evidence.  Emotional reasoning dismisses the facts and holds onto the emotional response as “concrete evidence” of the assumed truth.   

Emotional reasoning almost always plays a big role in anxiety, depression, and procrastination.  For example, if you feel anxious, then you may conclude that you must be in danger.  If you feel depressed, then you may conclude that your life is passing you by.  If you feel overwhelmed, you may decide that the task at hand is too big and you can’t do it.  Emotional reasoning can impact your confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth even if you know that there is no logical evidence to support your feelings.      

Emotional Reasoning and self-worth

How to know if you are using emotional reasoning in your life. 

You might be if…

You are making conclusions based on a feeling. 

Or if you are dismissing facts or evidence because it contradicts what you are feeling and feel that you’re correct (even though others don’t agree).        

Your feelings strongly impact your view of a situation and cause conflict or distress.      

How to get out and overcome emotional reasoning. 

  • I.C.E. – and I’m not talking about “in case of emergency.” 

I’m talking about…

Identify the thought and the feeling. 

Call it what it is – a cognitive distortion or emotional reasoning.   

Explore the evidence that supports the thought and feeling and the evidence that contradicts the thought and feeling.  Check-in with someone else and get their feedback.    

  • Step away from your thoughts and feelings and take a fresh look at the situation – Keep in mind that thoughts and feelings are not facts.    
Rising Strong book by Brene' Brown Ph.D.
Rising Strong

Check out Rising Strong by Brene Brown, Ph.D. [affiliate link].  It is an exceptional book about how your emotions cannot control you.  You can’t succeed until you stop sabotaging your efforts, and success comes down to attitude.        

  • Introduce self-compassion as you strive to use logic and facts into your vocabulary – talk to yourself as if you were a dear friend who was struggling with emotional reasoning.      

Let me know your thoughts and what strategies have worked to overcome emotional reasoning in your life.   

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