Emotional Reasoning

by Monica Ross

We’re nearing the end. There’s only one more unhelpful thinking style left after this. This one is one of my favorites though.  It's good to keep in conscious awareness in order to battle a bad mood. The unhelpful thinking style we’re covering with this post is emotional reasoning. We often pose them as opposites “emotion” and “reason.” Emotional reasoning is using emotion as a basis for our reasoning about something. We all know our moods can fluctuate. But sometimes when gaining a grasp of our environment and all the things taking place within it, we lead with emotion instead of logic.

This isn’t a dis against having emotions or feelings, it’s simply creating awareness around the fact that sometimes we use our emotions as evidence for reality. Let’s say that I’m feeling anxious about flying in a plane.

Let’s say every time I think about flying the feelings of anxiety are so intense that I avoid flying altogether. I might construct my life so that I never have to fly ever again. In this situation I might be reading into my feelings of anxiety an external threat that doesn’t really exist.

Or at the very least I might have magnified the external threat which may have a very low chance of actually occurring.It’s important to note that sometimes our feelings of anxiety and depression are independent of our external environment. Ever wake up in a bad mood and notice how your whole morning is colored by the mood you’re in?

There may be nothing to suggest that there’s anything out of the ordinary or horrible about the day other than the fact that your mood is just low. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before and that is part of it.

You might go into work and start thinking thoughts about how it’s the worst place to be and how much you can’t stand your coworkers and how maybe looking for another job would be a good idea. And all of this might have not as much to do about work or your coworkers but more to do about the mood that you started the morning with.

It's as though we're saying to ourselves that because we feel a certain way things are a certain way. This is not necessarily true. Because we feel anxious doesn’t mean there is any kind of real threat.   Because we feel depressed doesn’t mean that our jobs are the worst place to work.

Because I feel like I am the worst mother in the world doesn’t mean that I am the worst mother in the world. There is an external and objective reality that is independent of how we might feel about it, theoretically anyway.

All we’re talking about here is bringing these styles of thinking, that we all at one time or another engage in, into conscious awareness. With the idea being that once we have awareness, we can do something about it. Without awareness, not much we can do.

So these things that we do to keep our mood up like exercising, eating healthy, making healthy decisions about the people we surround ourselves with. They’re oh so important. They help to keep our mood up.

One of the hardest parts of being in a low mood is the temptation to roll with it and let it color our world in a negative light--that's what we do when we start with our negative emotion and use it to make sense of our environment. There are things that we can do even to manipulate the body in a way into boosting our mood and giving ourselves the extra energy we need to pull out of the negativity.

We may feel in the moment like the last thing we want to do is go for a walk, or get some rest, or watch something humorous, or any number of mood boosting things we could be doing. But then notice how differently we may feel afterwards.

A phrase you will hear people throw around when talking about emotional reasoning is the statement “I feel therefore it is.” We’re challenging that here. That is not to say that we’re discounting things like having the gut feeling that walking down a dark alley at night might not be such a good thing.

Pay attention to gut instincts. At the same time, work with challenging yourself.  Notice that just as our thoughts can influence our feelings our feelings can influence our thoughts. Remember the triangle—thoughts-->feelings-->actions?

It also flows the other way. We might start with an action like getting very little rest, which affects how we feel which might be irritable, which then affects our thinking which might be that maybe this isn’t the best relationship for me.

I know! All of these things are going on, on an unconscious level on the daily. I think it’s important to stop and take stalk of it all and to play with creating our own happiness as it were. No person, place, or thing makes us feel a certain way.  It starts with us.

The world doesn’t have to feel like a place that exerts it’s pressures inwards towards us. We have the capacity to reverse that process and make decisions, to exert our energy which ideally comes from a place of love and good intention, outward.