Emotional Reasoning is what you do when you use the way that you feel to determine what is happening around you.
It is one of the thinking traps that can get in the way of happiness and success.
One of the key concepts within Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the idea that thoughts lead to emotions and many years of research have shown beyond any doubt that this is a valid concept.
What is less well known is that the inverse of this situation is also true, that our feelings can also lead to certain ways of thinking or certain thoughts.
Sometimes, when we have strong feelings, we can take these as being ‘evidence’ of the truth of our negative thoughts, but this emotional reasoning can cause us all sorts of problems.
For these reasons we argue that emotions are very poor indicators of reality.
Emotional Reasoning in Action
Examples of emotional reasoning include scenarios such as:
- Hayley’s partner has been spending the last month working over at the office due to some IT problems that need to be solved. Hayley is starting to feel jealous and suspicious of her partner and, on the basis of these feelings, concludes that her partner is having an affair with a co-worker.
- Indi has had a feeling of guilt come over him out of the blue. He concludes that he must have done something to feel guilty about otherwise he wouldn’t be having guilty feelings.
- Sophie is experiencing strong feelings of fear despite there being nothing going on around her. She decides that something must be about to happen that is going to be bad.
Many times, your feelings are the product of a thought or idea that you are having at a sub-conscious level, that is below your awareness.
Human beings have a very sophisticated mind and many of our day-to-day activities and functions are managed by the unconscious part of our brains.
Experts estimate that we have between 6,000 and 80,000 thoughts everyday which is an enormous amount of thinking.
If we had to have all of those thought consciously (with full awareness) then it is doubtful that we would ever have much time for anything else.
So, bear in mind that a large part of our cognitive activity is going on below the level of our awareness and may give rise to emotional experiences or feelings without them necessarily meaning anything significant about the environment that we are in when we experience them.