What Happens When Emotions Take the Lead?
Emotional reasoning is a cognitive distortion or negative thought process, that places all of our focus on our emotions. I don’t want you to think that emotions are insignificant. Our emotions are valid and important to us, however, they can be subjective and are only a piece of the puzzle that makes up our mental well-being. Emotional Reasoning is one of the ‘Top 10 Negative Thought Processes’, you can read about the other nine here.
Emotional reasoning occurs when we mistake our feelings for facts. It leads us to believe that if we feel hopeless, there must not be any hope left. It can make us believe that if we feel worthless, we must not have any worth. I have made the mistake of allowing emotional reasoning to get the best of me. I have turned down amazing opportunities because I felt unworthy and believed that it must be true. I have allowed myself to be stepped on and belittled because I already felt small and insignificant. I believed my feelings when they told me I was worthless. I believed my anxiety when it told me I would not succeed. I never questioned my emotions, I took them as gospel truth. I felt horrible and believed that my situation must be horrible and completely beyond repair. But that wasn’t true, it was just how I felt at the time. I had no idea that I had the power to change how I felt.
According to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), our thoughts lead to our emotions. For more information on the impact of thoughts on emotions, read Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World.
Situation → Thoughts → Feelings → Actions
The problem with emotional reasoning is, it takes our thoughts out of the equation, and causes us to experience a feedback loop of feelings that get more intense with each loop.
Situation → Feelings → Feelings → FEELINGS…. (and so on…)
It’s important for our wellness to break the cycle of emotional reasoning by acknowledging what role our thoughts have to play in this process. Once we are able to acknowledge our thoughts, we can begin to influence them to become more positive. Positive thoughts will lead to feelings of contentment and peace, which will eventually improve our mood. I have compiled a list of the strategies that I not only use but also, teach, to gain some power over thoughts and emotions run wild.
Connect Feelings to Thoughts
Feelings are often easier to identify than thoughts. But every feeling is attached to a thought about the situation you are in or a trigger you experienced. For example, feeling angry may be attached to thoughts of enduring something unjust. If you can identify the thought, you will have an opportunity to try to change it and the emotion attached to it.
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Acknowledge Thoughts and Feelings When They Occur
Bottling up emotions is dangerous and can lead to physical and emotional complications. Acknowledging emotions and attempting to connect them to thoughts when they occur can help to prevent feeling overwhelmed, and it also provides valuable insight into our thought processes.
Practice Positive Affirmations
Our thoughts become habitual over time, even if we are not aware of them. Practicing positive affirmations can help to replace unhealthy thoughts with positive ones which will eventually result in more positive emotions.
I know that we can get into the habit of keeping our head down and telling everyone we’re “fine” even when we’re not. But this behaviour doesn’t help us out in the long run. We need, to be honest about what we feel and how those feelings affect us if we hope to change them.
Talk it Out
I have found that having a supportive person to talk things through with can shine a new light on what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. Outside opinions can be helpful in providing a fresh perspective.
Write it Down
When there is no one around to talk to, journalling can be effective in working through emotions and identifying thoughts. I find that it can be easier to sort things out when it is written in black and white in front of me rather than swirling around my head.
Search Out Positives
Positive thoughts don’t come easily. It takes a lot of hard work, practice, and perseverance. It’s not like waving a magic wand, but, to me, it has been completely worth it. Part of changing well-established thought processes is being willing to look for something different. Seek out the positives. They will not come find you, but if you go looking, you will find them.
What is your experience with emotional reasoning? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the intensity of your emotions? How do you cope with them? Please feel free to comment in the section below, your coping strategies may be helpful to other readers. You can also email me directly from my Contact page if you have any questions or would like advice about something you’re struggling with.
Originally published at www.rebeccaanhalt.com on July 3, 2015.