Emotional reasoning is one of the thinking styles we talk about in CBT that can be unhelpful for us.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to start suggesting that we shouldn’t listen to our emotions or that we should make decisions based on only cold, hard facts.
It is a good idea, however, to catch those times when our emotions are leading us to biased (or just plain old incorrect) conclusions.
Emotional reasoning is a biased way of thinking that causes us to believe something just because it feels true. For example:
Because I feel scared, there must be a threat.
Because I feel worthless, I must be worthless.
Because I feel jealous, there must be something going on.
Because I feel embarrassed, other people must be laughing at me.
Because I feel overwhelmed, I must not be coping.
Of course it isn’t so bad if our emotional reasoning is biased in a more positive way, such as:
Because I feel happy, things are going well!
Because I feel in love, they are the most awesome person ever!
Because I feel excited, it is going to be amazing!
Balancing up our emotional reasoning
If you notice that you fall into a more negative form of emotional reasoning, here are some steps you can take to balance it up a bit.
- Recognise the emotion and name it.
- Recognise the thought or conclusion you are making.
- Identify if the thought is a fact or an opinion.
- If it is an opinion (spoiler alert, it almost certainly is) call it out by adding on ‘I am having the thought that…’ or ‘I am having the opinion right now that… because it fits the way I feel.’
- Identify the evidence.
- Identify if there is an alternative way of thinking about it.
- I am feeling overwhelmed.
- The thought I am having is ‘I am not coping’.
- The thought ‘I am not coping’ is an opinion.
- I am having the thought that I am not coping because it fits the way I feel.
- The evidence is that I am meeting my deadlines, I had good feedback from my manager and the project is going well.
- Even though it feels difficult, I am coping better than I think.
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