When something happens that makes you upset, how do you handle it? Are you able to separate your emotions from the reality of the situation with a clear head, or do they wind up blurring together?
It’s a problem that many of us anxiety-ridden overthinkers have: a situation brings emotion out of you, which leads you to think about it so much that the reality you’ve created in your mind is separate from actual reality. Stress is created about things that aren’t real problems simply because of how you felt and thought about them — you let your feelings guide how you interpret reality.
It turns out this phenomenon has an actual name: emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning is a cognitive distortion where a person concludes that their emotional reaction proves something is true, regardless of evidence proving otherwise. Your emotions cloud your thoughts, which in turn clouds your reality.
It’s a real pattern of negative thinking, and is one that can cause a lot of unnecessary distress in someone’s life. As always, if you’re struggling, consider seeking professional help from a therapist. Here are a few ways you can tell if you suffer from emotional reasoning:
Examples of Emotional Reasoning
Signs of emotional reasoning include thoughts like “I feel guilty, so I must have done something bad,” “I’m feeling inadequate, so I must be worthless,” or “I feel afraid, so I must be in a dangerous situation.”
It often correlates with depression and anxiety disorders — because things feel so negative to someone, the person assumes things actually are that negative, rather than taking into account the role that emotions play in their feelings.
Emotional reasoning can lead to feeling like a failure before we even begin working toward something. Our mind letting our emotions take over is exhausting, and can trick us into thinking we’ve failed before we’ve even begun. This can lead to procrastination, and sometimes, not doing the task at all. The emotions taking over also decrease a desire to change, because you feel that change isn’t possible even if you were to try.
How to Know If You Have It
If your emotions dictate your thoughts, and in turn, your actions, you might have emotional reasoning.
Seeking help from a therapist can help you to work through the toxic cycle of negative thoughts that it entails, but in your daily life, there are a few tricks you can use to help overcome your pattern of thinking:
- Separate fact from fiction: when your emotions are taking over your thoughts and ruining your day, ask yourself: “Is what I’m focusing on fact, or is it a reality I’ve created in my mind?”
- Understand that your feelings are not representative of your worth. Just because you are feeling a certain way doesn’t mean you have evidence for an argument against you.
- Remember that feelings are just feelings — while your feelings are always valid, they shouldn’t dictate how you view reality.
- When your emotions are taking over, take a step back and think about what you’d tell a friend or family member if they were feeling the same things, and remind yourself of that.