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Emotional Reasoning

Part I:  Description

Emotional Reasoning: When Feelings Distort Reality

Emotional reasoning is a cognitive distortion, meaning it's a thinking trap where your emotions heavily color your perception of reality. This leads to drawing conclusions based on how you feel in the moment, rather than on objective evidence.

How Emotional Reasoning Works

  • "I feel it, therefore it's true": If you feel stupid, you assume you ARE stupid, regardless of accomplishments. If you're anxious, you believe a situation MUST be dangerous, even if that's unlikely.

  • Negative Bias: Emotional reasoning often skews towards negativity – feeling inadequate, assuming the worst, etc.

  • It's Tricky Because Feelings Are Real: The sadness, anger, etc., are genuine, making it harder to see they may not reflect the true nature of the situation.

Examples of Emotional Reasoning

  • Failing a test = "I'm a failure at everything." Overgeneralizing from one event.

  • Feeling lonely = "Nobody likes me." Jumping to conclusions with limited data.

  • Boss seems a bit curt = "They must hate my work." Catastrophizing based on a mood that may be unrelated to you.

Why Emotional Reasoning is a Problem

  • Leads to Poor Decisions: Acting impulsively based on fear, or self-sabotaging due to low self-worth based on feelings.

  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: If you BELIEVE you're doomed to fail, you may behave in ways that make it more likely.

  • Mental Health Impact: Contributes to anxiety, depression, and strains relationships when you project your feelings onto others.

Overcoming Emotional Reasoning

  1. Learn to Identify It: Start noticing when you say things like "I feel like..." followed by a sweeping statement.

  2. Challenge Your Thoughts: Is there evidence to support this? Are there alternative explanations?

  3. Focus on Facts: What are the concrete details of the situation, separated from your emotional reaction.

  4. Practice Mindfulness: Become an observer of your emotions, allowing them to be present without letting them control your conclusions.

Part II:  Common Questions

Isn't it normal to be guided by our feelings sometimes?

  • Answer: Yes! Emotions are valuable signals BUT they shouldn't be the ONLY factor in decision-making:

    • Gut Instincts Have Their Place: Especially for quick judgments in familiar situations.

    • The Problem is Over-reliance: When feelings consistently lead you to conclusions that evidence doesn't support.

    • Goal is Balance: Fact-checking your emotions, not dismissing them entirely.

Is emotional reasoning a sign of mental illness?

  • Answer: Not necessarily! It's a very common thinking trap. However, it CAN become problematic in certain contexts:

    • Intensity Matters: If emotional reasoning consistently causes severe distress or impairment, it might be linked to anxiety or mood disorders.

    • Rigidity: Inability to consider alternatives even with contrary evidence might warrant professional guidance.

    • Seek Help If Needed: Therapy can teach skills to manage emotions and thought patterns more effectively.

How do I tell the difference between emotional reasoning and intuition?

  • Answer: This can be tricky. Consider these distinctions:

    • Intuition: Feels calm, a subtle "knowing." Often based on accumulated experience your conscious mind hasn't fully processed.

    • Emotional Reasoning: Usually charged (fear, sadness, etc.), accompanied by negative self-talk and overgeneralizing.

    • Test it Out: If possible, act on your intuition in small ways. Positive outcomes build trust, while repeated negative ones suggest it might be emotion-driven.

How do I stop emotional reasoning?

  • Answer: It takes practice, be patient with yourself! Here are key steps:

    • Awareness is the First Step: Notice the "I feel..." to "...therefore..." thought pattern. Label it for what it is.

    • Talk Back: Challenge the thought. Ask yourself, "What's the evidence for this? Are there other possibilities?"

    • Focus on the Concrete: Write down just observable facts about the situation, minimizing interpretation.

    • Mindfulness: Builds the ability to step back and observe emotions as separate from absolute truth.

Are there any resources to learn more about overcoming emotional reasoning?

  • Answer: Yes

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy centers on changing unhelpful thought patterns, check Psychology Today ( for therapists specializing in CBT.

    • Workbooks: Search for "CBT Workbook" or those specifically focused on challenging cognitive distortions.

    • Reliable Websites: (, MindTools have sections on emotional reasoning.

Part III:  Additional Resources

Books about Emotional Reasoning

  • Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

    • This classic CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) book offers tools to identify and challenge cognitive distortions like emotional reasoning.

  • Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks by Seth Gillihan

    • A structured workbook format for learning CBT techniques and applying them specifically to overcome emotional reasoning.

  • Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky

    • Another user-friendly CBT guide with clear explanations of emotional reasoning and how to combat it.

  • The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey Wood, Jeffrey Brantley

    • While DBT is broader than just emotional reasoning, it offers excellent mindfulness and emotion regulation skills relevant to overcoming this thinking trap.

Websites about Emotional Reasoning

  • The Greater Good Science Center (University of California, Berkeley): – Research-backed information on emotional intelligence and strategies for managing emotions.

  • :– Offers an overview of emotional reasoning, examples, and tips for overcoming it.

  • PsychCentral: - Reputable articles on mental health, including pieces specifically focusing on cognitive distortions.

Therapy Approaches about Emotional Reasoning

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The gold standard for challenging thought patterns, including emotional reasoning. Many therapists specialize in this method.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): While initially developed for Borderline Personality Disorder, it teaches valuable tools for distress tolerance and emotion regulation, applicable to managing emotional reasoning.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Helps you gain psychological flexibility and accept difficult emotions without being controlled by them, reducing the hold of emotional reasoning.

Part IV:  Disclaimer

These results were highly selected, curated, and edited by The Nexus Inititiative. To make this amount of complimentary content available at a cost-effective level for our site visitors and clients, we have to rely on, and use, resources like Google Gemini and other similar services.

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