Emotional Reasoning: What It Means And What The Consequences Are

Emotional reasoning: what it means and what the consequences are

Do you know what it is like to experience something without there being any evidence that it is actually happening? Well, if you can relate to it, then you’ve already learned what leads to one of the most uncomfortable psychological questions. It’s a common problem described as emotional inference.

Emotional inference is a term that describes a type of cognitive bias. Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, was the one who defined this term in the 1970s: If you decide that your emotional response matches reality, then you are creating a case of emotional thinking. You throw evidence overboard or simply ignore it and only pay attention to this “truth” that comes from your own feelings. In addition, Beck said that this type of reasoning is based on negative thoughts that are involuntary, uncontrollable, and automatic.

Feelings are not facts

Emotional thinking is based on the assumption that what you feel must be true. For example, it must be true that things are not going well for you and that you are on a losing streak when you are sad. Of course, it can be beneficial to connect with the feelings – but not if what you are feeling is significantly different from what is actually happening.

Shadow of a rose on a man's sweater

The strength of your feelings leads to beliefs that tend to linger until the emotional storm subsides. When you argue emotionally, you trust the automatically generated thoughts that cause emotional problems. Then you end up judging the situation based on your feelings.

That is why emotional thinking distorts your perception of reality and – as a rule – puts it in a negative light. In principle, it can also make them shine in a positive light, but we will not go into that in this article. This darkness fits your world perfectly and you do not notice its influence on you. So you don’t wonder whether what you think you’re seeing is actually true or whether your feelings are manipulating you.

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy and guilt play an important role in a happy life; they are big, blinking signs that something has to change. “

Gretchen Ruby

Emotional reasoning can sabotage the present moment

Emotional reasoning is a very tricky argument because it is based on feelings alone. The problem with this is that feelings only reflect thoughts and beliefs, not realities. For example, everyone has felt like an idiot at some point in their life. But that doesn’t mean we’d all be idiots just for feeling that way, right?

Of course not! This assumption is based on a distorted perception of our environment, which means that the emotions we feel are not evidence that we are, in fact, idiots. This also applies if you feel overwhelmed or hopeless about something. These feelings don’t mean that your problems are impossible to solve and that a disastrous end is near.

Emotional thinking also has a really common side effect: procrastination. If you feel like you’re screwing something up, you’re likely to put it off or not try at all. This procrastination prevents you from making healthy decisions about your self-sufficiency.

When something is considered safe, our natural response is not to struggle to avoid or get rid of it. Usually we surrender to this reality and just accept it as fact. Therefore, in most cases, our perception of reality becomes reality.

Woman sitting thoughtfully by the window.

Emotional reasoning and depression

Emotional reasoning plays a big role in almost all cases of depression. Because depressed people perceive the world so negatively, they usually assume that the reality is really bleak. It does not occur to them to question whether the perception based on their feelings is valid or not.

Many depressed people – and just as many who are not depressed – practice emotional reasoning. They filter in order to be able to concentrate on the negative aspects of an actually positive result. They do this because they move through life in a negative state. Also, it makes no difference to them whether or not they can control this situation. In the end, it will become overwhelming for you as long as you argue emotionally.

One of the big problems is that emotional reasoning is a learned behavior. It is also worth noting that emotional reasoning does not in itself lead to depression. But the thought patterns it brings make it really hard to fight depression.

Woman in winter is depressed

The truth is that emotional inference is really widespread. We all assume that we make rational decisions, but we usually don’t. It is much easier to let our feelings guide us. Because of the way our brains are wired, it is much easier to make a decision based on feelings than it is based on facts. We usually don’t look for facts to back up our conclusions. We only accept them as confirmation – or ignore them.

Break away from your limiting beliefs and stop emotional reasoning

The main problem with wrong thoughts that come into play in emotional thinking is that once you have decided that your emotions are factual, you stop looking for alternative explanations. That is why these thoughts are so limiting and so problematic.

If you want to put an end to emotional inference, then you should be on the lookout for anything that challenges your thoughts. You try to pause for a few seconds and do the following:

  • Notice your thoughts. If you notice emotional reasoning, remember that these feelings may not have much to do with what is happening around you. Try to be objective.
  • Put on your “calm glasses”. Ask yourself if you would see the situation differently if you were calmer. Try to look at the evidence and decide whether the feelings you are feeling are appropriate and understandable in the given situation.
  • Give your feelings time to go. Take your time and question your conclusions as soon as the emotional thorn in the side is gone. It’s much easier to get a different perspective on things once you’ve calmed down.

Never lose sight of the fact that emotional reasoning is a mental trap. It is an illusion that appears when you have trouble managing the emotions that feed on your feelings. Of course, however negative they may be, feelings are never bad in and of themselves. They are there to ensure our survival – like our minds.

“Running a marathon with a backpack is tough and can prevent you from winning the race. Don’t let the baggage of your past – heavy with fear, guilt and anger – slow you down. “

Maddy Malhotra

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