This may be hard to believe but just because you are feeling something, does not mean that it is a fact.
While objectively many of us recognize that feelings ≠ facts, this common cognitive distortion (called emotional reasoning) tends to creep in and often shapes how we think about ourselves and the world.
So what is the cognitive distortion we call emotional reasoning?
Emotional reasoning occurs when a person believes, regardless of empirical evidence, that the emotional reaction proves something to be true.
How does this happen?
- A situation causes an emotion
- You start to think so much about your emotion that it starts to seem like it is reality
- You convince yourself that it is your reality and ignore any evidence that tells you otherwise
- It shapes the way you begin to see reality, yourself, others, and the world
- I feel stupid, so therefore I must be stupid:
Sheila had trouble with a problem on her practice math exam and began to feel “stupid.” “I am stupid” continued to cycle in Sheila’s thoughts until she convinced herself that she is stupid.
- I feel afraid and so therefore this situation must be dangerous:
Matt felt more afraid to fly on an airplane than to drive in a car, therefore he concluded that air travel is more dangerous.
Some other common ones:
- I feel lonely therefore no one cares about me.
- I feel angry with that person and therefore that person did something awful and is an awful person.
- I feel guilty and so therefore I must have done something wrong.
It is not a far stretch to see how emotional reasoning is linked to anxiety and depressive symptoms.
So what can we do about it?
- Separate out what happened in the situation and what was an emotional response.
- Remember that a feeling is just a feeling and it will not last forever if you don’t let it.
- Do not let your feelings mean anything about your worth as a person.
It can be helpful to imagine that the situation happened to a friend instead of to you. If that were to occur, what would you tell your friend in that situation? Use that as a guide for how to direct your internal thoughts and self talk.
There are many types of cognitive distortions; visit our blog post on sublimation, a type of cognitive distortion OR for more information about all cognitive distortions, check out positivepsychology.com.
**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).