Cognitive distortions series: emotional reasoning

August 20, 2020

This is part of a series looking at the most common cognitive distortions, how they show up, and what you can do to start becoming more aware of them in a personal, career and team context that I originally posted on Instagram. You can read more about cognitive distortions and find links to other posts here.

What is emotional reasoning?

Emotional reasoning is the belief that your feelings are automatically and completely true. When emotional reasoning takes over, logic and objectivity go out the window to be replaced by an acceptance that your emotions are facts. It's a REALLY common distortion, one that can lead to people being described as 'too emotional' or 'unpredictable'. It's actually pretty normal to engage in some degree of unhelpful emotional reasoning at some point in your life - remember when you were sure you couldn't ride a bike because you were scared?! It can become really limiting when it becomes a default way of viewing your world that impacts on your actions in one or more areas of your life though.

How emotional reasoning shows up

Emotional reasoning can often lead to procrastination or a feeling of being stuck. Because an emotional reasoner FEELS like the next step isn't clear, it truly isn't.

How it might show up for you:

In your life

Thinking your partner has feelings for someone else because you're feeling jealous.

In your career

Thinking a change in career is impossible because you feel overwhelmed by the work required to do it.

In your team

Team members thinking each other incapable because they feel distrust.

Challenge your thinking by

To check if your thoughts or actions are being unhelpfully guided by your emotions:

  1. 1. Stop what you're doing and take a moment to reflect.
  2. 2. Close your eyes (if you're somewhere you feel comfortable) and take a few deep breaths that are longer on the exhale - try counting to 4 as you breathe in and 8 as you breathe out. This will help you be present as you allow yourself to really feel your emotion.
  3. 3. Name what you're feeling. Get really curious about the underlying emotion to be sure that you're not naming a secondary emotional response or inauthentic emotion (e.g. fear manifesting as anger).
  4. 4. Notice the thoughts that you're having as a result of that emotion. Don't question them to start with, just let them come and go.
  5. 5. Once you're fully aware of the feelings and thoughts that you're having, ask yourself what facts are there that DON'T support your thoughts. Our brain likes to be right, so it pays more attention to things that agree with it. Up the challenge level by deliberately looking for the contradictory evidence.

Now you can make an informed choice about what you want to think, believe and do next.

⁣This activity can be done alone or as a team activity where trust is high with a coach or facilitator. It's just one way of challenging emotional reasoning, based in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) that I use with clients. If you'd like to make sure that your future isn't held back by emotional reasoning, book your FREE 30 minute call now.

Come and say hi! You can connect with me on Instagram (Rachel @ Rachel Lee Coaching) and LinkedIn too.