Emotional reasoning

I’d like to explore here what we mean by ‘emotional reasoning’, and to share some suggestions and ideas on how to do something about it if you recognise it in yourself or others, and your emotions are managing you, rather than the other way around more often than you’d like.


What is emotional reasoning?

Emotional reasoning has been defined as the condition of being so strongly influenced by our emotions that we assume that they indicate objective truth. Whatever you feel is true, without any conditions and without any need for supporting facts or evidence.

You feel stupid, so you think you must BE stupid, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. You feel lonely so you’re compelled to deduce that no one cares about you, that your feeling unequivocally confirms your unlovability.

We’re applying emotional reasoning when we take it as read that just because we feel a particular way – anxious, negative, fearful, down – that means it’s true: we take our feelings as evidence for the truth. If things feel negative, we assume that they are. We don’t challenge the validity of these feelings. So for example, we might say to ourselves:

  • “I feel worthless, therefore I must BE worthless.”
  • “I feel anxious, so there must be something to be anxious about in my life.”
  • “I feel guilty, so I must have done something wrong.”

We are not our thoughts

Let’s remind ourselves that, just as you are not your thoughts - they’re creations - feelings are current opinions, not facts, with the emphasis on ‘current’ as they’re not set in stone or immovable, and they can change. This is of course easier said than done!

What all this amounts to is that emotional reasoning can lead us to make false conclusions about ourselves, others and/or the world, and as a result prevent us from making the most of ourselves and situations.

What can we do about it if this is a problem for us? Here are a few suggestions and ideas.

Notice that I’m thinking in unhelpful ways

“I notice I’m having the thought that…” We’re being mindful in this case, and not ‘fusing’ with our thoughts, gaining some distance from them and just observing them. This is a good start if we want to let go of troubling thoughts and feelings.

Challenge faulty thinking/cognitive distortions

This could include:

  • Asking for the evidence/what’s the counter-evidence for how I’m feeling.
  • Considering if there is an alternative view; what would others say? 
  • Ask if I was being self-compassionate and kind to myself, what would I say to myself?
  • Acknowledge that whatever feeling I have, it’s temporary, and can change. If, for example, I’m feeling negative, acknowledge that I’ve been here before and the feeling has passed: What did I do last time to improve how I felt
  • Check what the thoughts are associated with this feeling. Then try and challenge those thoughts.

These are just a few possible pointers that I hope might be helpful. Do get in touch if you’d like a word about any of the foregoing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Henley-On-Thames RG9 & Guildford GU1
Written by Marc Kirby, Stress Management and Emotional Wellbeing Coach
Henley-On-Thames RG9 & Guildford GU1

Marc has been involved in training, coaching and developing people for over 30 years. His interest is in supporting individuals to make the most of themselves; to maximise their potential; to perform to their best and to live their lives to the full. He is a director at Stress Management Plus, based in Reading, Berkshire.

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