What we feel affects our perception of reality and more often than not, we do not question if there is actual, factual basis for our perceptions. For instance, when we feel alone, we conclude that our loneliness must mean that people around us don’t care and we are really alone- why would you be feeling this if it weren’t true? First used in the 70’s during the advent of cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional reasoning is a thought distortion that leads us to believe that what we feel informs our reality.
Let’s look at how emotional reasoning plays a part in how we perceive mental health. There is a big under-representation of mental wellness in the media, pop culture and politics. Mental health, and seeking professional help for it, is still highly stigmatized. Because it’s not talked about often, it can feel like you are the only one struggling. This, therefore, informs the ‘reality’ that you shouldn’t seek support because you think no one can understand what you are going through. But what’s the reality? That 1 in 5 people in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in any given year! And that’s of the people that reported- perhaps this number is as high as 1 in 4 or 3.
Why is emotional reasoning a problem? Because it leads us to believe things that are not based in reality! It causes stigma, unfounded conclusions and unrealistic ideas about ourselves and the world around us. It stops us from getting help and talking openly. We become less empathic and understanding (especially to ourselves), more distrusting of others and experiences. Ultimately, we create a reality that keeps us in our maladaptive patterns. It’s very difficult to objectively look at ourselves and figure out what our emotional reasonings are. A CBT trained therapist can help identify when emotional reasoning takes over and how it plays a role in every day fallacies. You can learn to recognize emotional reasoning with some hard work, but it’ll help create a more grounded, realistic understanding of your world.