Dish on Distortions #4: Emotional Reasoning

24 Sep

I think, therefore I am.

This is the basis for understanding emotional reasoning.

We are guided by beliefs, attitudes, values, opinions, and perceptions. Recognize what all of these words embody– OUR individual spin on something. When we look at a person, we are not just seeing eyes, a nose, or the attire he is dressed in. We are automatically attaching meaning, for example, “Gosh he talks with a nasally tone. Reminds me of that high school teacher I couldn’t stand.”

When we were born, and we were without experiences and memories, we viewed everything with fresh eyes. We were unbiased and virtually a “blank slate.” Through the navigation of events and relationships, we learned ways of being and thinking that without taking the time to recognize now, can result in significantly limiting behavior.

A participant attending a recent lecture of mine asked, “How come we do the things we do even when we know we shouldn’t be doing them?” It’s like self-sabotage. We are confined to our small points of view though, and most of us don’t take the time to stop at the “Scenic Overlook”.  Your frame of reference is often just your little box of familiar thoughts and feelings.  “I couldn’t do that! Are you kidding?” “I couldn’t speak in front of a crowd of 100 people. I’d shut down and not know what to say.”  “There’s no way I could get on stage in a bikini.” “I can’t go back to school. Look how old I am!” We often do not see the full context of possibility 1) because we don’t stop to examine that there is one; and 2) because our automatic thoughts lock us into certain beliefs.

Emotional reasoning takes us from “I’m so nervous for this test” to “I am so nervous for this test that this must mean I didn’t study enough” and then “I didn’t study enough; I’m going to fail.”

Nervous does not equate to failure. Nervous is just…..nervous. It doesn’t need to go any further than that. Nervous could mean a lack of confidence, but oftentimes a person will confuse the feeling for fact. Sometimes we can get so far ahead of ourselves that we’re focusing on areas that are completely out of our control. When we back up to where we are right now, in this moment, however, we give ourselves the opportunity to ask what it is we need right here. “I’m nervous….maybe I need to breathe.”

Control means that we trust in our ability to have some measure of influence over our circumstances. Can we influence everything? Of course not. Emotional reasoning gets us as far as possible away from what we can impact.

I’d like to propose a change to the first sentence of this blog.  How about we alter it to read: I think, therefore I’m human.

If you’ve ever paid attention to your thoughts, you recognize that they never stop. There is a constant flow of thoughtful energy. Unfortunately, many of us attach ourselves to our thoughts, believing them to be true. Then we are carried away by them.  We need to learn to just watch them. Imagine your brain like a marquee sign. Be an observer of what runs across that marquee.

The more you practice the more you’ll surprise yourself  by what you automatically think in certain situations.


3 Responses to “Dish on Distortions #4: Emotional Reasoning”

  1. Donloree September 24, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

    I have been learning this past year that if I change my mind, I change myself and my world. It is crazy and amazing. Having a thought doesn’t make it true, nor do you have to believe it. When I think things like ‘Gosh I am such an idiot and I can’t do anything right.’ I don’t have to keep thinking that thought or believe it. I can ask myself things like ‘where did THAT come from?’ or ‘what is true?’. Also by recognizing my past thought patterns I have learned to lower my anxiety and stress in life as well. Poor thinking leads to TONS of stress. Less stress, more possibility, and getting what I want from life. Sign me up! Err, ‘think’ me up!

    I think wonky sometimes, therefore I am woman.

    Great post.

    • kpropst September 24, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

      Haha! We all think wonky. But you hit the nail on the head that we don’t have to believe it. It’s when we do, that we end up suffering the most. We’re like the ocean. Our lives may be tumultuous up top, the waves crashing against the shore. But deep beneath the choppy waters we are calm and serene. We can learn to go to the deep to find that place of “more possibility and less stress.” I talk to myself too, DL. “Wow, that was an interesting thought. Where the heck did that come from?!” Not just thoughts about myself have I become more and more accustomed to noticing, but those about others too. It’s not unusual for most people to automatically go to the negative. We can become much more compassionate people toward others by engaging in this self-analysis too! Thanks for your comments! 🙂

      • Donloree September 24, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

        Oh man, you are so right about thoughts I think about other people! I now realize that I think bad things when I am jealous, am comparing, or feel insecure. When I realize the person in front of me is a glorious and amazing person and so I am (just in different ways) life is much happier!

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