Untwist Your Thinking – Emotional Reasoning

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“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”  ― Oscar Wilde

It’s been a while since I have visited the “Untwist Your Thinking” concept that Dr. David Burns developed and that I found affected much of my life as I lost much of my self-esteem, due to youth bullying (C-PTSD). I want to talk about one that I certainly did often during my teen and into my adult years that is an easy one to develop, due to youth abuse. It is called “Emotional Reasoning”. As Dr. Burns explains it:

Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one.”
Of course, you can also think of this in mental health terms. “I feel like I’m going crazy, so I must be crazy. I feel sad all the time, so I must be depressed.”

Boy, did I do this all the time. The biggest problem with the emotional reasoning is that you are telling your mind what to believe. After a while of doing this with your every thought and feeling, your mind will begin to tell you it instead. So, as you say to yourself, “everyone doesn’t like me, so why should I like myself. I must be a horrible person”. Well, you can imagine what that thinking starts to do to us.

In many ways, when we read about suicide, due to bullying or other abuse, emotional reasoning can play a big part with the thinking of the individual taking their life. It is an important twisted thinking style for this very reason. As I allowed my mind to believe my own emotional reasoning, I slowly fell into stress, anxiety, and depression. I hated myself, because I had convinced myself I was not worthy of love. That came after many years of using emotional reasoning thinking in my life. It is a real and damaging way to think.

The first thing to remember is that your mental health is not an adjective. For example, you might wake up one day and start working on the computer and then the computer crashes. You think to yourself, “I can’t do anything right, so I must be a total failure”.

MUST, WHY, ALL THE TIME. These words are either not true in most uses and certainly ALL THE TIME is a major exaggeration of the truth. So many of us use emotional reasoning, thinking we can rationalize the way we feel. But your mind is a tricky devil and you will need to fight that thinking. So, how do you change or untwist this issue?

  1. Catch yourself doing it, when you hear your self-talk become emotional reasoning.
  2. Don’t live the double standard – How would you answer a friend that told you they were thinking the same thing? I’m sure you would be compassionate with them. Be the same way with yourself. Be your own friend.
  3. Ask people you trust if you are really thinking the truth? This survey method helps you realize that you are the only one that is seeing things this way. Chances are, your friends and trusted mentors don’t think this way about you.
  4. Try defining the terms you are using about yourself. If you think of yourself as a loser, fool, or bad person, think of what the definition of these words are. You will most likely find that you do not fit these terms.

In the end, emotional reasoning is a tough habit to break. Many of us have been thinking this twisted style so long that it is an immediate and automatic reaction we do to ourselves. One of the other important things you can do when you feel this thinking creeping in, is stop, and count to ten before continuing. Instead of immediate reasoning, then wait a minute. If you meditate, do that. You can change this habit around. It’s just work that you must take on yourself, with the support and help of the professionals and loved ones around you. Stay well and stay positive.

Links to more information:

http://www.apsu.edu/sites/apsu.edu/files/counseling/COGNITIVE_0.pdf

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/feelings-arent-facts-emotional-reasoning-0

https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/Images/Done-Distorted%20Thinking_tcm75-461044_tcm75-461044.pdf

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About bullyingrecovery

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach with a niche in bullying and abuse recovery, Bullying Recovery activist, and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance". and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe
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