Emotional reasoning: when emotions cloud thinking

On a daily basis, emotions are part of our behavioral repertoire, they guide us in our permanent quest for satisfaction and well-being, And they help us avoid damage and discomfort that can threaten our physical and psychological health.

however, these important benefits lead to side effects. There are times when emotions take their toll on us, even though we are in full sanity.

A typical example of the latter is what is called in the field of psychology emotional reasoning.

What is emotional reasoning?

Emotional reasoning involves, as the name suggests, reason based on what one feels.

Say we passed a math exam poorly or got fired from work. Under these circumstances we are likely to “feel” that we have failed, so if this is what we “feel” then it must be because we are indeed “we” are failures. When we fall into the trap of emotional reasoning, we come to seemingly true conclusions but without following a sequence of logical reasoning, but paying attention only to how I feel.

after, an excessive generalization is made on the basis of an anecdotal or very specific fact. Just because we failed a math exam doesn’t necessarily mean we failed in life. And this is something that we constantly incur; we draw hasty and usually precise conclusions, without any valid and objective evidence to justify them.

Likewise, if we feel lonely, we may come to think that we deserve it, that we don’t deserve to be loved, or that we have a flaw that keeps people away. From there, believing that we are going to be left alone for life, there is a step.

Outward-centered emotional reasoning

Emotional reasoning has another outward-centric side. We also tend to judge the behaviors or emotional states of others based on how we feel. at this moment.

If we are angry that a superior denies us a raise, we are much more likely to attribute the meanness to the neighbor next door listening to rock at full blast, or to take the driver’s reckless maneuvering as a personal offense. of the act that passes in front of ours on the highway.

When we feel angry, we see anger in others, and we are unable to realize that it is really we who are angry and projecting our emotions onto others.

Emotions are useful

All of this should not lead us to think that the emotions themselves are harmful to us. I like to think of all human emotions as a primitive system of intra and interpersonal communication. It might sound too fancy, but it’s actually quite simple.

Let’s take it in stages, let’s see it word for word.

I say primitive system because emotions, as we know them, in the course of the evolution of the human species, predate language. When we were little more than treetop living primates leaping from branch to branch and completely unable to articulate a sound or at a distance similar to what we know today as the human word, we had already the opportunity to express emotions.

The “emotional communication system”

And that brings us to the second concept: the communication system. When someone smiles at us and lights up their face when they see us, they are telling us, before they say a word, that they are happy to be there. Either we love him in a certain way or we have nothing to fear because he has no hostile intentions towards us. These interpretations are valid, of course, depending on the context.

If, on the other end, someone looks at us, wrinkles their nose, raises their upper lip, and exposes their teeth, they are letting us know, without expressing it verbally, that they despise us, hate us, or for some reason. whatever reason he feels motivated enough to hurt us. In fact, our evolutionary companions, the apes, present fangs as a form of threat to others. Having the arsenal of attack is usually an effective intimidating element, Or a way to dissuade the other from his intention to attack us.

This is why it is possible to state that the main function of emotions is to communicate behavioral states, attitudes and predispositions, Ourselves and others.

Emotions and how we expressed them

We don’t need our partner to tell us whether or not she liked the birthday present we bought her; before he utters a word, we already know it by the expression on his face. Likewise, we know if our boss is going to give us a raise or if he is going to fire us when he sends us to call to speak in private and we go to his office.

When we see someone with a face furrowed with sadness, without having to ask him anything, we are sure that he is going through a bad period, that there is something that makes him suffer. It arouses our interest, our compassion … his emotion acts as a facilitator that pushes us to act, to do something to help.

Cooperation between human beings in the face of adversity, or behind the achievement of a common goal, is one of the main components that have enabled our evolution and progress as a species.

The primitive and interpersonal character of emotions intervenes not only on the phylogenetic level (Darwinian evolution from one species to another), but also on the ontogenetic level, that is to say during the individual development of the person. . To see this, just look at how a baby behaves before the first year of life, before they can articulate cowardly words.

From birth itself, the different cries of the baby communicate to the hungry adult, Who has colic or is upset because he wants his diapers changed. Any mother more or less able to decode her emotions learns to recognize the subtle nuances of her child’s crying and what they indicate during her first months of life.

Some modest conclusions

Emotional reasoning is a mental scam, a deception, an illusion created by a demonic magician who appears as a result of a difficulty in interpreting and managing his emotions correctly, and who, hidden in anonymity, can completely lead the life of the affected person, making him believe in things that are not not true, such as worthless as a person, that the world is a dangerous place, and even that there is no hope that he can come out of this state.

In other words, that is to say emotional reasoning generates illusions based on emotion.

But emotions, in and of themselves, are neither harmful nor an error of nature. In general, all, those who are pleasant and especially the unpleasant, they are very beneficial for humans as they play a key role in survival. They help us build relationships, strengthen bonds as we move away from dangers.

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