I thought of many things when I decided to ask you if you mistake your feelings for reality, Hailey.
Right now, I’m looking out of my bedroom window as I watch the orange sunset. Thoughts are flitting across my mind whenever I think about you.
I worry about you, Hailey! Really, I do. It is so easy for me to become a Mother Hen Alter Ego, not giving you any breathing space as I shower you with my solicitude. Anyway, This Alter Ego right here doesn’t wish to bother you with her ramblings. Let’s get down to the crux of my letter!
I know you’re really into the whole logical thinking thing in philosophy, so don’t feel offended at my asking you: do you engage in emotional reasoning? It is very likely you do unwittingly.
Here’s how it is easy to engage in emotional reasoning.
If I remember aright, you work for money. In the course of your business dealings with people, you do not always get paid on time. When you don’t get credited, what kind of thoughts go on in your head?
- Premise: When I don’t have lots of money on me, I get anxious.
- Conclusion: Money is the source of my anxiety. Or my peace of mind.
Does this circumstance sound familiar to you? If it doesn’t I will depict another one that may have happened to you.
Of course, you ain’t no nun, Hailey. This means in the course of your life you have had quite a few romantic associations. Do you still remember how you felt in them?
Giddy, euphoric, affectionate… these are just a few of the emotions you have felt in these intense and brief trysts of yours. You probably felt especially willing to do lots of things for your beloved and with time, you concluded that you were becoming a much better person by virtue of his presence in your life.
In a sentence, you were certain that he was all you ever wanted in a man!
Let me focus on your psyche. You may already be shaking your head at This Alter Ego who imagines she knows so much, but I will show you just how well I see through you!
Now you are so sure you believe in the commandment Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain! You beat your chest as you swear by the Ten Commandments. But how many times have I heard you swear Jesus Christ, or God, no! Haven’t you told me that in your church, swearing is tantamount to taking the name of the Lord in vain? Aha, I got you right there!
I’ll be merciful with you today. I can explain why you do that. Millions of people delude themselves into thinking they believe certain things, whereas examination proves their dominant belief is something entirely opposite!
It is because of emotional reasoning that you believe your thoughts about God’s commandments run deep. I have been able to show you that you do so because your mind imagines that certainty about your beliefs is founded in reality. Unfortunately, they are just based on emotional states!
I want to calm you down as I show you that you’re not alone in engaging in emotional reasoning, Hailey. Do you still remember that acquaintance of yours, Joel whom you said loved arguing his points with you? Joel was so convinced you were an emotional woman, incapable of rational thought. That was why he resorted to insults when he was unable to sway your thinking.
Joel was a young man suffering from a cognitive distortion of Always Being Right! In this cognitive distortion, the sufferer is so convinced of the rightness of his opinions that no amount of persuasion, argument, and logic is too much to win you over to his own way of thinking.
However, I will have you know that conviction is an emotional state, not an intellectual one. This is why it is so easy for you to believe you are right and your opponent is wrong when you feel angry. Or your current boyfriend is the best thing since sliced bread when you feel in love!
I have met so many people in forums and chat rooms who are so convinced of the facts in their assertions. However, I find such people amusing because I know that facts in themselves have no meaning until the emotional component is introduced to it!
Reason along with me: I call Hailey a peanut butter-complexioned lady. That’s a fact. It’s when I use words that suggest the goodness or badness of your appearance it becomes an opinion! For instance if I say Hailey is a beautiful lady, that’s an opinion, no matter how many people share it with me.
Facts are devoid of emotion. Opinions are not.
OK, OK, Alter Ego. How do I become more mindful of emotional reasoning? I almost heard you ask. You can become more mindful of emotional reasoning when you take note of the two scenarios I pointed out to you.
- In the first one, you wrongly assumed that money was the cause of your happiness and anxiety. Especially when you told yourself I feel anxious when I have little money on me. This kind of reasoning is dangerous because it leads to habituation of your emotional states. Where your brain resorts to the feeling of anxiety as its default emotion when there is little money on you.
Habituation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as your mind makes you act in ways you’re used to, thus staying in suffering that is familiar!
Money was not the cause of your anxiety, it was your beliefs about money! Please wrap your head aroung this point of mine. There are no rays being emitted by money that serve as an anxiolytic; it’s paper!
When you practice mindfulness in such situations and accept that just because I feel that Toni won’t pay my money this week doesn’t mean that’s the truth, you will be able to question any strong feeling that comes into your head.
The failure to challenge emotional reasoning is what makes many people impulsive, and prone to repetition compulsion. Such people would call their emotional reasoning intuition but it’s not so!
- In the second scenario of your relationship, you were indulging in projection! You projected onto your beau exactly how you wanted him to be. So much that you became blind to the reality. You started to see him as all I ever wanted, never mind that he was bald, not interested in your hobbies, and unimaginative.
Be honest: did you actually picture yourself dating such a man before you met him? Probably not. Apart from anger, no other emotion causes such feelings of certainty as love!
Emotional reasoning, because you start to imagine that if I feel good around him, then he’s the cause of my happiness! He never was, Honey. Never was.
Emotional reasoning also made you so certain you were going to get married, just because I feel it deeply in my heart that we are destined for each other!
Bottom line is to tell yourself whenever a strong feeling or thought about the truth–or falsehood–of a thing Just because I think or feel this thing is true (or false) doesn’t mean it is so in reality!
I’ll leave you with the words of Krishnamurti as I get ready to walk my dog: observation without evaluation is the highest form of intelligence!
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