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Emotional reasoning: when emotions cloud thinking

Emotional reasoning: when emotions cloud thinking

May 6, 2021

In day to day, emotions are part of our behavioral repertoire, guide us in our permanent search for satisfaction and well-being , and they help us to avoid the damage and discomfort that can threaten our physical and psychological health.

But nevertheless, such important benefits carry some side effects . There are times when emotions play a trick on us, even when we have full mental health.

A typical example of this last is what in the field of psychology is known as emotional reasoning.

What is emotional reasoning?

Doing an emotional reasoning implies, as the name implies, reason based on how one feels .


Imagine that we have failed in a math test, or that we have been dismissed from work. In such circumstances, it is likely that "we feel" that we have failed, then if that is what we "feel", then it must be because we are "really" unsuccessful. 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.

Then, an excessive generalization is made from an anecdotal or very punctual event . What has gone wrong with a math test does not necessarily indicate that we have failed in life. And this is something that we incur permanently; we extract hasty conclusions and in general, sharp statements, without there being any valid and objective proof that justifies them.


In the same sense, if we feel alone, we can come to think that we deserve it, that we are not worthy of being loved, or that we have a defect that drives people away. From there, to believe that we are going to be left alone for a lifetime, there is a step.

Emotional reasoning focused on the outside

The emotional reasoning has another side focused on the outside. We also tend to judge the behaviors or emotional states of others according to how we feel at that moment.

If we are angry because a superior denies us an increase, it is much more likely that we will attribute malice to the next-door neighbor who is listening to rock at full volume, or that we take as a personal injury the imprudent maneuvers the driver of the car in front of the car. our on the highway.

When we feel angry, we see anger in others, and we are unable to realize that we are really the ones who are angry and project our emotions on others.


Emotions are useful

All this should not lead us to think that the emotions themselves are harmful to us. I like to think of the set of human emotions as a primitive system of intra and interpersonal communication . This may sound overly sophisticated, but in reality it is quite simple.

Let's go in parts, let's see word for word.

I say primitive system because the emotions, as we know them, within the framework of the evolution of the human species, are much earlier than the language . When we were little more than primates that lived in the treetops jumping from branch to branch and completely unable to articulate any sound remotely similar to what we know today as the human word, we already had the possibility, however, of express a wide range of emotions.

The "emotional communication system"

And this brings us to the second concept: communication system. When someone smiles at us and their faces light up when they see us, they are telling us, before they articulate any words, that our presence rejoices. Either he likes us in some way, or we do not have to fear him, since he does not keep hostile intentions towards us. These interpretations are valid, of course, depending on the context.

If, at the other extreme, someone stares at us, wrinkles his nose raising his upper lip and revealing his teeth, he is letting us know, without expressing it verbally, that he despises us, detests us, or for some reason feels motivated enough to hurt us In fact, our evolution companions, the apes, exhibit their fangs as a form of threat to others. Dealing with the attack arsenal is often an effective intimidating element , or a way to dissuade the other from his intention to attack us.

That is why it is possible to affirm that The main function of emotions is to communicate states, attitudes and behavioral predispositions , both to ourselves and to others.

Emotions and how we manifest them

It is not necessary that our partner tell us if he liked or not the anniversary gift that we bought him; before he utters a word we already know by the expression on his face.In the same way, we know if our boss is going to give us an increase or he will fire us when he sends us to call to speak in private and we enter his office.

When we see someone with his face crossed by sadness, without us asking him anything, we have the certainty that he is going through a bad moment, that there is something that is making him suffer. That awakens our interest, our compassion ... his emotion acts as a facilitator that pushes us to act, to do something to help him .

The cooperation between human beings in the face of adversity, or in pursuit of the achievement of a common goal, is one of the main components that allowed our evolution and progress as a species.

The primitive and interpersonal nature of emotions occurs not only on the phylogenetic plane (Darwinian evolution from one species to another), but also on the ontogenetic plane, that is, during the individual development of the person. To see this, one only has to observe how a baby behaves before the first year of life, before he can articulate single words.

From the same birth, the different cries of the baby communicate to the adult who is hungry , that is with colic, or upset because he wants to change diapers. Every mother more or less skilled at decoding emotions learns to recognize the subtle nuances of her son's whining and what they indicate during their first months of life.

Some modest conclusions

Emotional reasoning is a mental scam, a deception, an illusion Created by a demonic magician that appears as a result of some difficulty to correctly interpret and manage their own emotions, and that hidden in anonymity can completely direct the life of the affected person, making him believe things that are not true, such as that is not worth anything as a person, that the world is a dangerous place, and even that there is no hope that he can get out of that state.

That is to say, emotional reasoning generates illusions based on emotion .

But emotions, in themselves, are neither harmful nor an error of nature. In general, all of them, those that are pleasant and especially the unpleasant, they are very beneficial for the human being, since they play a fundamental role for survival . They help us to build relationships, strengthen ties, and move away from the dangers.


Do Emotions Impede Critical Thinking? (May 2021).


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