Reshape Your Thinking: Unreasonable Emotional Reasoning
Have you ever felt particularly strongly about something? Perhaps you feel strongly that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics should have been held in the year 2020. However, no matter how passionate you are about the subject, did you notice that the 2020 games still went ahead in 2021? While it may seem obvious that your feelings do not change reality, people who experience emotional reasoning have trouble believing otherwise.
The Clash Between Emotion And Reason
Emotional reasoning is a type of cognitive distortion, which is a negative, misguided pattern of thinking. When one experiences emotional reasoning, they are ignoring or discounting the objective evidence around a particular event or scenario. Instead, their reality is determined by how they feel, or by what their emotions tell them. In short, how you feel makes it true.1
For someone who doesn’t struggle with emotional reasoning, this may sound, well, unreasonable. For some examples, have a read of these statements:
- You feel unattractive and overweight, and therefore you must be so. It doesn’t matter that your diabetes healthcare team tell you at every visit that your weight is right in the middle of the healthy range.
- Your post-breakfast blood glucose reading was slightly above your normal time in range. Even though all the readings earlier in the week were great, you feel like a terrible patient and you’re surely on the way to an early demise from diabetes-related complications.
- You’ve always felt like an underachiever compared to your sibling, who also lives with type 1 diabetes and never seems to step a toe out of their target blood glucose range. This convinces you that you’re a failure despite the title of doctor in front of your name and the string of abbreviated degrees and qualifications after it.
Do those statements sound emotionally-charged to you? Probably. Do they sound reasonable? Maybe not so much.
The Clash Between Emotion, Reason, And Diabetes
Studies tell us that being emotional, particularly in a negative way, can have an adverse impact on our reasoning ability. It is thought that while battling strong negative emotions, our finite cognitive power is directed towards how we feel and away from our reason. This leads to increased difficulty with analytic or logical reasoning during an emotional state.2
Logical reasoning is not the only thing affected by strong emotions. For those living with type 1 diabetes, we know that it can be more challenging to self-manage your diabetes if you’re coping with emotional distress at the same time.3 Living with type 1 diabetes may also put you at a greater likelihood of experiencing cognitive distortions, as these can be related to depression.4 Depression, anxiety, and emotional distress are often found at a higher prevalence in those living with type 1 diabetes.1,3
Emotional But Not Unreasonable
Remember, your feelings do not define you, no matter how strong or overwhelming they may be. While it would not be reasonable to ask you to turn off your emotions entirely, there are a couple of steps you can take to keep some of your cognitive power in the logic and reason section of your brain despite feeling emotional.
1. Recognise that strong emotions are beginning to overwhelm your thoughts.
What does it look like when you’re feeling strong negative emotions? Does your heartbeat pick up, or do you clench your jaw or hunch your shoulders? Perhaps you feel a dull heaviness in the pit of your stomach? Being able to slow down enough to realise you’re working up into an emotional state is a good first step.
2. Ask yourself why you feel this way and whether any conclusions you draw in this heightened emotional state are compatible with the available objective evidence.
Why do you still feel unattractive and overweight despite your diabetes healthcare team asserting that your weight is healthy? It may help to think, if this were your close friend or family member who was feeling this way, what sort of rational evidence would you present to them that points to the contrary?
The goal of countering emotional reasoning is not to learn to suppress your emotions. We are not robots! Instead, let your emotions be harnessed in a positive, beneficial way, rather than in ways that harm your emotional wellbeing. If you think you need some extra help in combating a tendency for emotional reasoning, speak to your diabetes healthcare team about how they can support you to restore the balance between emotion and reason.
- Gautam M, Tripathi A, Deshmukh D, Gaur M. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Depression. Indian J Psychiatry. 2020;62(Suppl 2):S223-S229.
- Viau-Quesnel C, Savary M, Blanchette I. Reasoning and concurrent timing: a study of the mechanisms underlying the effect of emotion on reasoning. Cognition and Emotion. 2019; 33(5): 1020-1030.
- Gonzalez J, Kane N, Chang T. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Adherence and Depression in Diabetes. The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Behavioural Medicine. 2016:115-137.
- Weeks M, Coplan R, Ooi L. Cognitive biases among early adolescents with elevated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and co-occurring symptoms of anxiety-depression. Inf Child Dev. 2017; 26:e2011.