Feelings are not Facts

While I use a lot of different techniques in my therapy practice, nearly all of them are rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is an evidence based form of psychotherapy aimed at changing the cognitive (thoughts/beliefs) and behavioral patterns keeping a person stuck in negative emotions . One of the major elements of the C (cognitive) in CBT is identifying and balancing patterns of distorted thinking.

One example of distorted thinking is called ‘emotional reasoning’. Emotional reasoning happens when we decide that just because we feel a certain way, it must be true. For example, “I feel guilty therefore I must actually be guilty of having done something bad”. People with emotional reasoning also allow their emotions to guide their interpretation of reality. For example, “I am feeling inadequate in my relationship therefore I am worthless to my partner”.

If you believe you struggle with this common thought distortion, it is important to remember that feeling are not facts! When we accept feelings as facts we have to examine not only the emotional consequences but also the behavioral. Telling yourself you feel “stupid” leads to shame, anxiety and guilt. When you feel this way, you tend to look for more examples of your perceived insecurity. What happens then? You feel worse and begin to isolate yourself from experiences that would prove you otherwise.

If you think you are struggling with emotional reasoning it is important to try and differentiate between your emotions and the facts around you. Take a moment to challenge your automatic thoughts by examining the evidence for and against that thought. Also, ask yourself if there is a way you could prove your thought wrong or test the belief that your emotions predict reality? Lastly, ask yourself what affect this line of thinking has on your emotional well-being? For example, if I am feeling inadequate in my relationship and therefore conclude I am worthless, am I more likely to engage with my partner in a way that feels meaningful? Probably not! I might isolate from my partner which overtime, makes me feel even more worthless. Taking a moment to identify the ways in which I am worthwhile and adequate in my relationship gives me a more balanced view of reality which then in turn allows me to engage in more meaningful action with my partner.

Julia Hale