I'm keeping my blog post fairly short today as I am busy working on a book based on my blog! When it comes out I hope you will find it comforting and helpful for managing your BPD (more updates about my book coming soon!).
What is emotional reasoning?
Emotional reasoning is a term created by Aron Beck, one of the founders of cognitive therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy, back in the 1970s. Beck identified emotional reasoning as a cognitive distortion, also commonly referred to as a 'thinking error' or a 'thinking trap'.
Emotional reasoning is when someone uses their emotions as proof, rather than using facts. When someone is using emotional reasoning, they believe something is true their emotions convince them that something is true rather than factual evidence. During a period of emotional reasoning, someone could forget to look for evidence, choose not to look at evidence, ignore the facts or decide that the facts are wrong.
An Example of Emotional reasoning
One common example of emotional reasoning is feeling anxious and thinking that your house will be burgled whilst you are out shopping. Your thoughts tell you that you maybe you didn't lock the door, perhaps you left the kitchen window open and maybe your front door is not strong enough to resist being kicked in. Your anxiety is so strong that you feel *convinced* that right now someone is burgling your house.
However, the facts of the matter are that you have never once forgotten to lock the door, you checked the windows twice before you left and your partner even reassures you that they saw you check twice. In spite of this evidence that your house is safe, your anxiety makes you desperate to rush home to check that your house is safe. You are now faced with a choice to either listen to the anxiety and run home or listen to the facts and enjoy your time shopping.
Why is emotional reasoning so powerful?
Emotional reasoning is so powerful because of thoughts and emotions can accelerate one another. When I have the thought 'my house is going to be burgled', I feel anxiety. The more anxiety I feel, the more likely I am to have another anxious thought and then the more anxiety I feel- and so it goes on.
What can help me manage emotional reasoning?
One of the best ways to manage emotional reasoning is to step back from the thoughts. Some of the most common strategies for learning to step back from thoughts are mindfulness techniques. These can involve imagining thoughts as clouds in the sky passing by, leaving floating past on a stream or trains passing through a station and you not boarding the carriages. When individuals try to push away thoughts or control them, they tend to come back stronger. If you tell yourself to 'stop thinking about _______', have you noticed how you think about it more?
Another technique that can be very useful for managing emotional reasoning is the DBT skill called 'check the facts'. It's one of favourite DBT skills and, in essence, it involves noticing a thought and then checking the facts to see if it's true or not. Take a look at this worksheet for 'check the facts' which is taken from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan.