Emotional Reasoning

This is probably the one that directly affects anxiety disorders the most. Emotional reasoning is a very common cognitive error. It usually doesn’t show up by itself. Feelings themselves are neither true or false, they just are, so another cognitive error is what usually blurs the lines between our feelings and what is actually happening. It boils down to:

I feel [it] therefore [it] is true/false.

This can manifest itself in so many ways that it would be impossible to illustrate all of the variations.

  • I feel contaminated because I touched [xyz]
  • I feel guilty therefore I did something wrong
  • I feel anxious, therefore I am going to have another panic attack
  • I feel lonely, therefore I must be bad/not worthwhile/never find someone

Pure obsessionals use emotional reasoning as “confirmation” of propositions.

example: Only x type people have x type thoughts therefore I must be x.

The proposition elicits fear since one just had thought x (x is usually something reviled or negative), through a cognitive error, one wrongly concludes one must be dangerous or a thought must be avoided. Thus the cycle of OCD begins. I think this example illustrates some important ideas, one of which is the importance placed on thoughts and the rigidity of our thinking process by using black or white thinking.

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