“Emotional thinking”- 10 March 2019

‘When I am sad, I think there is no use of this life and living. When I am happy, I think life is nice and great indeed! When I am angry, I hate this stupid senseless world and the people and vice versa!’

This is exactly how thoughts change their colour and nature when our emotions change! We siblings understood quite early in our life that when our dear Mother’s hemoglobin levels fell below a certain level she would start raising her voice and expressing her anger with us all! We knew as we grew up that we needed to feed her something for the levels to rise and she would be fine. We know people get angry when hungry and begin to throw the anger out on others closest to them at home or office! As soon as food goes in the anger is cooled and assuaged!

Emotions are caused by many factors, besides the physiological states of disequilibrium caused by physical factors of hunger and low blood pressure. Emotions can be caused by events that are intimidating, humiliating, depressing, frustrating, disappointing on the negative side and by positive events too such as happiness, joy, excitement and enthusiasm. Emotions can be caused by anything and everything that is part of life.

Logical thinking is the process of analysing, interpreting and perceiving events and situations from a standpoint of cold logic- without subjective bias and prejudice. The moment emotions enter the mind the thought process gets tinted and tainted. Emotions tend to fuddle and fudge the systematic logical process and jumps into fallacious thinking. Albert Einstein always maintained that the biggest hurdle to scientific thought was the presence of the ego. The ego that liked to ‘see’ things its own way with its own pompous beliefs and values. Scientific thought is neutral thought and is not conclusive but exploratory. It’s a tough call to maintain neutral/scientific thinking at all times for it is easy to fall into routine thinking which is like a habit and mundane.

Strong emotions have the tendency to disrupt your reasoning mind and provide short-cut answers to complex issues. ‘I feel awful therefore I must have done something bad; I feel guilty therefore I must be a bad person; I am unsuccessful therefore I must be an incompetent and worthless person.’ Take some more examples from daily life. ‘I was ditched by my boyfriend so I must be an unattractive person; my friends have not called me for some time so I am not a likeable person and unwanted truly.’

Negative experiences are taken rather badly by people and this in turn can impact their perceptions and attitudes towards life. A boy was demotivated and angry with his parents for they would not endorse his choice of career. The teenager refused to believe that his parents could actually have a different opinion which could be respected. His emotional thought told him falsely of course that ‘his parents did not love him and that he was a bad boy’. What he failed to comprehend was that he as well as his parents were right in making their own choices and none were wrong. And further to that he should go ahead with his own choice if he had the conviction as well as the courage. But he wanted their approval and that’s where the problem lay. He wanted his parents to approve of his decision and ask him to go ahead. The boy in his feelings of rejection and dejection thought that his parents did not love him and that made him angry, demotivated and depressed. His mind was fuddled and caught in the web of emotions and illogical thinking. He needed help to clear out the confusion and to understand that he was seeking approval from parents which they were denying him and that made him feel angry and think in a very negative fashion.

It is important to differentiate between emotion and thought. I feel is one state of mind and I think is another state of mind. Both are important for life and decision making but the separation and its understanding is vital. When I introspect my mind, I must know the difference between what I am feeling and what I am thinking. Off course the two states influence each other to reach a decision and a conclusion. But if the two processes gets muddled up you might end up with emotional thinking which may not be rational. Awareness of emotions and the right expressions of emotions while communicating to others is a strong component of emotional intelligence. Understanding the emotions of others and responding to those emotions in the proper way is also part of emotional intelligence.

Both emotions and thoughts are part of cognitive function but together when they get fuddled and muddled leads to what is known as cognitive distortions.

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