203: How to Crush Negative Thoughts: Emotional Reasoning

Today, the Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit Continues with

Emotional Reasoning

Rhonda begins by reading a beautiful emails from a listener who was greatly inspired and helped by the personal work Marilyn Coffee did on several previous podcast. I also give a brief shout out for my new book, Feeling Great, which can be pre-ordered on Amazon now (see below for the link).

Rhonda and David begin with a brief overview of Emotional Reasoning. this is a term i coined when I first created the list of ten cognitive distortions in the mid-to late 1970s. There is the definition:

Emotional Reasoning is when you reason from how you feel. Here are several examples:

  • “I feel like a loser, so I must really be a loser.”
  • “I feel hopeless, so I must be hopeless.”
  • “I feel anxious, so I must be in danger.”
  • “I feel like a bad therapist, so I must really be one.”
  • “I feel judged. This means that people are judging me.”
  • “I feel guilty. This means that I did something bad.”

Emotional Reasoning is a distortion because your feelings all result from your thoughts. And if your thoughts are distorted, then your emotions / feelings will not reflect reality. Sometimes, your feelings are no more realistic than the images you see in funhouse mirrors in an amusement park. 

This is worth knowing because for decades mental health professionals have promoted the ideas that getting in touch with your feelings is the key to mental health. There’s truth in everything, and this is sometimes true. Being open with your feelings can be an important key to intimacy and to genuine relationships with others.

But your feelings can also deceive you. For example, the feeling of hopelessness is always based on distortions and is never true. But sometimes believe it so strongly that they attempt suicide as the only escape from their suffering.

David and Rhonda discuss examples of emotional reasoning and the techniques that can be helpful, including, but not limited to:

  1. The Double Standard Technique
  2. The Socratic Method
  3. Truth Based Techniques, such as:
  • Examine the Evidence
  • The Experimental Technique
  • The Survey Technique

David describes a father who was convinced he was a bad father because he shouted at his sons, and Rhonda describes an aspiring writer she recently treated who felt like she was dull and unimportant prior to a meeting with prospective agents.

We are nearing the end of the distortion series, but still have two mega-important distortions to discuss:

  • Should Statements
  • Blame

David mentions that Emotional Reasoning is not only important in emotional problems like depression and anxiety, but also in anger and conflict with others, as well as racial and religious bias. You feel like other racial or religious groups are inferior, and you feel superior, so you think you are right!

Thank so much for listening. If you like our podcasts, tell your friends, colleagues, and patients about them! This is all volunteer work, so our only marketing budget is your good will. Each month our downloads are increasing, thanks to you, and we will hit three million downloads early next year or late this year.

Rhonda and David


You can reach Dr. Burns at Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at She is a Level 4 Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. She also does forensic work in family court, but finds TEAM-CBT to be way more rewarding!

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This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great. It will be released in September of 2020, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon! If you pre-order it, this will help greatly in the ratings the day actually released.