As we continue thinking about thinking, let’s examine emotional reasoning:

“Thinking something must be true because you “feel” (actually believe) it so strongly, ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary.”

This is a common thinking pattern we often see with phobias.  For example, if I have a fear of flying, I may say something like “I just know (or feel, or believe) that plane I’m supposed to get on right now is going to crash.  I can feel it.  It’s really scares me, so I’m not getting on.”

We need to separate how I feel emotionally about flying (“I’m scared of getting on an airplane because it might crash and I’ll die a horrific slow death.”) from the information we know about flying (statistically one is more likely to get in an accident on the way to the airport than for the plane to crash).  Here are typical things we hear from people who have a fear of flying:

  • “I’d rather be flying the plane than sitting there in the back.”
  • “All those weird sounds the plane makes freak me out.”
  • “It looks like the plane is falling apart when I see the wings moving.”
  • “I was on a really turbulent flight: it scared me and felt like we were crashing.”
  • “I don’t like the way my body feels (panic attacks) when I’m on a plane.”

Notice that all of these statements are about emotions, and not facts.  If we look at these issues from a logical, data driven perspective rather than feelings, what do we notice?

  • Since I’m not a trained in avionics, while it may not feel comfortable to cede control, it’s actually safer if the pilots fly the aircraft than if I do.
  • How often do planes make weird noises, and often do they crash?
  • Airplane wings are designed to be flexible, and therefore it’s normal when they ‘flap.’
  • While turbulence can be scary, it doesn’t mean something bad is actually happening: the plane is designed to handle significant stressors.
  • Just because my body is uncomfortable, the plane isn’t going to crash.

In general, what does the data and information tell us, as opposed to how I feel?

  • Is the plane’s airworthiness based on how I feel, or aerodynamics?
  • Will the plane start to crash just because I feel like it, or is it based on the physics of flying? Can I control the flight with my mind and my emotions?
  • Why isn’t everyone else scared on this aircraft, (or even why did everyone get on if it’s that dangerous to fly)?

This doesn’t mean that flying may still feel scary, but it does mean I can feel scared, and the plane will still fly.  The issue isn’t about the safety of flying, it’s about my fear (emotional thinking) about flying.

You can replace fear of flying with anything (panic attacks, being late to work or school, people not liking me, items being contaminated, throwing up) and we have the same result.

When examine our thinking, we need to assess if we’re thinking logically or emotionally and act accordingly.  “Just because I’m scared doesn’t mean I’m going to die.  Where’s my data?”

In the next post, we’ll discuss mind reading.