Blog Post: Get Control of Your Emotions Through Critical Thinking

Linda Elder
Aug 22, 2022 • 98d ago
Get Control of Your Emotions Through Critical Thinking

{"ops":[{"insert":"Many people are now asking how critical thinking can help improve their mental health and overall sense of well-being. There are many ways to apply critical thinking within everyday life experiences once you understand foundational critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, people are often confused about the role emotions play in life and about the relationship between a healthy emotional life and critical thinking. For example, in many cultures, people tend to place themselves and others either in the neat category of “thinkers” or that of “feelers.” Consequently, they might make the following kind of statement: “The problem in our relationship is that you are a thinker and I feel things. I am an emotional person. You aren’t.”\n \nBut differentiating between thinkers and feelers is a conceptual mistake. As humans, all of us think, and all of us experience emotions throughout the day, every day. At this very moment, you are thinking something, feeling something, and wanting something. You are thinking about what you are reading. You feel some emotion, which comes from your interpretation of the ideas you are reading. And you are motivated to read on, or not, given how you think and what you feel. This occurs time and time again throughout the day.\n \nCognition (thinking) and affect (feelings and desires) are two sides of the same coin. If you think, for example, that someone has been unjust to you, you will feel some negative emotion (such as anger or resentment) toward that person. The feeling happens in the mind because of how you think in the situation. Moreover, feelings can usefully influence and drive thought. For example, if you are angry about something you think is unjust, your anger can drive you to think about what you can do to help alleviate the injustice.\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#6e6e6e"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nFeelings and emotions, then, are an essential part of your makeup. They can be positive or negative. They signal whether you perceive ideas in a positive or negative light. They can be justified or unjustified. How you relate to your emotions can make a big difference in the quality of your life. You can feed or starve a given emotion. You can use your emotions to drive you toward good or ill. As you examine your emotions more closely, investigate the thinking that accounts for them. You can attack thinking that leads to self-inflicted unproductive emotional pain. You can take command of your emotions by taking command of the thinking that causes those emotions.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"As you go through the next few weeks, be on the lookout for…"},{"insert":"\n…feelings and emotions—your emotions and the emotions of others."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Look on the surface, at the emotions you can easily see. Look beneath"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"the surface, for the emotions you would deny you feel. Notice how"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"people often justify their own negative emotions. Notice how they"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"often object to the negative emotions of others. Notice how we tend"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"to invalidate the emotions of those we consider beneath us or those"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"whose views we don’t share. Look closely at the role of emotions"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"in your life. Realize that even negative emotions can serve a useful"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"role in your development. If you are doing things to hurt others, you"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"should feel bad about what you are doing. Do not confuse the feelings"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"of a healthy conscience with the emotions of egocentricity. Every"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"time you feel a negative emotion, stop and ask yourself: “Why? What"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"thoughts or behavior are leading to this feeling?” Resolve to attack"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"unproductive thinking with productive thinking—which should lead"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"to productive feelings."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Strategies for taking command of your emotional life:"},{"insert":"\n \nBegin to notice the emotions you regularly experience. Every time you experience a negative emotion, ask yourself: “What thinking is leading to this emotion?” See whether you can identify some irrational thinking underlying the emotion. If so, attack that thinking with better, more sensible thinking. Once you act on the new thinking, your emotion should begin to shift accordingly, in a more reasonable direction."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you experience negative emotions frequently in your life, look closely at what is causing these emotions. Is it you? Is your irrational thinking leading to unproductive behavior? Are you in a dysfunctional relationship that you need to get out of? Is it your job? Until you directly face the problems in your life that are causing negative emotions, and until you do something to change the situation, the negative emotions will keep coming back. Get to the root of the emotions. Don’t ignore the issues until you have fully dealt with the problems. Attack your mind with thinking that leads to productive behavior and positive emotions."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"To focus more concretely on your emotions, write about them."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Target the negative emotions in your journal. Use the following format:"},{"insert":"\n·      One negative emotion I feel is…\n·      The reason I feel this negative emotion is…\n·      The thinking (or situation) I need to change in order not to feel this negative emotion is…\n·      A more productive way to think is to ask yourself, “If I change the way I think, my feelings should change in the following ways…”\n \nThis strategy is focused on negative emotions. By analyzing what is giving rise to negative emotions, you can often identify problems in your thinking and behavior. If you don’t experience many negative emotions, there can be a number of reasons why. For example, it might be that you are living a predominantly rational life, and therefore you experience the positive emotions that come with reasonable, unselfish living. Or it might be that you are satisfied and happy with your life because you are good at manipulating others (that is, at getting what you want without having to change). For example, the successful egocentric dominator primarily feels positive emotions. It is up to you to determine the truth about your emotional life, as long as it is the truth.\n\nFor more on the relationship between thinking, feeling and wanting, read:\nhttps://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/47/HumanMindCOcopy.pdf&page=1 "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAnd do the activities you find here:\nhttps://community.criticalthinking.org/triangleOfThinking.php "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"This blog piece slightly modified from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 112-114.\n"}]}


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