When I talk to clients in my role as a LifeMatters counselor, one thing I always want to explore is how good their system of support is. It can tell you a lot about how someone relates to others and about how they handle difficulty. Some people have lots of family and friends to rely on and they feel less isolated. Others not only feel alone, but really are pretty much by themselves.
Unfortunately that can make hard times even worse. Carrying the burden entirely on one’s own shoulders, especially through the rough spots we all encounter in life, has an extra measure of difficulty that becomes easier when you have at least one person to share your troubles with. Without that support, there are some predictable things that happen to people, particularly people facing difficulties like relationship problems or those in the middle of a crisis. Times like that lend themselves easily to what’s called emotional reasoning.
What is emotional reasoning? It’s when your emotions get so strong that they overwhelm your logic, and your way of thinking is more a product of your feelings than your reason and judgment. Both thinking and feeling are important, of course, but in balance, because each has its limitations. Emotional reasoning is imbalanced in the one direction.
Emotional reasoning is something that everyone does at one time or another, as I’m sure you have also. Just think of a time when you were worked up about a tough situation, like a relationship that wasn’t going right or a problem at your job. Afterwards, did you think the same way about your situation as you did when it was occurring? Or did you look back and see that you were too emotional and over-reacted, that you misunderstood something very badly, took it too personally or overlooked some important piece of information.
Just as it’s hard to see clearly through a fog, it’s tough to be reasonable and objective when your thinking is clouded by strong emotions. Solving a problem or fixing a situation is harder because of this. You are inevitably less objective and you always lose perspective to some degree. But in the middle of it, it’s hard to see that you are less realistic and the tendency is towards pessimism and tunnel vision to minimize your ability to manage a crisis.
A good listening ear can make a world of difference in a situation like this. Having someone who will let you vent to him or her gets the negative emotion out and lets it dissipate. It becomes less heated and compelling, which is a big factor in freeing you from the blinders that emotional reasoning imposes on you.
When you are less agitated you can recover perspective, and that is when effective problem-solving can really start. Just being heard can have a real impact.
This is why it’s true that everyone needs a good confidant. They need someone who can keep them in check. Maybe the Marlboro Man can ride out there alone with only his horse for company, but everybody else needs a listening and empathetic ear. Some of us can do this better than others, and some make easily avoidable mistakes when they most want to be supportive. With just a few tips, I’m sure that most of us can be at our best. That’s where my next post will focus. Check back Wednesday to learn more.