Which is harder?
Dealing with a group whose emotions are affecting their reasoning?
Or, dealing with a group who’s in denial about how their emotions affect their reasoning?
If you picked the second one, you’d be correct.
The belief that your side is above the emotional rollercoaster that is intrinsically tied to the political process is ignorance incarnate.
And conservatives are the worst at it.
Not to pick on your team, but it’s true. It’s so true that the belief has been adopted as the unofficial motto of conservatism: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
It’s catchy, and a great play on words. But it’s wrong.
In a world of media headlines, sob stories, and heated internet debates, emotions reign supreme. And conservatives are hurting themselves if they think they’re above it all.
No one’s above it, because everyone is human, and humans are inherently irrational beings.
You remember that story of the illegal immigrant that raped a young white female? What about the story of the bus of Israeli children that got attacked by Palestinians? Or, the story of Syrian refugees gang-raping a European woman?
What’s your first reaction to hearing those stories? How does it make you view the broader issues?
How do These Stories Affect Your View of the Broader Issues?
When you read about a young American woman being raped by an illegal alien what’s your first thought? Do you automatically place it in context of similar stories, statistics, and reality? Do you say to yourself, “This is one story, it can’t define my view on the issue or how I view illegal immigrants?” That would be the logical step.
Instead, I bet your thought process goes something like this, “Damn those illegals! This is why we should crack down on illegal immigration, build a wall, and deport them.”
Using one, three, or ten stories to back up your view isn’t logical. It is the exact opposite of logic.
Stories are emotional. I don’t think it’s possible to tell a story that doesn’t invoke an emotional response of some kind. Using stories as the basis for your hate of illegals, Palestinians, or refugees is illogical.
Because it’s one story. It’s one incident. The issue is bigger than one story.
If you don’t stop and remind yourself that the story you just read is a microcosm and cannot logically signify a broader pattern, then you’ve fallen into an emotional trap.
Other Examples of When Feelings Overtake & Define the Facts
The Social Justice Warrior crowd tends to be the biggest perpetrator, but all ideologies, parties, and sciences routinely experience it. Here’s a few examples of how this cognitive distortion takes shape…
- The issue of sexual assault and what is offensive on college campuses has recently been affected by this distortion. Regardless of whether someone meant to be offensive or not is irrelevant, what matters is if the “victim” felt offended or threatened. The same goes with sexual assault. “Regret rape” is one example of this; even if it was consensual, the female could still label it rape if she regretted it later.
- Stories of illegal immigrants murdering and raping Americans is another example that gets passed around the conservative interwebs.
- Stories of Syrian Refugees committing crimes in the US are used as “proof” that we shouldn’t be letting Syrians into the country, regardless of what the statistics say.
- The next time a terrorist attacks occurs listen to how many people freak out about how they’re in danger, then cry for the government to protect them. It doesn’t matter how far away the attack was (like on another continent), what matters is that they feel threatened.
- The next time a nut-job goes postal, wait for all the gun control advocates to demand politicians improve their safety. Again, it doesn’t matter if they’re in danger or not. All that matters is that they feel in danger.
These examples culminate into one specific cognitive distortion…
The Culprit Behind it all: “Emotional Reasoning”
Emotional Reasoning is when you accept how you feel as right, true, or reality. Your negative emotions mirror the reality of the situation or issue, or so you think.
Developed by psychologist Arron Beck, in his larger research on cognitive distortions and therapy. In his book on the matter, Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders, Beck describes how specific situations can lead us down an illogical path we would otherwise not enter…
“We have specific vulnerabilities, ‘fault lines’ along which stresses accumulate and may set off tremors or eruptions – behavior commonly labeled ‘over-reacting.’ Under such conditions unrealistic appraisals override realistic appraisals, and we may realize that our reactions are largely irrational.”
Using how you feel to paint a picture of what reality looks like is the basis behind emotional reasoning.
It’s what convinces you that Syrian Refugees are dangerous after reading a story of how the FBI captured one Syrian Refugee terrorist.
Your Feelings Define the Facts (Here’s How to Reverse That)
Your brain is powerful, but it also has a great deal of primitive programs that aren’t so helpful these. These are programs that are great for avoiding danger quickly, or making split-second decisions. However, they also affect our ability to logically reason.
“…the anterior cingulate and the lateral prefrontal cortex are involved in decision making, planning, correcting, and prioritizing. It is the role of the cortex to inhibit inappropriate responses rather than initiate appropriate ones. However, if the prefrontal cortex is inhibited, then our decisions will be made without the choice or reasoning from the higher cortical evaluations, and so the automatic responses and ‘emotional reasoning’ will occur.” (source)
Now, if you didn’t understand a word of that (I don’t blame you if you didn’t), basically it means that our brain can restrict our ability to logically think in certain situations.
Guess what causes it? High emotional levels.
So it makes sense that to reduce cognitive distortions (like emotional reasoning), you should reduce your emotional level.
Now, I am not saying you should become a robot, or become a Vulcan. The opposite extreme is equally dangerous. Facts detached from all emotion leads you down an even worse road.
What I am saying is that you need to learn how to observe and evaluate your emotional arousal. Some ideas for doing this include…
- Using metaphors and stories to help you see the situation from a different angel. Stories are great at messing with your feelings, but they can also trigger you to think of the situation in a broader context.
- Observe the negative thoughts you get from reading a story that enforces your views or fears. Analyze how it affects you and how it originated.
- Unmet emotional needs, like fear, safety, acceptance, etc, tend to encourage emotional arousal. Addressing those needs would be a good first step.
- Ask yourself what you need to do to feel better, rather than focusing on the emotion or trigger.
- Remind yourself that feelings change, and are affected by our perceptions (whether real or not) of the world. Maybe your perceptions need to change.
For further reading, check out this great paper on cognitive distortions and how to address them.
Conclusion: Feelings Don’t Care About Your Facts
“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” ― Horace Walpole
Instead of this brash naïve statement that “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” let’s go with “Feelings don’t care about your facts.”
It’s more inline scientifically, wouldn’t you say?
Humans are not rational beings. We’re emotionally wound up in the experiences that make up life. Denying that says more about your emotional state than you’d care to hear.
Funny, but I wonder how much the “Facts don’t care about your feelings” statement originated out of an emotional reaction to democrats not happily accepting a conservative’s facts based argument.
Gosh, it must be hard pulling all those facts together just to have the guy turn around and throw more facts at you. You were so right, but he didn’t see it. Must be his emotions messing with his head again.
Those illogical democrats, driven by their feelings. So pathetic…
[Sees headline reading: “Syrian Refugee in the US for 5 Years Caught on Terrorism Charges”]
“I knew it! See, we shouldn’t be letting Syrian refuges into the country. They’re all terrorists!”
[sighs] This never ends.