Emotional Thinking and Anxiety

Emotional thinking comes with anxiety and a whole range of mental health issues, like depression, fear and stress. It's all those black and white, all or nothing thoughts that can mentally escalate and make you feel even worse.

Over recent days, there has been a lot of emotional thinking going on about the Prime Minister's senior advisor, Dominic Cummings, breaching the lockdown rules by heading up to Durham and visiting Barnard Castle (to test his eye sight). Regardless of whether you think he broke the rules, this controversy has led to raising emotions of annoyance, anger and frustration leading to people saying and posting all sorts of comments and accusations.

And, with emotions (and identity and beliefs being challenges) a huge number of things being thought and said boil down to 'I'm right, you're wrong' with people drawing upon some facts and ignoring others, raising unrelated issues to muddy the waters and sometimes just trying to dismiss someone else's opinion with insults or calls to move on. It's quite incredible how many people will not countenance someone having a different view. It's a strange sort of democracy with freedom of speech where someone can't feel comfortable with different views, no matter how strongly held (assuming they aren't threatening harm or violence or being abusive). It comes down to black and white, all or nothing, right or wrong thinking.

But I'm not here to talk about politics or the current shambles (which may - or may not have all blown over by the time you read this). Yet it gives an illustration of where emotional, black and white thinking can end up.

Of course, with anxiety, that emotional thinking is all inside your head. You may even know in your mind that those worst case scenarios and things you ae catastrophising and dreading are irrational. Yet the anxiety keeps those thoughts coming one after another.

Anxious Thoughts

Anxious thoughts have a way of escalating that leads to feeling worse and even more unwanted thoughts. Your anxious feelings and emotions drive your thinking and that leads to fear, dread, worry, worst cases and catastrophising. It all becomes black and white, all or nothing and, with anxiety, all ends in perceived disaster.

The strong emotions 'shut off' the thinking part of your brain and so logic, reason and evaluation get harder and harder.

That's why any successfull anxiety management treatment must help you to calm those emotions, otherwise one anxious thought is just replaced by another one. Relaxation or breathing techniques, or hypnosis downloads, can help and certainly there is good evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety. 

The more mentally and physically calm you are, the easier it is to think clearly, to reason well and to take back control over your thinking. You can then interrupt anxious thoughts, redirect them and shift your focus and even challenge and dispute them for yourself. Rather than getting lost in the anxiety and everything with it, you can start to learn how to evaluate whether your thoughts are facts or just perceptions, whether what you are thinking about has any evidence to support it, whether it is likely or not and even, adopting other perspectives, whether a doctor or scientist would think that in your situation. There are many ways to dispute thoughts and they can greatly diminish the anxiety and compulsion that previously existed.

I've talked about all this in this video so do click on the image and have a watch (and forgive the ever increasingly bushy lockdown hair!):

emotional thinking anxiety hypnotherapy ely  

Successfully learning ways to calm anxious feelings and take control over our thoughts are vital to overcoming disabling anxiety and mean that you feel calmer, more in control and generally better in yourself. Moving away from catastrophising thinking, whether by disputing thoughts, distracting yourself, interrupting them or becoming aware of many more possibilities of what might happen (the shades of grey) helps you overcome anxiety now and deal with things easier into the future. 

And if you do have a strong view on the Cummings' story then do express it yet I think it's worth being ok if others have a different view without everyone needing others to agree with them. And above all, be kind.

To your success,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket