Quick hits: Taking control of emotions

Greetings programs!

I recently took a course on critical thinking, and I would like to share a couple of ideas about working with emotions and using them as a diagnostic tool.

Thinking about thinking
Thinking about thinking

Think—>Feel—>Want

If we look at how the human mind works, we can simplify the order of operations down to three steps:

  • Thinking
  • Feeling
  • Wanting
Credit: ‘Critical Thinking’ By Richard Paul and Linda Elder

The implications of this are rather profound. If our emotions are driven by our thoughts, it follows that we can change our emotional experience of the world by changing our thinking.

It further follows that if we’re having emotions that don’t seem particularly helpful, such as a generally negative outlook, than the key is to examine the thinking that led to those feelings. Which brings us to the second idea.

Check your assumptions

Assumptions represent our implicit beliefs about the world, and they are usually subconscious in nature. We use assumptions to rapidly interpret and make decisions. This pretty helpful in a situation where we need to react immediately such as taking evasive action to avoid a car accident. They are less helpful when they are used to make judgments based on a perspective or situation that’s no longer relevant, such as being an adult instead of a child.

Credit: ‘Critical Thinking’ By Richard Paul and Linda Elder

If we want to evaluate our thinking, and we know that our thinking is driven by subconscious assumptions, we have to find a way to bring those assumptions to the surface so we can take a look at them. How can we do that? We can ask questions!

Questions we might ask:

  • What is the goal of this thinking? What problem am I trying to solve?
  • What questions am I trying to answer?
  • What facts do I have?
  • What perspective am I looking at this from?

Putting it together

Once we’ve brought these assumptions to the surface, we can decide if they’re relevant and make sense. If they are, we now have an explicit reason and supporting argument to underpin our thinking.

If our assumptions don’t hold up, and we have no good supporting facts or reasons behind our thinking, then we can go back and look at the purpose of the thinking and see if it makes sense to reframe things in a way that can be supported by facts or reasons.

  • Maybe I’m just tired or hungry.
  • Maybe it’s something I can’t control and I have to let go.
  • Maybe it’s an unhealthy a situation I need to extract myself from
  • Maybe I need to look at this from a different perspective

Wrap up

Welp, that’s it for today. I hope was interesting and/or useful, and I’ll see you around.

-s

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