Rational Thinking

Rational thinking is the practice of taking into account the reality of events, situations or thoughts.  It is accepting reality for what it is, void of human emotion.  Philosophers and other great thinkers have contemplated reality through the years and for the most part have concluded that there is a reality out there.

What modern day psychology refers to as “rationalization” is nothing more than making up excuses for poor behavior, or failing to accept reality.  A student unprepared to take an exam that fails the exam and then blames the failure on poor teaching is not being rational at all; they are making up an excuse.  The reality is that the student was not prepared.  However, in most cases accepting this type of reality is too uncomfortable for the student, so they resort to “rationalization” in an effort to feel comfortable with their failure.

This is not the type of rational thinking I am be speaking of in this writing.  I am speaking of the ability to view reality through unbiased eyes.  This kind of “rationalization” is closely coupled with being “brutally honest” with ourselves.

In dealing with everyday life we perceive behavior, ours and other peoples, and make some judgment of this behavior.  Typically we filter what we have seen through our emotional bank.  Depending on the type of person we are and how we are feeling at that moment, we may view events as being either good or bad.  We may also simply accept the event for what it is and not pass judgment.  However, it is more likely that we filter what we see in life through our emotions at the moment.  For this most part behaving this way is not problematic.  However, again, depending on who we are, and how we are feeling at the moment, we sometimes end up with an unrealistic view of events as a result of this filtering.  This unrealistic perception can often lead to anger, sadness, hurt feelings, or a bevy of other conflicts within ourselves that we may or may not ever try to deal with.

If you find yourself being frequently disappointed, having your feelings hurt, or becoming angry then this is the page for you.  This exercise will not always be easy for you, but I can assure you the benefits are worth the effort.

When you find yourself feeling disappointed, either in yourself or in others, in all likelihood you are not being rational about your perception of the event or behavior.  When I say, “not being rational”, I really mean that you are distorting the reality that appears before you because you have filtered the event through emotional eyes.  Your judgment of the event will almost always be distorted through this filtering.  Perhaps now would be a good time to tell you the truth.  The truth is that events and behaviors of others do not “make” you feel one way or another.  You actually decide for yourself how you want to feel.  However, we typically react to events through what I call “automatic thought processes.”

These automatic thought processes are thoughts that we have practiced through life that result in some feeling or emotion.  We practice these processes to the point that when presented with a certain situation (usually somewhat similar to a previous experience) we react almost automatically, seemingly without any conscious effort on our part.  But, I can assure you, that even if this process takes the blink of an eye to take place, we actually “think” before we react or feel.

Now comes the tricky part.  Being able to recognize the onset of one of these “automatic thought processes” is the first step in gaining control over your own emotions.  This will require some thought on your part.  You will have to learn to recognize those types of situations that typically result in one or more of your negative emotions.  Being aware of these will help you recognize the onset of these automatic thought processes, and once this can be achieved you can move on to the next step.

The next step is to STOP!  Short of a few life or death situations, most of life is such that we can easily afford to take a moment or two to do some thinking.  There is virtually never an instance that requires an immediate reaction from us.  So, relax, take some time to think about what is happening.  And, when you do think about what is happening, simply ask this question:  What IS happening?  Do your best to view the event, situation or behavior through some realistic looking eyes.  Exactly what IS happening?  Do this without such thoughts as “I don’t like this” or “this makes me angry”, etc.  Simply view what is occurring before your eyes.

Realizing that you are not in a big hurry to react, you now can consider some more realistic outcomes.  At least you will now have the time to decide for yourself how you want to feel.  This is vital, so take a minute and let this sink in.  Now consider the possibilities.  Now that you are in control of your emotions, realizing you have time to decide what to do, or what not to do, you can now make a clear, rational decision, based on the reality of what lies before you.  You will have to practice this exercise many times before you actually become proficient at it but don’t give up it can be done.