The Mighty Logo

When I Learned to Think by Reason Rather Than Feelings

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

After I had to give up a big job because I was being bullied, I had a major breakdown. I was in the hospital a number of times.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The hardest thing I had to do was admit I had problems. After that, I started working hard. I cooperated with help. I cleaned out my life. I stuck with my recovery. I started taking care of my body. I was doing well.

Then came the second hardest thing I had to face since admitting I had problems — I had to admit that my thinking wasn’t right. I had to stop making everything about me. I had to give up all these ideas that I had of what I thought was right according to my feelings.

I had to start paying attention to reasons why things happen. I had to start taking advice from my doctors, counselors and ordinary people in my life. I had to stop twisting their words to suit my feelings. I had to start thinking by reason rather than my feelings and imagination.

The first thing I had to learn to do was depersonalize. I had to stop making everything about me. I had to stop giving too much importance to my feelings. Me. Me. Me. Those thoughts always take me further down the rabbit hole.

I had to stop overreacting because something was happening to me. I had to start doing the same thing I would tell other people to do in that same situation. Things are not worse or more important because they’re happening to me.

I had to start thinking of not just myself but other people along with myself as equals. Start thinking in terms of us or we instead of me and them. Being aware of the common good or interest. Doing what is best for everybody. Seeing the larger picture.

The next thing was to start using common or ordinary definitions of words. Not using alternative definitions. Using the first definition in the dictionary, not the second or third. Not twisting other people’s words or suiting them to my feelings.

I had to start believing ordinary people, competent experts and authorities instead of my own feelings. Avoiding complex, complicated, malicious motivations or other purposes for people’s actions, unless otherwise having a reason or proven fact. Because I felt something was off doesn’t mean there actually was. Allowing myself to be consumed by these competitive or combative motives was allowing myself to become prey to obsessions and hallucinations.

I had to start keeping a clear and steady view of what is important and what is not important. Was something really important if it didn’t cost me money or affect my life? Was something really important if it didn’t change my daily routine or my mental well-being?

My feelings are not facts. They can be caused by facts. They can also be caused by other things. They can be caused by movies or music. They can be caused by resentful or resistant attitudes. Like I need help but you’re not the one to do it. But I’m different. What if I’m right?

I had to give up my ideals of how I think things should be according to my feelings. Start paying attention to what is actually reality.

Between facts and feelings there is always some thought. I was more disturbed when I started out. My feelings were further from reality. Therefore my goal had to become to keep my thinking based on reasons and facts. I had to keep my behavior based on sound advice from ordinary people and competent experts in my life.

Feelings are like the weather. They’re almost our internal weather. They change like the weather. They act like children. I had to learn to be the adult in the room and decide which feelings should be allowed to be expressed as words and actions.

By allowing a feeling to rule my life or make my decisions for me, no matter how great, lovely or beautiful that feeling is; that feeling has the capability to unhinge my mind and unravel my life.

Next was to start working on getting these intrusive thoughts out of my head. My 12-step group taught me a number of ways to get rid of these thoughts.

I could write them out by writing them out in a journal. Talking them out with doctors, counselors, therapists or in my 12-step group. I could ignore them like the sounds of the highway outside my house. I could crowd them out by putting other thoughts in such as TV, movies, music, arts and crafts, and other activities.

As I had more good thoughts in my head there was less room for bad thoughts. My thoughts spiraled up. I continued having more good thoughts.

Finally my feelings got better as my ways of thinking and acting got better.

All this didn’t happen overnight. It took me around three years to learn to do it. It is an ongoing thing. At any time if I don’t pay attention to my thinking or give too much importance to my feelings, I can fall right back into any of these unhealthy ways of thinking.

I had a 12-step group hold my hand. I now have a counselor holding my hand. You can also have a counselor hold your hand. It’s so much easier to have someone help you see how you’re thinking than doing it all by yourself.

I wish you the best of life and peace of mind.

Getty image via Bulat Silvia

Originally published: December 11, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home