How to Stop Intellectualizing Emotions

Intellectualization is one of the biggest blocks that can hinder your way to healing. Intellectualizing your emotions means that you try to resolve your emotional issues in your mind instead of actually feeling them.

While any form of healing does need to begin with an intellectual awareness, you need to know that intellectualization is only your way to prevent feeling the depth of your emotions and/or pain. It is your defense mechanism, a means to avoid the truth.

Whenever you intellectualize your emotions, you detach yourself from your core emotional wound. You dissociate yourself from your emotional pains because you don’t like to feel them – it hurts, it is uncomfortable, and it is painful. No one wants to deal with this kind of emotional inner work, but you need to do it, whether you like it or not.

Tips on How to Stop intellectualizing Your Emotions

Here are several tips to start changing your emotional language away from the general and intellectualized toward the specific and plain:

1.      Awareness

Begin by recognizing and paying attention to your usual go-to intellectualized emotions. When you are unsure what these are, you can ask a family member, spouse, or colleague you are close to. Are you the kind of person who is always stressed? Do you show signs of being depressed? Awareness is the key to stopping the intellectualizing of your emotions.

2.      Embrace the discomfort

The number one reason why people avoid the use of plain emotions for describing their feelings is that they worry that this will become too uncomfortable for them or others around them. You always worry that if you acknowledge your sadness, you will fall into depression. You are anxious that communicating your anger will make the other person feel guilty.

Simply put, you intellectualize your emotions because you are afraid of them and the consequences they can bring. However, even if emotions tend to be uncomfortable, these are not dangerous at all. No one became depressed or died from guilt brought on by sadness. Studies even show that avoiding sadness is something that can result in depression.

Whatever it is, to get over the fear of your emotions, you need to have the willingness to experience all of them and develop resilience. You can start small. Take baby steps and embrace your emotions and the discomfort they bring.

3.      Have Some Alternatives in Place

If you want to start eating more healthily, it is never enough to just resist the unhealthy. You also need to keep a stock of healthy alternatives at home. Similarly, if you like to be plainer in your descriptions of how you feel, it will be sensible to prepare several good alternatives in advance. Every time you catch yourself using some intellectualized emotion, try to look for a word that appropriately describes it. Do it often and soon, it will be easier for you to pull up your real emotions and use them on your own.

Negative Consequences of Intellectualizing Emotions

Intellectualizing emotions has three powerful but subtle threats to your well-being:

·      Alienation and Isolation

One of the biggest downsides of getting stuck in the habit of intellectualizing emotions is that it can be very isolating. A major way in which humans forge connections with one another is by sharing intimate aspects of themselves and by being vulnerable around other people.

Think of all those lurid details that your siblings or close friends know about you. These people don’t know these things about you just because you are close. It’s actually the other way around – you are close because they know these things about you – and this closeness happened only because you shared the unpleasant with them.

Despite being uncomfortable or even painful, the ability to share your feelings makes you more human and relatable. It is never fun to befriend someone who is always fine. People crave connections with other people instead of robots.

Sadly, most people are too uncomfortable or afraid to share their feelings. They end up lonely, isolated, and feeling worse than before. Breaking out of this cycle isn’t always easy.

·      Lack of Emotional Clarity

Issues about intellectualizing emotions are common with people experiencing some sort of a mental health issue. They have a seriously deep-rooted habit of intellectualizing emotions that they are unaware of. They avoid plain language every time they describe how they feel.

This habit, however, can make it hard for them to be more open about their feelings. If you are unclear regarding your emotions, it would be impossible for you to manage them more effectively.

·      Poor Self-Awareness

Although many people are lucky enough not to be dealing with mental health concerns, everyone wants to work on themselves to a certain extent. People want to feel more excited and motivated about their job, more connected and present with their families, and less critical and more cheerful with their friends.

However, similar to finding yourself lost in a forest, you won’t be able to reach your destination if you have no idea where you are exactly. Similarly, it is not easy to change how you feel if you don’t know how you feel in the first place.

This is one of the dangers in the habit of distancing yourself from how you feel through intellectualizing your emotions. When you avoid talking about how you feel, you also avoid thinking about how you feel. When you do this long enough, you never have any idea about how you feel.

Just like other skills, if you stop practicing something, you become less competent in it. This also applies to your emotional life.

The habit of intellectualizing your emotions can lead to a cartoonish impression of how you truly feel. Most of the time, this is rarely an accurate picture of something as nuanced and complex as the emotional life of a human being. Before you change how you feel, you need to learn the habit of describing how you feel using genuine and plain language. Use the tips above and stop intellectualizing your emotions before it gets too late.