Stop letting intellectualized Emotions determine your decisions.

“Intellectualized emotions” serve as a defense mechanism in which a person prefers to deal with emotional conflicts by spending excessive time intellectually dissecting and reasoning them, instead of feeling them. Using reason and logic to separate oneself from the emotional aspects of a situation is a common symptom of this inclination.

It may be difficult for someone who intellectualizes emotions to recognize or acknowledge them; instead, they may prefer to approach emotions cognitively, a defense mechanism to protect themselves from negative emotions.

It may put a barrier between your thoughts and feelings and you feel emotionally numb or detached from an outside trigger. As a result, it also hinders emotional processing, impairs relationships, and makes communicating and managing emotions harder.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, described intellectualization as a defense mechanism to distance oneself from difficult emotions by excessively focusing on abstract thoughts or rational explanations.

Example of intellectualized Emotions

Imagine are experiencing a breakup with your romantic partner. Instead of allowing yourself to feel the sadness and grief associated with the end of the relationship, you intellectualize emotions by focusing solely on analyzing the reasons for the breakup.

You might say something like this, for example:

“I understand that our priorities and goals for the future differed which is why our partnership ended. It’s evident that there were some personality conflicts between us, which finally resulted in our decision to break up.”

While these observations may be valid, your primary focus on intellectualizing the breakup serves as a defense mechanism to avoid experiencing the full weight of your emotions, thinking these intellectualized emotions might temporarily protect you from emotional pain.

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Effects of Intellectualized Emotions

Constantly intellectualizing emotions without facing unpleasant feelings can become toxic. This suppression of emotions will intensify by bottling up inside you over time and will explode later in scary ways like mental health issues; anxiety, mood disorders, and panic attacks.

Here are some effects of intellectualized emotions;

Emotional Disconnect.

When you intellectualize emotions, you might find connecting with your true feelings hard. For example, instead of feeling sad when a friend cancels plans, you might think about their reasons and analyze the situation without acknowledging your disappointment.

Difficulty in Relationships.

When you do not fully express your emotions, others might find it hard to understand or feel close to you. For instance, if you always talk about your feelings detachedly, your partner might feel distanced or hard to connect with you emotionally.

Limited Self-Understanding.

You might miss important insights about yourself by avoiding your emotions and focusing only on intellectualizing them. For instance, if you never allow yourself to feel your sadness after a loss fully, you might not realize that you need to seek support or take time to grieve.

Suppressed Growth.

Intellectualized emotions can prevent you from growing and learning from your experiences. For example, if you never allow yourself to feel the pain of rejection, you might not learn how to cope healthily and keep repeating the same patterns in your relationships.

Increased Stress.

Constantly analyzing and rationalizing your emotions can be mentally exhausting. For example, if you’re always trying to figure out why you feel a certain way instead of just allowing yourself to feel it, you might end up feeling more stressed and overwhelmed by somatic issues due to increased anxiety.

Signs of Intellectualized Emotions

Here are some signs of intellectualizing emotions,

Stuck on the Facts

You replay the details of a situation over and over, like a broken record. Instead of feeling the emotions around it, you focus only on what happened, not how it made you feel.

Undermining your Emotions

When you minimize your emotions, you convince yourself they aren’t that important. This can lead you to dismiss them as insignificant or unworthy of attention.

Overthinking

Overthinking is a way to distract yourself from actually feeling those emotions. Instead of admitting and allowing them to flow naturally, you may engage in relentless mental gymnastics to dissect and understand every aspect of the situation intellectually. This can include repeatedly reviewing past events, analyzing potential outcomes, and trying to justify your emotions logically or rationally.

Avoidance With humor

Humor is often used as a coping mechanism to lighten the mood or relieve difficult emotions. In many cases, humor can be a healthy and effective way to deal with challenging situations. However, when humor is consistently used to avoid addressing genuine emotions, it can be a sign of intellectualizing emotions.

Similarly, you may use sarcasm as humor to downplay the significance of your emotions or avoid acknowledging your true feelings. While injecting humor may sometimes be helpful, it serves as a barrier to fully feeling your emotions, leading to emotional detachment and numbness.

Stop intellectualizing your emotions.

Instead of suppressing or avoiding your feelings, accept them as valid and important aspects of your inner experience. Here are some key steps to learning how to feel emotions:

Emotional Awareness

To prevent emotions from becoming intellectualized, one must be emotionally aware. Emotions can be overly analyzed or rationalized, but one can prevent this inclination by being aware of one’s feelings and accepting them without passing judgment.

Seek to establish a more profound connection with your emotions rather than intellectualizing them away. Communicate your emotions through creative endeavors, journaling, chatting with a close friend, or journaling.

Somatic exercises

Somatic exercises connect the body and emotions. Search online for various options. Vocalizing, like “vuuuuu,” calms by stimulating the vagus nerve. Breathwork aids emotion release; try Wim Hof’s exercises. Body scans help locate emotions in the body and ground you. Consult medical professionals before trying new exercises alone.

RELATED; 7 Shadow Work Exercises: Unearthing Your Hidden Gems

Mindfulness

Meditation is a self-help tool that ensures well-being. Silence observation, grounding meditations, and body scans are effective techniques for processing painful emotions. You can even find meditations tailored to specific emotions. As discussed before, meditation benefits emotional processing.

Journaling

Journaling is a powerful tool for emotional processing. It allows for intellectual analysis followed by letting go. Describe emotions, including physical sensations, colors, shapes, and textures.

Draw if it helps. Then, focus on feeling the emotion and write about it. Close your eyes and observe the emotion without judgment. Notice any changes. This practice enables a sense of safety in processing emotions.

Online Resources To Study Further

  1. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain
  2. The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life

  3. Say It Out Loud: Using the Power of Your Voice to Listen to Your Deepest Thoughts and Courageously Pursue Your Dreams

Final Words

Recognize your initial challenges, such as numbness or ambiguity, and remind yourself to trust the process even when it is uncomfortable. While it’s acceptable to doubt progress occasionally, it’s important to learn the benefits of accepting uncertainty.
Let your creativity and intuition lead the way to progress rather than perfection. With more practice, you can better comprehend and bond with your feelings. By appreciating the process’s cerebral and emotional components, you can achieve balance and develop an understanding of your inner feelings. This way, your motions will become easier to access and understand.

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