Myth: "Understanding Emotions Changes Them"

The "Myths"


Personal development

Emotional development


"Knowing Ourselves Intellectually vs. Knowing Ourselves Emotionally"



The idea that talking about emotions would change them is wrong and misleading.

"get something done"

Processing (of Emotions) ...

does not happen by "talking about" emotions.



"Emotions do not care what you think about them."-MB

A predominantly rational/cognitive approach to emotions fails to create significant change. When such a change in the sense of developing, growth or healing is desirable/necessary, a cognitive approach will always be less efficient than work on the emotional level itself.



here in the sense of positive development, i.e. the resulting state is more desirable than the starting point

Similar to "talking about"

Talking about emotions will change the way you feel only as much as talking about physical exercise will change your body. Like your body needs to move, emotions need to be experienced - both in the right intensity and environment.

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move to quotes



"Understanding" Emotions can mean either:

"I can qualify my emotions by assigning names to them."

similar to the "expression" myth, i.e. the assumption that expression of emotions always leads to growth

"I realize/know/understand the reason for a certain emotion, i.e. "Why" I feel in a certain way."


most general concept

2 types of thoughts

contains information

fundamental misunderstanding



is a conditdion / state - it needs to be exerted

so this it not enough

"controlling emotions"

implies a conscious level, i.e. one's "will"



somewhat softer

yet equially misleading

comparing with "control"

"control" seems absolute

"manage" seems to recognize and shape in a desired way

Result / Consequence


Different levels

to make any meaningful conclusion, I have to clarify what precisely I am talking about

I have understood something, therefore I can change it.

only sometimes true

I have to understand something in order to change it.


"I have to understand the exercise in order for it to work, i.e. to have an effect on my body."

= The people who talk a lot about exercise while not doing their pullups.

Only if I have understood my emotions I can change them.

usually it does not work that way


I have understood something, therefore I am changing it. = By understanding my emotions I am changing them.

even worse


I am postulating causes for the existence of the myth:

The relationship between rationality/cognition and emotions ...

... is complicated.

/ needs differentiation


Thoughts can cause, influence, and change emotions under certain conditions:

additional information becomes available about the subject at hand - that has an emotional relevance

e.g., someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one after an earth quake learns about the survival of the person - that will of course change the emotion immediately

Thoughts or arguments that simply contradict

Depending Notions

These notions depend logically on the main thesis. Realizing that the main thesis is flawed - a mistruth - automatically results in a collapse of these notions.

Introspection and self-analysis are ...

... a desirable behavior

... central to emotional maturity

... the only path to emotional maturity



In oder to learn about emotions you have to - also - experience emotions, i.e. to feel.

this practice is ...

... rarely practiced

... little known

Introspection and self-analysis must not be confused with doing emotional "work".


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