It is one of the reasons why many people even come to therapy – whether they realize it or not. Most of life’s problems can be resolved if even a little bit of reason, logic, and rationality was applied to the situation. These are terms that are often thrown around, but actually practicing and implementing require much more intentionality and effort. Being rational means seeing and understanding the situation for what it is, and what makes most “sense,” rather than how you would like, wish, or want something to be.
Building the rational “muscle”
Utilizing these life and cognitive skills also requires practice and essentially building the logic “muscle.” Some people do better at this, and appear to be naturals; these are people who were likely raised in environments that were focused on using reason and perhaps by caregivers who challenged them from a young age to look at the most realistic or logical aspects of situations. Other people struggle with being rational in situations, and this could be because they were raised by caregivers who struggled with this themselves, or because they are more driven by their emotions (which, again, likely goes back to their upbringing and how they were taught to process and manage their emotions).
Why rationality matters
So why does being rational and reasonable matter? For starters, as social creatures (which humans, by nature, are), we have to work with, collaborate, and compromise with other people. Since people are different, and will approach situations with different perspectives, being able to understand another person’s viewpoint typically requires understanding, which requires the ability to be rational and put yourself in their shoes whether you agree with their perspective or not. Others are also more likely to work with you and try to see your perspective if they can observe your efforts to use logic and reason to resolve an interpersonal or other situation. On the other hand, when a person is driven by more emotion than reason in a social or interpersonal situation, they are likely to push others away due to the heavy emotionality, but more so due to the unreasonableness that is likely to be present in the interaction.
Rationality is not only important for making personal decisions, but can have a significant impact on your relationships and how others perceive and even respect you.
Rationality and Responsibility: If you really want to make a large purchase of an item you have been eyeing for awhile, but buying such item will put you in debt or set you back financially from attending to your other responsibilities, the reasonable and rational decision is to hold off on that purchase until you are reasonably able to do so without creating other challenges for yourself. This may conflict with what you want, and how you would like things to be, but that is the mature, responsible, and reasonable decision.
Rationality and Understanding/Acceptance of Consequences: People sometimes struggle with being rational when it comes to personal responsibility. For example, when you get your drivers license, you must study and be knowledgable about laws and rules pertaining to driving. To get your drivers license, you even sign and indicate your acknowledgement that you are aware of and will abide by these rules. If after being informed of these rules and signing your agreement you then make the decision to knowingly break a law or rule (e.g., speeding), and are then given the consequences of doing so (e.g., a ticket), the irrational response is to become defensive and argumentative simply because you don’t want to pay the ticket fee.
Why is this irrational? Because you were made aware of the rules ahead of time, agreed to follow those rules, and despite this, you chose to break the rule for which there are consequences. Being reasonable and rational in this situation is then accepting the consequences for your actions rather than arguing with the cop or other entity about why you “shouldn’t” have to pay the fee. The onus is on you as the person who was made aware of the rule ahead of time and then still broke the rule to take responsibility and pay the ticket – the cop or government entity is not responsible with making this “right” as they did nothing “wrong.” Using reason in this situation will not only give the other party a more favorable perception of you, but will make you feel less distressed and move forward more quickly and gracefully than working yourself up and getting upset about something that really is no one else’s responsibility other than your own.
Rationality and Decision-Making: When it comes to making decisions about first or next-steps, it is always in your favor to consider the logical aspects of the situation. If you are upset with a friend for something they are not aware was hurtful to you, then calling to berate them is not going to make sense or get your message across clearly. Instead, your friend is likely to become defensive, which reduces all likelihood of them hearing what you are trying to say. Instead, making the rational decision to call them and have a calm, yet direct conversation is likely to be much more effective and helpful. The rationality in this situation comes down to understanding why berating is not useful and choosing to approach the situation with a calm, collected mind and in a manner that is productive and not (overly) emotional.
In any situation, if you were an objective third-party or the situation was reversed, and you would find yourself asking “how can this person possibly think that makes sense, or that is the right thing to do?” that is a strong indication of acting without rationality. It is also useful to learn from others’ moments of irrationality because when you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, you can apply lessons you have indirectly learned.
Combining Reason and Emotion
We all have the tendency to be irrational at times, and overly caught up in the emotion of situations. While it is important to honor your emotions and how you feel about a situation, focusing purely on the emotion is likely to lead to poor decision-making, fractured relationships, and impulsivity. It is aways best to take a logic/emotion approach, where you are combining both and making decisions about how to act based on what truly makes the most sense and what is in your best interest, the interests of others involved, and preserving relationships. If you must choose acting based on only one of these, choose reason over emotion.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
At Tampa Therapy, we are committed to providing a relaxing, healing, and non-judgmental environment to support you on your journey to mental and emotional growth and health. If you want things to be different, you have to change them. This means being open-minded, committed, and recognizing the power you have in your life. If you are struggling with irrationality in your life, we can walk you through the process of building insight and gaining clarity on your next steps. Give us a call or email us today to start the process of making important changes in your life.