Pragmatic thought and rational communication are of course necessary. We all need to navigate aspects of life in rational and logical ways.
The strength to think on our feet and have a cool head to think clearly helps us make decisions and solve problems.
Our feelings guide us to how we live and relate to the world.
Intellectualising feelings is one of many Meta-Emotion strategies that men in particular often adopt in their intimate relationships.
Dr John Gottman and other researchers introduced the concept of ‘Meta-Emotion’ in their groundbreaking research into how parents influence emotional intelligence in kids.
Meta- Emotion is defined as:
“ an organised set of thoughts and feelings about one’s own emotions and one’s child’s emotions”
Our feelings and thoughts about our emotions influences how we connect with others including our kids, friends and partners as well as how we relate to our own emotional life.
In terms of emotional expression Gottman places adults in two categories.
This is a more dismissive approach to emotions. People will usually hold the following thoughts and beliefs:
It’s likely that people who fit into this kind of ’emotion philosophy’ intellectualise their emotions as a way of coping.
These are people who recognise the value of their emotions and are more comfortable in accepting and sharing their feelings.
They live by a mantra that all emotions are ok to have. They trust them and see emotion as a valuable guidance system to the way they live and an opportunity to connect with people.
Intellectualising is defined as:
‘to seek, or consider the rational content’
In psychological terms feelings of anxiety, anger, insecurity or any other negative emotion are defused by staying intellectual or factual.
The uncomfortable emotions are literally ‘thought away’ by pragmatism and logic.
When we are intellectualising we are:
Here’s a somewhat exaggerated example.
Intimate relationships are all about giving and receiving love, nurture and care which requires us to express our emotions openly and freely. Especially so if we are hurt or distressed.
Being rational, logical and abstract about feelings in a relationship tends to appear as:
The consequences of intellectualising emotion in a relationship exacerbates conflict, insecurity and mistrust.
Intellectualising emotion is a common defence mechanism that many blokes use.
If you are an over-intellectualiser you may be avoiding enjoying a more fulfilling, close and happy relationship.