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Why Do We Intellectualise Our Emotions and How Is It Harmful?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

We all face a multitude of emotions throughout our lives although these emotions are constantly shifting and changing and all work in equilibrium with each other. Despite this, certain emotions are viewed more negatively than others as they create more distress and discomfort. The intellectualisation of emotions is one way in which an individual can attempt to find a false sense of comfort to slightly alleviate this pain. This is attempted through the rationalisation of emotions; however, this can develop into a harmful and unhealthy coping strategy.


Firstly, it’s interesting to consider why it’s natural to address heavy feelings through intellectualisation. Emotions such as anxiety, sadness and anger can be hard to cope with, especially in a modern world where less value is placed onto them.  Externally, these emotions receive judgement as so much emphasis is put on positive emotions through platforms like social media. There has also been so much stigma placed on feeling certain emotions, particularly onto men. This can create a sense of guilt when these emotions are felt; for example, sadness is viewed as a sign of sensitivity and therefore, a weakness.

It’s also important to consider that it can be difficult to sit with difficult emotions as it can result in a lot of pain. There is an assumption that this is only mental pain like negative thoughts and low self-esteem but it’s also important to recognise physical symptoms that arise from painful emotions such as heart racing and feelings of tightness and heaviness in your body. Although emotions are less valued and typically viewed as irrational and not always a reflection of reality, this doesn’t take away the pain an individual is experiencing and shouldn’t take away the importance of an emotion.

Intellectualisation is a way to overcompensate for emotions which we have been taught to view as negative experiences. A basic example would be is if a friend was rude to you then you might think about all the reasons they were rude and create a logical explanation rather than placing value onto the fact you feel hurt that they were rude. This is because you might value logic over emotion due to the reasons previously discussed.


I think that being in touch with your emotions is a powerful tool to tell us exactly what we need to hear. Each emotion teaches us so much about ourselves, there are overlaps and each experience is subjective.  For example, sadness could teach us that we are hurt and need to look after ourselves. Anxiety could be a way of acknowledging we are pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone. Anger could teach us about the importance of setting boundaries with others. Logic, on the other hand, teaches us externally about a situation but is objective, limited and doesn’t teach an individual about their own needs.

As we are taught to block out certain emotions, it is important to create intention behind letting yourself feel every emotion. I think there will always be some resistance to negative emotions; however, over time, I believe it will become a more natural process and the benefits will be appreciated. We are also surrounded by constant distractions that manifest in not always obvious ways such as spending excessive time on your phone, overworking, or constantly feeling the need to be surrounded by other people. So, taking time to sit with your emotions can feel like a daunting and unnatural experience at first. Ways to engage in feeling your emotions can be as simple as taking time out of your day to just sit with yourself with activities like meditation or going for a walk as being alone means you aren’t caught up in other people’s emotions. If this is too difficult and causes a lot of unfamiliar emotions to arise, therapy is a useful tool to confront these emotions in a safe and supported space. Overall, I think it’s just about making “feeling your emotions” a priority as expressing yourself is healthy and necessary.

This is a small insight into why it’s important to feel emotions and there is so much to consider in the points made. It’s such a relevant and important topic to keep discussing and challenging because we aren’t taught about emotions within society but by discussing them, we can start to make a big impact. Emotions are such complex and subjective subjects to understand but this doesn’t mean we should push ourselves away from them. If anything, we should do the opposite and learn to embrace and go towards our emotions.

Zara Whistler

Bristol '23

Hi, I’m Zara! I’m a second year English student studying at Bristol university!
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