The last couple of decades were in the name of increased interest in emotional and psychological health. More and more people jumped on the idea that everyone has the right to a happy and satisfying life. More and more people are willing to do something about it. Some can figure out life on their own. Some may need help from friends and family. And some would benefit from a more professional approach. Various variants of psychotherapy, counseling, and coaching started to pop up. One of the more interesting ones is Logic-Based Therapy.
Logic-Based Therapy (LBT) is a variant of philosophical counseling developed by Elliot D. Cohen and is based on the works of Albert Ellis and his rational emotive behavior therapy. It differs by adding an element of positive psychology as well as moving from the causal relationship between emotions, beliefs, and behaviors to logical ones.
The basic premise of LBT is derived from ancient Greek and Roman philosophies, like Stoicism, that suggests people are not disturbed by events but by their interpretation of them. LBT maintains that people decide whether to get emotionally upset by creating self-defeating conclusions from irrational premises. The LBT approach to dealing with it is based on deductive or, more specifically, syllogistic logic.
Syllogistic logic or syllogism is a form of logical argument that takes two or more assertions and uses reasoning and logic to arrive at a conclusion. Here is an example that is often being used to explain syllogism: All mortals die. All men are mortals. Therefore, All men die.
This is a typical example of the basic structure of syllogism, major premise, minor premise, and conclusion. Die is a major term, Men is a minor term, and Mortals is a middle term present in both premises.
The simplest way how this is used in LBT is in this type of reasoning. If something happens, I will feel sad. Something happened. Therefore I feel sad.
This is based on the premise that every mental state we have, including emotions, has an intentional object. For example, you don’t feel sad just to feel sad. You feel sad because of something. There is an object to be sad about.
Because of the need to use reasoning, LBT can have somehow limited use in situations when the client’s cognitive abilities are not up to a task. It may also feel a bit reason-based, and not everyone will like the idea of controlling their emotions using reason. It sounds too much like dismissing the feelings or claiming emotions are bad and should be suppressed.
Eleven cardinal fallacies and guiding virtues
According to LBT, many mental disturbances have roots in one of eleven fallacies. These are irrational assumptions that contain language that is self-defeating and in error.
As Elliot D. Cohen describes in Logic-Based Therapy and Everyday Emotions, people are making themselves upset by making irrational deductions under the influence of strong emotions. They come to conclusions that are their constructs and have nothing to do with the real world. LBT helps with better reasoning and refuting what it calls eleven cardinal fallacies. It uses eleven guiding virtues as antidotes to many people’s thinking errors.
The eleven cardinal fallacies and their corresponding virtues split by fallacy type:
Emotional fallacies – Dutiful worrying (prudence), Demanding perfection (metaphysical security), Awfulizing (courage), Damnation (respect), The-world-revolves-around-me thinking (empathy).
Reporting fallacies – Oversimplifying (objectivity), Distorting probabilities (foresightedness), Blind conjecture (scientificity).
Behavioral fallacies – Can’tstipation (temperance), Bandwagon reasoning (authenticity), Manipulation (empowerment for others).
Emotional fallacies generate destructive emotions. Reporting fallacies involve factual errors in reasoning. And behavioral fallacies lead to self-defeating actions.
The guiding virtues are then ways how to deal with the fallacy. For example, if you tend to manipulate others, the goal of logic-based therapy would be to help you learn to empower others as a way to mitigate your tendency to manipulate.
The framework LBT provides for confronting problems in your life has six steps. The LBT practitioner would walk you through the process, being both a guide and a source of relevant wisdom. They would help you find the errors in your logic and suggest new ways to look at things using philosophical wisdom.
1. Identify the emotional reasoning – you do this by answering two questions. What are you upset about? How are you rating it? This helps you to identify the emotional object you are upset about and what is your internal emotional response. You may be upset that your boss disagrees with your proposal, and you may rate it in your mind with some strong words, like “what an idiot.” You are now blaming your boss for your being angry. It is his fault. If he agreed with you, you wouldn’t be angry. Now you can formulate practical syllogism. First premise: If my boss disagrees with me, then he is an idiot. Second premise: My boss disagrees with me. Conclusion: He is an idiot. You can then create a follow-up. First premise: Idiots make me angry. Second premise: My boss is an idiot. Conclusion: I should get angry.
2. Check for cardinal fallacies – now you look for errors in your premises. In our case, the first premise, “If my boss disagrees with me, then he is an idiot,” has its roots in the-world-revolves-around-me thinking. You believe that you know the best, and those who disagree with you have no clue what they are talking about.
3. Refute any cardinal fallacy – refuting the misconception should lead you to realize that other points of view are as valid as yours. Each fallacy has at least one way to be refuted and often more than one. Fallacies lead to inconsistent and even absurd conclusions when you think about them, or they are factually wrong.
4. Identify guiding virtues for each fallacy – when you have refuted the fallacy, you can identify virtue that you should work on to prevent succumbing to this fallacy and getting into a self-defeating mode in the future. In our case, it would be the ability to empathize with others.
5. Find an uplifting philosophy that promotes that guiding virtue – now you can look for a philosophy and role models that will help you. There is not a single guiding philosophy behind the concept, as a different philosophy best supports each guiding virtue. It should be based on your belief system. It can be an actual philosophy or religion. In our case, you would search for a philosophy that promotes empathy with others. You can turn, for example, to Stoicism and use the quote of Marcus Aurelius, who wrote, “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” Or, if you have more religious leanings, you can find that most major religions will have a variation of sacrificing for others and not being self-centric. It is not important from where the wisdom comes. It is more important that it resonates with you.
6. Apply the philosophy by creating a plan of action – as the last step, you then define a set of activities that will allow you to use the wisdom you just found in your daily life. Let’s say that the Stoic philosophy resonated with you. You can then find ways how to implant it in your life. For example, you may follow the advice that a person should speak only when they have something to say that wasn’t said by others and start listening more, trying to find a helpful message behind their words. You may also learn to take a deep breath every time you get annoyed to calm down and consider that the person means well.
If you want to read through some real-life examples of how Logic-Based Therapy works, check out the two following papers. Simon Bertel Kristensen, a certified LBT consultant, beautifully illustrates how the six steps LBT model works in the case of a student with an academic problem rooted in demand for approval of her mother. Danny Nichols, a senior philosophy major at Purdue University Northwest, describes how he used the LBT process to work with one of his clients who suffered from low self-esteem.
Putting it all together
Whether Logic-Based Therapy is the right approach for you depends on various criteria. Some people are more receptive to a reasoning-based approach to figuring out their world than others. Some problems can be solved at the coaching level, some may need a more therapeutic approach, and some may require even more aggressive methods. Very often, it is you who is holding you back. Various prejudices, self-inflicted victimization, or negative beliefs are what cause your unhappiness even if you don’t see it. It is good to be aware that there are various ways you can deal with your everyday problems, and maybe Logic-Based Therapy is the right approach for you.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you believe that logic-based therapy is beneficial? Have you ever consulted an LBT practitioner? What do you believe are the advantages and disadvantages? Do you think philosophy and psychology should coexist?
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