Tag Archives: cognitive behavioral therapy

Nothing Against Logicians! Promise!

A properly functioning mind can destroy itself. It can think itself, in a logical and rational pattern, into madness. But that’s really more about the motive than the mode. It’s not logic and rationality themselves that are the source of the problem. In that respect, my recent quotation of G.K. Chesterton might have been misleading in regards to my outlook. Chesterton wrote, “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” But I don’t have anything against logicians! Promise! I have no campaign against logic or rationality. From classical Stoicism to contemporary psychological therapies like logotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and rational emotive behavior therapy, logical and rational thinking has been a sturdy pattern for healthiness. But logic and rationality also could be used in an unhealthy way. In quoting Chesterton there, my point was to identify a problem that was once explained by an evangelical psychologist, Larry Crabb. “There is an enormous difference between the joy of discovery and the passion to explain,” Crabb wrote. “The former gives life a sense of adventure. The latter makes us hate mystery.” And, I think, as Chesterton suggests, that passion to explain gets exhausting, overwhelming, and eventually, devastating. So his single metaphorical dichotomy provides me inexhaustible help: I’m not trying to get the heavens into my head; I’m just trying to get my head into the heavens. And by heavens, I’m thinking figuratively. I’m thinking about all the questions and all the data and all the good theories and all the history and all the apparent unknowns—better to sit within it all than to insist upon a perfectly systematic account for it all. The former is wonderful; the latter is exhausting. I think someone could simultaneously say discovery in any field is an amazing, exhilarating journey, and logical, rational methods help discovery on its way. Motivation makes the difference.

The Latest Self-Help Advice? “F*ck Feelings” | Acculturated

Old Stoic psychology can be a good thing — Saint Paul probably was influenced by it — and in that vein here’s a contemporary, popular book, reviewed by Acculturated:

A new book called F*ck Feelings is, well, all the rage.

On its face, the volume cries out for disdain…. The genre—self-help—practically invites ridicule. And the bloated text, which oscillates between tough love and outright fatalism, could be boiled down to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

There just isn’t much original material here. Are you wondering if a problem is not what happens, but your reaction to it? Marcus Aurelius got there first: “If you are distressed by anything external,” he observed, “the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

If the issue is a false perception of reality—and isn’t that so often a plausible diagnosis?—well, this news was delivered in the middle of the last century by Albert Ellis, who emphasized unrealistic thinking when he pioneered cognitive behavioral therapy…. Ellis in turn got the news from Socrates, who found ignorance (and perhaps worse yet, ignorance of one’s own ignorance) to be at the bottom of various ills. People did bad things out of ignorance about what is good, for instance, or succumbed to cowardice due to ignorance about the nature of death.

Yet lots of people who never got the memo from Socrates or Ellis can still benefit from this message, and that is where a book like F*ck Feelings establishes its usefulness. Why sneer? It should be clear by now that self-help books aren’t necessarily bad; they aren’t even new. Ben Franklin, Samuel Smiles, and Arnold Bennett wrote interesting self-help manuals long before any of us were born.

Read the rest of this review: The Latest Self-Help Advice? “F*ck Feelings” | Acculturated