“Findings from a multitude of research literatures converge on a single point: People are credulous creatures who find it very easy to believe and very difficult to doubt. In fact, believing is so easy, and perhaps so inevitable, that it may be more like involuntary comprehension than it is like rational assessment.” -Daniel Gilbert
Today, I had a truly great session with someone, one which involved pure analysis and didactic; essentially, I taught my client how to think critically, and most importantly, how to think logically! For humans, logic is a learned skill, as it isn’t an inherent trait that we’re born with; we have to acquire it, rather than uncover it, despite what Plato may have believed. For some, it’s an afterthought, another lesson akin to algebra, which remains useless and elusive. But, those who seek to understand it eventually learn of its applicability to important facets of their lives: decision-making, belief-formation, and mental health.
Author Chris Hedges once remarked, when referring to his college mentor, “He taught me how to think; and, in that, he taught me how to be free.” Through his comment, Hedges indicated the wisdom which asserted that true freedom was the freedom of thought; despite one’s external circumstances, man has the internal power of cognitive choice, that which encompasses the independence of thought, the true form of existential freedom.
In my practice, my greatest source of joy stems from teaching others how to be free, essentially, in how to think. While we’re children, we tend to wholeheartedly accept what others tell us about ourselves, others, and the world at large; we take them at their word, because we can’t do otherwise. The tools of critical thinking develop in a later period, as we’re taught to examine our beliefs in an objective, and dispassionate, way. But, despite our ability, studies continually indicate how difficult it is for us to challenge beliefs that we’ve already accepted; and, get this, our brain, when presented with new information, automatically accepts it as fact! So, until it reaches consciousness, subject to examination, information is simply held as truth in a state of pre-consciousness; this is a remnant of our childhood gullibility. I think that you’re starting to get the picture. It’s easy for us to believe something, hard for us to alter that belief, and remains impossible if we aren’t taught the skills of rational processing.
A significant portion of my clients, especially those with authoritarian parents (the so-called tiger parents), struggle with dependence of activity, which relies on the dependence of thought; rational thinking is linked with confidence in decision-making. So, those who don’t have much of an ability to judge don’t have much of an ability to decide. In themselves, beliefs are the most significant aspects of our lives; they affect what we see (literally), what we do, what we feel, and yes, even what we believe. Those who struggle with clinical disorders struggle with self-esteem, which stems from a core struggle with one’s conceptions.
Some of my clients depend on others to tell them who they are, what they should do, and how they should feel; analysis is external, having been delegated to their superior counterparts who seem to possess good judgment. For us, the majority of the work is based on the goal of fostering their ability to reason. With their newly founded knowledge, they begin to explore and accept their positive traits, they learn to devalue the irrational, and abusive, assertions of their partners, and they recognize their own potential for independence, subsequently diminishing their need for co-dependency.
I’ve argued elsewhere about the necessity of philosophy; it can actually change your life! Philosophy is wisdom, and philosophy is freedom. When one can think for herself, she can usually do for herself. Logic heralds the arrival of self-acceptance, as confidence and self-efficacy mark the beginning stages of self-compassion. Logic vastly altered my thinking, and subsequently my life; it helped me see myself and others in more humane ways, and it helped transform my previously absurd ideology. Logic changed me, and it saved me. What I’ve learned is that which I hope to continue to instill in others: the devotion to reason and, its counterpart, the devotion to emotional well-being.