Belief Change With Logic

If you’re a good listener, you might notice you have friends who dump their sorrows on you at every possible opportunity. It’s not because they’re looking for pity or to abuse your friendship, it’s because they know you listen. Talking gives them some temporary relief from the emotional pain they cause themselves. They are also very logical. They can firmly convince you how stuck they are. They can prove that their range of choices is limited. They refuse to listen to anything that contradicts their twisted logic, and the worst part is—they are pessimistic about the near future. 

To sound more credible, they express themselves as if their values and integrity are on the line, and their suffering is a result of them trying to stay moral and honest and generous. They tend to believe that the world is doing THIS or THAT to them, and they cannot see their responsibility in the stream of events. From day to day, the more you listen to them, the more you get the feeling that they’re not really trying to change their situation. At first, you may think they’ll soon emerge with a fresh perspective. But they do not; they stay stuck. They may develop some unknown and unexplained physical weakness and sickness. Their doctors will say they’re still doing tests, but have no clue what the reasons for the sickness is. The person will hide one thing the doctor told them—that there is nothing wrong with their body. They seek attention. 

They seek the caring look. 

They want to unload their emotional burden, but within a day or two, they have it all back. But they are your friends. If you only have one of those, great. If you have more, it is surely a time for a different strategy to handle them, because eventually they may get better while you get worse. The solution is simpler than you may think. Aristotle thought about it ages ago, but in a different context. Aristotle came up with the concept of deduction. Its opposite, abduction, was added to this thought model as well. Deduction, done wrong, is the common logic that self-limiting pessimists use to confine themselves in their problems. The logic is obvious, but absurd if you dissect it objectively. 

“I am a foreigner.”

“Foreigners can’t get a good job in this country.”

“I will never get a good job here.”

The equation of deduction is simple and logical: A = B, and B = C,  therefore, A = C.

If it were math, it would be correct. But there is a problem. Each equals sign is really a presupposition. All you need is one bad presupposition, and this “logic” provides the pessimist with justification for their faulty conclusions. 

The challenge is that they were convinced before they performed their “math.” So, even if you try to negate B = C and claim that B = D and not C, (that is, to lead them to a new conclusion) the pessimist will find a way to maintain their limitations. 

The cure for this deceptive logic is to use abduction to create an imbalance in the formula. 

“You are an educated and experienced person.”

“Foreigners in this country are not equal one to another in education and experience.”

“As long as you are superior to other foreigners, it gives you a higher chance to get a better job in this country.”

A = B, and C = D < B, therefore, (B > C) = A.

If you run this formula thoughtfully and design it to fit the pessimist you’re dealing with, it will get them thinking. If they come up with another excuse, decide if it’s a valid excuse or just an attempt to get you to think they’re hopeless. If it’s the latter, give them that non-believer doubting look and they may change their tune. If not, you can run this process from another angle. Friends are there for each other, for better and, most importantly, for worse. When someone behaves in a destructive way, it is also your responsibility to disrupt their pattern and impel them toward a healthy choice. But, if it restricts your life and limits your possibilities, you’ll have to let them go. Sometimes the fear of losing a good friend drives people into a major positive change. But use that as a last resort. Besides, it’s always more fun to take on the challenge of making them so uncomfortable with their status quo that they can’t resist the “Aha!” experience and wanton motivation what was waiting inside them.