In Part I of this post, I discussed why family members hate to discuss their chronic repetitive ongoing interpersonal difficulties with each other (metacommunication), and the problems that usually ensue whenever they try.
I discussed the most common avoidance strategy - merely changing the subject (#1) - and suggested effective countermoves to keep a constructive conversation on track. In Part II, I discussed strategies #2 and #3, nitpicking and accusations of overgeneralizing respectively. In Part III, I discussed strategy #4, blame shifting. In Part IV, strategy #5, fatalism.
This post is the first in a series about strategy #6, the use of irrational arguments. It will be subdivided into several posts because in order to counter irrational arguments, one first has to recognize them. I will hold off describing strategies to counter irrational arguments until after I have describe some of the most common types.
To review once again, the goal of metacommunication is effective and empathic problem solving. In this post, I will discuss an avoidance strategy called fatalism, and describe appropriate counter-strategies to get past it.
As with all counter-strategies, maintaining empathy for the Other and persistence are key.
Irrational arguments are used in metacommunication to confuse other people so that they either become confused about, or unsure of the validity of, any point they are trying to make. They are also frequently used to avoid divulging an individual's real motives for taking or haven taken certain actions.
In my first book, A Family Systems Approach to Individual Psychotherapy, I attempted to educate therapists about how their patients will use irrational arguments to confuse them. I referred to irrational arguments as mental gymnastics. They are particularly effective in emotionally-charged exchanges.
One can learn to recognize irrational arguments meant to throw someone off the track by learning about the logical fallacies that are taught in debate clubs and philosophy classes. Today's subject: the non sequitur. This is a Latin phrase meaning "it does not follow."
is invalid. The set of "people named Mary" falls both inside and outside of the set of "virgins." Therefore, Marys may or may not be virgins, and the conclusion is thus invalid. In this case it is not true that if the first two statements are true, the conclusion must be true, as would be the case with a valid syllogism.