I have written before about the logic of depression and the logic of anxiety, but you don’t have to be anxious or depressed to be hamstrung by the dodgy logic of your own reasoning.
I’m not saying that YOUR logic is dodgy, but that logic itself is a dodgy way of going about things if you want your life to go well. (By “going well” I mean not just going the way you want, but also in ways that allow you to grow, feel excited and enjoy the vibrancy of your existence. If that sounds flakey to you and a bit weird and touchy-feely, then, poor you, you are probably an overly-logical thinker).
Experience and intuition are often a better guide to life than logic anyway, but we still ignore that and turn to rational and logical thinking to problem-solve.
You can retrain yourself to be less reliant on logical thinking by becoming more aware when you are doing it. It helps to be stress-free to begin with so that you can step back and allow your mind to think in other ways. Anything that enables you to come at a problem from another angle – a different perspective – will help, accept ideas you have at face value with judging or excluding anything. Remember, having ideas and making decisions are two separate activities, so, ideas first, decisions later.
You can stop reading this post here if you are short on brain-power or time (decision: either you stop now or you read to the end of the post).
Let your mind wander
Logic is “a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something” (Merriam-Webster), but it’s also a PARTICULAR way of thinking about something. It’s great for science and explaining how things work. It has its place. The trouble is that we have unthinkingly elevated it to the ONLY way of thinking in certain situations, and we are more likely to resort to it when discussing a problem or crisis.
When it comes to life, there are many ways of thinking and not all of them are equal. There’s reasoning, of course, that where logic comes in, but there is also creative thinking, critical thinking, decision making, day-dreaming, problem-solving, future-oriented thinking, judgements, fantasising…. It’s quite a list.
To my mind, there are two main problems with logical thinking. The first is that it’s usually not the right approach for dealing with the shape-shifting stuff of life, and the second is that it relies on rules of the ‘if-then’ variety which cannot account for things like uncertainty and whimsicality of human nature.
Logical thinking is reductive, it removes uncertainties and options, whereas thinking for life has to open up and illuminate possibilities. When we rely on logic to reason our way out of a dilemma, we often get ourselves into trouble with our thinking because it takes us deeper into either/or territory (which is what a dilemma is all about in the first place).
Description or expression?
Logic provides us with a descriptive language – useful in a rational and scientific way – but life is different, it isn’t rational and logical. In talking and thinking about life and experience, we need conceptual language.
This is not sequential, logical or linear. Conceptual thinking uses imagery rather than verbal descriptions, it is amorphous and indirect, but it captures and grasps meaning far better than the descriptive language of logic can. We still use words, but less literally, to shape symbolic or metaphorical meaning.
We are not limited to words to express ourselves. Art, music, dance, other forms of behaviour (often we go with the words, ignoring the possibility that someone’s behaviour might be an expression of something we are missing but that’s another story, or possibly another post).
As well the one-size-fits-all choice of logic letting us down in our thinking, there a major compounding issue: logic excludes possibilities. It does this by defining HOW we think as well as WHAT we are thinking about. When we should actually be exploring a topic, logical thinking is simultaneously examining and discounting ideas that don’t fit with its own logic. It acts like a bigoted gate-keeper, refusing entry to thoughts that are not on the guest list. Anything unexpected, novel or inspired is thrown out.
It’s called ‘false logic’ because it appears to be the acceptable (and the only) way of thinking about things, in situations where another mode of thought would be more helpful. When we should actually be standing back and giving ourselves some mental space to explore, logic acts like a dictator. It has its own agenda, which it constantly pushes, persuasively and logically.