Training in brief therapy: identifying the underlying logics

by Agnes Calendray

systemic coach, relationship clinician

The underlying logic, what is it?

We call “underlying logics” the logics that will maintain a system of perception/reaction. It can be a question of logics of attempted solutions, logics of control, paradoxical logics or even logics of belief.

The logic of the attempted solutions

By observing the solution attempts put in place by a person, we can deduce the logic on which they are based, and therefore the logic of the functioning of the problem when the behaviors are unsuited to the context (Wittezaele, Nardone, 2016).

The logic of the functioning of the problem is therefore the specific form that the patient's problem takes, a mode of functioning that the therapist must understand and use to help the person get out of the impasse.

Logic of avoidance or contradiction

Brief therapy trainingThese are strategies of withdrawal, flight or denial in the face of a situation that generates an emotional reaction experienced as unbearable. Avoidance aims to immediately neutralize the basic sensation, usually fear, from which one must escape at all costs. By avoiding a thought or situation, the person initially feels immediate relief. However, this appeasement subsequently gives way to a stronger, more intense fear which aggravates the problem. The person retains from this experience the fact that he is incapable of facing a situation likely to arise again. This learning (= “I am helpless in the face of this situation”) undermines her self-confidence and thus creates the conditions for the next avoidance. Locked in a vicious circle, she is inexorably overtaken by what she is trying to flee and this infernal race can generate deep insecurity about the future.


Control logic or paradoxical logic

Faced with a potential danger, a fear, a difficulty, the person will exert a voluntary action on a situation / a feeling, which does not suit him, which he will have to do and on which he does not have the control...not totally anyway. To react in a paradoxical way is to want to exercise an action to control fundamentally uncontrollable elements such as: one's behavior, one's thoughts, one's mental ruminations, one's body, one's emotions, others, the world,... The attempt to control then makes lose control and restart the control action. Inefficient control manifests itself in things like ruminations, obsessive thoughts, stress, exhaustion, and discouragement.  

Logic of belief

Beliefs have their usefulness in the coherence they give to our interactions with ourselves, others and the world (Wittezaele, Nardone, 2016, p 130). They are built on feedback and allow us to adjust our behavior in an evolutionary way. However, it is possible that they stiffen and that the process is reversed: it is the beliefs that then dictate the course of action, causing us to lose all capacity for discernment. “It is so and so. This is the kind of proposition that we repeat ourselves countless times. We believe we are following the course of nature again and again, and we are only following the form through which we consider it. (L. Wittgenstein) Whether imaginary or the fruit of our experiences, they cannot be questioned rationally and are fueled by attempts at contestation. They isolate us and make it difficult to re-establish functional interactions.  

Control logic or paradoxical logic

In perfectionism and self-transcendence disorders, fear is the dominant emotion. However, patients may have different TSR logics (Chiodini, Meringolo, Nardone, 2020). Some try to minimize their fear by anticipating potential dangers/difficulties. However, by developing the illusion of total control when they only master what they have planned, they become "robust but fragile" (a term coined by John Doyle – robust-yet fragile) and lose effectiveness. in the face of the unexpected. For others, the fear of failure leads them to avoid assuming their responsibilities by delegating or systematically postponing (sometimes until they give up) taking action. The last throw themselves headlong into action, in pursuit of the inaccessible, and run both the risk of never reaching the goal (and therefore of exhausting themselves) but also that of not seeing (and seizing ) the opportunities that life offers them. Inhabited by the fear of losing control, they may be led to cut themselves off from their emotions, not to set limits and not to capitalize on their experiences.  

Paradoxically, the fact that they want to control their actions, their thoughts and their emotions causes them to lose control and leads them to want to control even more, locking them into a vicious circle from which they do not emerge unscathed. It is then necessary to bring them to better control and to develop a form of resilience by giving meaning to what is happening to them. “The resilient person does not react with impetuosity, does not fight valiantly not to succumb but refutes the idea that the event that has taken place is an uncontrollable variable in his life. Adopting various approaches, she places unease, trauma and even catastrophe in a meaningful dimension that allows her to move forward. (Chiodini, Meringolo, Nardone, 2020, p 47).