Is it acceptable for a psychiatrist to use a logical fallacy if it makes their patients feel better?

Milton Erickson had a patient with a phobia. This man was afraid that gravity would stop working for him and he go into orbit. The logical thing to do would be to explain that gravity is an intrinsic property of matter and so his fear is irrational. Logic doesn’t cure phobias.

So, Erickson convinced the man that going into orbit was his destiny. He said when astronauts go into orbit they come back down and you will to. He also told him that since it is going to happen anyway, why not get it over with? He told the man to get a backpack and go hiking in the mountains, because the gravity would be weaker at the higher altitudes.

The man took Erickson’s advice. He hiked in the mountains everyday for a few months. Then one day, he shows up in Erickson’s office and says, “That was a delusional psychotic idea.”

Paraphrased from Phoenix by Gordon and Meyers-Anderson, pp. 44-46.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Photo: Milton H. Erickson

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