I always found this odd whenever I was in therapy. Regardless of the “problem” that was identified, anxiety, depression, etc., there was always this central focus on the supposed irrationality of my thinking. And this idea that, if I can only become convinced that my anxieties or depressions were not consistent with objective reality, then I would be cured. Or something.
The concept of mental illness has always had been strongly associated with irrationality. I think that is most likely a product of enlightenment thinking. Because the idea of “rational man” was the basis for political liberty and democracy, “irrationality” then justifies depriving a person of his liberty and autonomy. It is essentially the legal basis for civil commitment / insanity defense and otherwise using coercion against certain people. Society cannot afford to divorce the concept of irrationality from mental illness.
Because when you think about it, why must anxiety, depression, and the rest be the result of irrational thinking? If a person developed a germ phobia and engaged in OCD hand-washing as a consequence of Covid-19 hysteria, is he necessarily being irrational? He might be over-reacting, but our culture did create that hysteria that led to that over-reaction. Or how about the child who was relentlessly abused by his father? If he experiences a PTSD response when he is around his father, or perhaps any man who reminds him of his father, is he being irrational? If I am suicidally depressed because I lost everything that was meaningful to me with no realistic hope of it ever returning, am is my suicidality irrational? And of course, there’s all that evidence that happy, well-adjusted people also hold very distorted beliefs…it’s just that their irrational thoughts tend to be favorable to them, or make them feel good.
The issue problem is not with your rationality, even if your attitudes are not necessarily in accordance with objective reality. The problem is you (we) are making associations that interfere with our sense of well-being or social/occupational functioning. It seems to me that the solution to our fears is not to understand that they are irrational (which only makes me feel worse when I’m told that), but to make different associations with the object(s) of our fears. How exactly that should be accomplished, I have no friggin clue, but I imagine the solution would have to be tailored to each individual.