Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the therapist tries to teach the patient to think more rationally. In mild to moderate cases of depression, cognitive therapy seems to work as well as antidepressant medication. Yet like any other form of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy seems to be less effective for people with more serious mental illnesses. These findings would come as no surprise to an ancient Greek or Roman physician. Cognitive therapy is really just coaching in logical thinking. Ancient Greeks and Roman philosophers believed that logical thinking is an art that can be cultivated. However, they also recognized that some people have medical problems that make it difficult or impossible to think logically. In Roman law, a person would not be held legally responsible for an act that was committed when he was not in control of his mind (non compos mentis).
From the Middle Ages up to the 1930s, many Catholics revered a dog named Guinefort as a saint who protected infants. Parents would leave a sickly baby overnight at the shrine of “Saint” Guinefort. As a result, the baby usually died of exposure. Of course, some babies did not die so easily. As a result, many parents believed that evil spirits had stolen their baby, leaving an evil changeling in its place. These parents might then go to the dog’s shrine to perform dangerous rituals on the changeling, to persuade the evil spirits to return their healthy child. As a result, the “changeling” usually died. The purpose of these rituals was for parents to rid themselves of a burdensome child, but in a way that would absolve them of guilt and that would not cause them to lose social standing.
On the surface, Joss Whedon’s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a satire of horror movies. Vampire movies typically show pretty young women, and especially dumb blondes, as helpless victims who must rely on other people to save them. In contrast, Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) was a pretty and smart blond teenage girl who saved the world, a lot. Like many other satires, the series was intended as meaningful entertainment. It provides useful lessons in how to grow up, how to manage anger, and how to atone for your sins. In the show, Buffy literally slew demons. Yet those demons were also metaphors for the kinds of problems that each of us must solve as we grow up. Nevertheless, there was one important demon whom Buffy was reluctant to slay: a vengeance demon named Anyanka. (Emma Caulfield did such a brilliant job in her role as Anyanka that she became a series regular.)