Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 21, 2011

Friday, 21st January 2011 – a few professional thoughts on questions of psychology

Thanks to a work associate, I came recently across an extract from an article written by Albert Ellis, an American psychologist, who in 1955 developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), and was considered by many to be the second most influential psychotherapist in history. Ellis had numerous published contributions within the various fields associated with all aspects of psychology and it’s adjuncts, and REBT was just one such ‘creation, which was originally simply called rational therapy –  both a psychotherapeutic system of theory and practices, and a school of thought. I took it home to show Susan, as it seemed to be related to her areas of study over recent years. One area referred to in this REBT was a list of  ‘12 Irrational Ideas That Cause and Sustain Neurosis’, and that formed the basis of the extract that was given to me. Upon reading the contents,  it occurred to me, that rather that simply being a highly technical and medically inspired set of ideas, they were in fact highly practical everyday realistic [if you like] theories of the ways in which we so often think and react to situations that form a part of our daily lives.

For those looking for a definition of neurosis – well, according to our Australian Macquarie Dictionary ‘Neurosis is a relatively mild mental illness in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, in various patterns, dominate the personality. With this kind of definition in mind, here are the ’12 Ideas’ that Ellis considered were a causation factor in sustaining such neurotic states of mind (taken from The Essence of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. Revised, May 1994.)

1. The idea that it is a dire necessity for adults to be loved by significant others for almost everything they do — instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on winning approval for practical purposes, and on loving rather than on being loved.

2. The idea that certain acts are awful or wicked, and that people who perform such acts should be severely damned — instead of the idea that certain acts are self-defeating or antisocial, and that people who perform such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or neurotically, and would be better helped to change. People’s poor behaviours do not make them rotten individuals.

3. The idea that it is horrible when things are not the way we like them to be — instead of the idea that it is too bad, that we would better try to change or control bad conditions so that they become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, we had better temporarily accept and gracefully lump their existence.

4. The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by outside people and events — instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view that we take of unfortunate conditions.

5. The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and endlessly obsess about it — instead of the idea that one would better frankly face it and render it non-dangerous and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.

6. The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self-responsibilities — instead of the idea that the so-called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.

7. The idea that we absolutely need something other or stronger or greater than ourself on which to rely — instead of the idea that it is better to take the risks of thinking and acting less dependently.

8. The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects — instead of the idea that we would better do rather than always need to do well and accept ourself as a quite imperfect creature, who has general human limitations and specific fallibilities.

9. The idea that because something once strongly affected our life, it should indefinitely affect it — instead of the idea that we can learn from our past experiences but not be overly-attached to or prejudiced by them.

10. The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over things — instead of the idea that the world is full of probability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this

11. The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction — instead of the idea that we tend to  be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or when we are devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.

12. The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help feeling disturbed about things — instead of the idea that we have real control over our destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the musturbatory hypotheses which we often employ to create them.

One simplified breakdown of all of this was illustrated where Ellis talked about the three main irrational beliefs of people, viz:-

1.  “I must be outstandingly competent, or I am worthless.”
2.  “Others must treat me considerately, or they are absolutely rotten.”
3.  “The world should always give me happiness, or I will die.”

Ellis has come to emphasize more and more the importance of what he calls “unconditional self-acceptance.”  He says that, in REBT, no one is damned, no matter how awful their actions, and we should accept ourselves for what we are rather than for what we have achieved.  One approach he mentions is to convince the client of the intrinsic value of him or herself as a human being.  Just being alive provides you with value.   He notes that most theories make a great deal out of self-esteem and ego-strength and similar concepts.  We are naturally evaluating creatures, and that is fine.  But we go from evaluating our traits and our actions to evaluating this vague holistic entity called “self.”  How can we do this?  And what good does it do?  Only harm, he believes.    There are, he says, legitimate reasons for promoting one’s self or ego:  We want to stay alive and be healthy, we want to enjoy life, and so on.  But there are far more ways in which promoting the self or ego does harm, as exemplified by these irrational beliefs:

I am special or I am damned.
I must be loved or cared for.
I must be immortal.
I am either good or bad.
I must prove myself.
I must have everything that I want.

He believes very strongly that self-evaluation leads to depression and repression, and avoidance of change.  The best thing for human health is that we should stop evaluating ourselves altogether!  And so it continues, but I won’t go any further in this ‘forum’ –  I just felt that the main principles behind Ellis’s theories were very interesting, and as I said above, practical or realistic. No doubt there are plenty of experts in the fields of psychology who would probably ‘draw swords’ with the Ellis theories, while I can’t argue on a ‘scientific’ basis, one way or the other – they were simply a set of ideas I felt was worth noting in my ongoing blog or diary of things and events that interest your ‘personal essayist’ from time to time. Comments welcome.

Meanwhile, it’s a warm Friday here, but with yet another change on the way, as the Victorian floods continue to move down stream to more little towns that get in the way of the waters. Over 70 main communities have now been affected, and we should not overlook the hundreds of farming communities and more isolated settlements etc, between the main towns, which are also ‘victims’ of the ongoing flood surge. As someone described it yesterday, the Victorian flood is onlike the tsunami style surges that occurred in parts of south east Queensland last week – but more in the style of a slowly creeping inland sea taking everything before it, but creating the same degree of personal and business havoc, destruction and loss that occurred up north! While in Brisbane today, the inner city suburbs and CBD are again apprehensive at the arrival of a ‘King Tide’ round about midday!! Everyone is very nervous, particularly those areas where last week’s floods have not completely receded or areas where major cleanups are complete or underway!

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