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together we can change ourself

Application of REBT

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Question: How can we have and maintain a good relationship or marriage?

Dr. Ellis answers: It’s not very easy! As the Buddhists said 2500 years ago, people are usually self-centered, not relationship-centered. Yes, they think they absolutely need a good relationship to live and be happy—but do not need to give a good relationship in return. How wrong!

To become less needy of having and more centered on giving a good relationship or marriage often requires several thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Especially …

  1. Put yourself, if you will, first—but others a close second. Focusing mainly on what you think you need may distract you from caring for others.
  2. Try both/and rather than either/or. Focus on caring for you and others. Concentrate on people who have good characters and whoeasily love you and others. They are often scarce; but, of many possible relaters, you can find them.
  3. Discover, of course, what others want from a relationship and go out of your way to find it. Among other things, frankly ask them what they want and do your best to fulfill it. If they are inordinately demanding without giving, take haste—run!
  4. Look closely at other relationships to discover what works for people. Some things are for you and your mate—and some are not.  If you think one plan works, try it to see whether it really does.
  5. Read books on what supposedly works to provide and maintain a good relationship—but read them skeptically. Discuss their methods with your partner, and experimentally try them out.
  6. See whether techniques that supposedly work do so because of the special characteristics of the relaters or tend to generallywork.
  7. Above all, experiment with different relating methods to discover your and your partner’s bents. Nothing works better than what is tried and true for you and your partners!

In my own case, I experimented with four major relationships, all of which were fascinating and kept me looking for better ones. I married my first and third choices but had amenable divorces and still was friends with them afterward—with Karyl, my first wife, for fifty years until her death.

My last choice was made when I was 90 years of age and still persists in marriage three years later. I think it will last till I die (preferably after the age of 110), because my wife, Debbie Joffe, is devoted to me and to REBT, is most helpful with my writings and other work, and shares my major professional interests. We also greatly enjoy being together when we are not working. A great choice!

Debbie also has an unusual, devoted, and helpful character, which very few people have. It makes her quite a rare, beautiful person. We both respect and love each other and expect to keep doing so forever.

~Albert Ellis~

June, 2006

Question: I am still looking for the Secret of It All, and am having a difficult time finding it. Can you tell me what it is?

Dr. Ellis answers: No, I can’t tell you what it is, for there probably isn’t any Secret of It All; and if there were one, it would change under different environmental conditions. But since different conditions continually exist, there is no general Secret of It All, no matter what are the conditions. Alfred Korzybski said this in Science and Sanity, the bible of general semantics. We live dangerously if we say that something always, under all circumstances, exists. There are too many exceptions to this fictional rule.

What about “all things change”? Is this the “secret” of change? Probably, yes; but it really means “under usual conditions all things change.” In a vacuum, they remain unchanging forever. But in a non-vacuum—that is, real life—climate, moisture, human interference, and hell knows what else seem to change even the rocks and the hills. So there!

Of course, conditions usually change, too. Especially the weather—but also living things like plants and animals. Just try to keep them from not changing!

If there were a “Secret of It All” under all conditions at all times, you would have to find it under “good” conditions and then guarantee their continuance.

Just try.

Robert Harper and I discovered in 1961 in A Guide to Rational Living that most people felt happier when they had a vital absorbing interest—drawing, painting, writing, reading ancient manuscripts, playing sports, etc. Most, but not all people—since a vital interest in, say, chess may in time become boring, and one person’s vital interests may not work for someone else.

How to find your own vital interests? Try many possibilities, to see which thrill you. Then another—and another. Change it when it no longer works. After a lapse, try it again. A vacation from it may spark it again. Or a modification. If regular chess tends to bore you, try blindfolded chess—or bridge. Experiment, experiment—what have you got to lose?

Vital absorbing interests are your preferences, not your musts. You don’t have to adore baseball—or anything else—just because many others to. You, again, can like baseball with some people some of the time—and loathe it when you are tired, hungry, or play poorly.

You can like success at a game or venture without needing it. If you absolutely must win at ping pong, you will be anxious about losing. Then you may hate it—and hate yourself. You also may make yourself anxious about your anxiety and about showing it to others. Then you have two problems for the price of one.

Is there no way out? No, not if we insist on finding the “Secret of It All” for all times and conditions. A mystical outlook says that it exists; but a scientific, realistic outlook seriously doubts that it does. Let us look for our own vital absorbing interests and see what we can do to enjoy them. Isn’t that enough?

Question: What about obsessive shyness in 2006? Does what you said in 1952 about overcoming severe shyness by approaching possible female partners, as you did when you were 19 years-old, still hold true? Is in vivo desensitization risk-taking still the way to go?

Dr. Ellis answers: Yes, using in vivo desensitization risk-taking interrupts irrational self-talk like, “I must not be rejected! I’m a no-goodnik for failing to get accepted! My whole worth as a person rests on my being approved!”

With your irrational self-talk you invent the necessity — instead of the preference — of being approved by partners and you make their rejection “terrible” instead of “unfortunate.” You obsessively-compulsively demand that acceptance by desired partners equals your worth as a person.

By using in vivo desensitization, you see that this equation is false and that it’s highly desirable to have selected partners favor you, but it is not necessary that they do.

If they now don’t do so, that only shows that they presently reject your presence — and not for all time or not by all possible partners. There can always be a tomorrow — so you keep risking failure until you sometimes succeed.

Being rejected does not mean your rejectors will, with their own obsessive-compulsiveness, eternally disfavor you. Even when they usually do so, that still doesn’t mean they forever will. Also, they may dislike something about you, but rarely will they dislike you totally, in every respect.

You may hate yourself totally for one or a few rejections — but, if so, you arrantly over-generalize, as Alfred Korzybski said in Science and Sanity in the 1950’s.

You may do rejectable things, but you are never totally rejectable or worthless. Someday you may act acceptably — especially if you keep persistently trying with in vivo risk-taking.

So be heartened. Yes, you may have done badly this time but you are not what you did. You are many possible acts — some of which you will discover if you keep trying.

Moral: Try it and see! If you unconditionally accept you with others’ rejections of your behaviors, you won’t always win. But you also won’t always lose. Experiment! Try it!

~Dr. Albert Ellis~
May 24, 2006


How a Shy Teenager Started a Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy

As many fans of REBT know, Dr. Albert Ellis first flirted with behavioral techniques at age 19. It was a way to get over his shyness, fear of public speaking and a fear of approaching women.

He had read in philosophy that if you did what you’re afraid of doing, then you could get over your phobia about it. He learned that we upset ourselves if we construct an idea that failing is horrible and being rejected is horrible. It isn’t the act of failing or being rejected that upsets us, but our ideas about it.


Young Albert Ellis had a public speaking phobia. He read in John B. Watson, the early behaviorist, that if you took a feared animal like a rabbit, and put it at one end of a table and a phobic child at the other end, the child would be terrified. Watson and his assistants gradually moved the animal closer and the child got unterrified and started petting the animal after a short while.

Al said if it’s good enough for children, it was good enough for him. He made himself uncomfortably speak and speak and speak in public instead of phobically avoiding it, and he completely got over his public speaking phobia in seven weeks.


Even more important to the young Albert Ellis was his shyness around women. He flirted with them in Bronx Botanical Garden near his home, but he never approached them. Instead he made up all kinds of excuses to avoid doing so because he was scared of rejection.

At the age of 19, he gave himself a homework assignment when he was off from college. He went to Bronx Botanical Garden every day that month, and whenever he saw a woman sitting alone on a park bench, he would sit next to her, which he wouldn’t dare do before. He gave himself one minute to talk to her, calming his fears by saying silently to himself, “If I die, I die. Screw it, so I die.”

He didn’t die.

He found 130 women sitting alone that month on park benches. He sat next to all of them, whereupon 30 got up and walked away. He spoke to the remaining 100 — for the first time in his life — about the birds and the bees, the flowers, books, whatever came to mind.

Al later said, “If Fred Skinner, who was then teaching at Indiana University, had known about my exploits, he would have thought I would have got extinguished, because of the 100 women I made one date — and she didn’t show up!

“But I prepared myself philosophically, even then, by seeing that nobody took out a stiletto and cut my balls off, nobody vomited and ran away, nobody called the cops. I had 100 pleasant conversations and with the second 100 I got good and made a few dates.

“I used techniques I later developed into Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy on myself by thinking philosophically and differently. Nothing is awful or terrible, it’s just a pain in the ass. That’s all it is.

“There’s no horror in being rejected. I forced myself uncomfortably to do what I was afraid of, the opposite of what phobics do, because whenever they’re afraid of innocent things, they beat it the hell out of there and then never get over their fears.

“They increase their phobias, as I at first did. In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy I combined thinking and philosophy for the first time with feeling — emotion — and also with behavior therapy, which I got from John B. Watson, Fred Skinner and others.

“So it’s one of the very few therapies that is multi-modal in Arnold Lazarus’ sense, and it includes thinking, feeling and behavior, and has about 20 or 30 techniques under each heading; it has lots of evidence in favor of it.”

The emotiveness of REBT makes it unique among the popular cognitive and behavioral therapies used today. The Friends and Supporters of Albert Ellis feel honored to help Dr. Ellis carry his life’s work into the 21st century where REBT is as fresh and exciting as it was when the young Albert forced himself to sit on that park bench many years ago.

In our support for Albert Ellis and REBT, we’re willing to do what Al suggests— take the risk, experiment, try it!

Question:  What if people lie and make false accusations about you and blacken your name among scores of other people?  How do you handle this?

Dr. Ellis answers: First and foremost, you do not upset yourself and make yourself angry, anxious, or depressed about people’s lies and exaggerations.  When you upset yourself, you mainly do so by telling yourself, “They absolutely should not lie and make false accusations against me!”  But, of course, they should do so, because that is the way they think, feel, and behave.  How can they really do otherwise?

Second, you refuse to make yourself angry, anxious, and depressed about people’s lies and false accusations by choosing to feel healthily regretful, displeased, and sorry but not unhealthily upset.  You always can choose healthy instead of unhealthy feelings and reactions.

Third, when you are not upset about lies and false accusations against you, you can show the facts that contradict them.  You canstrongly do this without making yourself angry, depressed, and anxious by calmly repeating the facts.

Fourth, you can briefly point out the discomfirming facts, and give evidence that they really cover the false points that are being made against you.

Fifth, your model can be, “Do, don’t stew!”  Stewing will get you nowhere but upset and less capable of dealing with lies and exaggerations.

Sixth, you can use the testimony of reliable and honest people to disprove the dishonest lies and accusations against you.

Seventh, you can decide—if you wish to do so—to ignore the lies and false allegations against you if you think they will fall into oblivion.  No reply is sometimes the best reply.

Eighth, you can show how the people who lie and level false allegations against you have a history of untrustworthiness and are now adding to this history.

Ninth, no matter what the lies and misrepresentations about you are, don’t awfulize about them and feel strongly determined to (a) unconditionally and fully accept yourself no matter what people think; (b) to feel compassion for the perpetrators of the lies and misrepresentations against you; and (c) to accept the world with its liars and misrepresenters when your attempts to change them prove to be futile.

Tenth, I repeat:  Don’t upset yourself and give yourself the best chance of dealing with people’s lies and misrepresentations about you.

Question: What is shyness and how can I overcome it?

Dr. Ellis answers: Shyness can be quite normal and sensible—as when you shy away from doing things you really don’t want to do but in a moment of weakness you promised to do. Or when you shy away from staying too long with difficult and boring people. Good.

Most of what we call shyness, however, results from fear of rejection and of being disapproved. Thus, you avoid approaching people who you think will find you inferior. When you are illegitimately shy, you first rationally tell yourself, “I do not like being rejected, and wish I get accepted by people I favor.” This Rational Belief (RB) and feeling leads you to avoid “dangerous” people and to try to get accepted by others. Fine. But when you are very shy, you add an Irrational Belief-feeling, “I absolutely must not ever be rejected! If I am, it’s awful, and I can’t stand it! Rejection makes me, a person, totally inadequate! Horrors!”

Your second, Irrational Belief-feeling (IB) scares you witless and drives you to avoid any people who might possibly reject you and thereby prove “your utter worthlessness.” It creates your disturbed shyness. It makes you manufacture your scariness.

If Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is correct about this, what can you do to reduce your disturbed shyness? Try the following actions:

  1. Fully see that you choose to create your shyness. It doesn’t merely come from an Activating Event or Activating Situation (A). Youchoose to Believe and to feel it at B, your Belief-feeling.
  2. Fully realize that you don’t have to choose Irrational Belief-feelings at B about a situation where you may be rejected. You can instead choose a Rational Belief-feeling (RB), such as, “I greatly dislike rejection but still can stand it and fully accept myself, me, when and if I don’t get it.” Give yourself, with this philosophy, Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA). Completely accept yourentirety in spite of your failing to get accepted.
  3. Give yourself, in addition, the REBT philosophy of Unconditional Life Acceptance (ULA)—that is, “I fully accept my life, my ongoing existence, whether or not I get what I want. I definitely prefer, but do not need, what I want, such as social acceptance. It’s bad when I get rejected and don’t get what I want, but I can try next time to get it. My rejection is part of my life but it doesn’t equalme. I can still get a great deal of happiness in life in spite of this particular rejection. Too bad—but not awful.”

Your seeing that irrational rejection really is a choice to reject you totally when someone rejects you in part, and you see that this is an irrational choice for you to make. This will stop you from denigrating yourself if and when others reject you. Then you have nothing to lose by unselfishly trying and trying again for social acceptance.

Question: How can you use REBT principles and practices to make yourself happy, particularly when you are faced with injustices and oppositions?

Answer: In your regular life, you can see that most of your needless misery and rage are not directly caused by unfortunate Adversities or Activating Events (A’s) that occur in your life—such as financial losses, illnesses, and ecological disasters (e.g., hurricanes and heat waves) but are mainly caused by your destructive thoughts, feelings, and actions. You choose to add to unfortunate A’s your own B’s (Beliefs, Emotions, and Actions). Thus, you add to unfortunate financial reverses healthy B’s (“I don’t like this! I wish it weren’t so! What can I do to gain back the money I lost?”) And then you experience at C the Consequences of healthy caution, sorrow, and regret. Fine!

But you also may add to your unfortunate A’s about financial losses, unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and actions—such as unhealthy B’s (“How awful! I should and must not have made those financial mistakes! I can’t stand it! What a hopeless dunce I am for behaving so stupidly!”) You then experience destructive consequences (C’s) such as self-downing, awfulizing, and inertia about recouping your losses. You thus make yourself disturbed about your financial mistakes. You create much misery.

To combat your normal and frequent “horror,” you can use REBT ideas to Dispute your destructive beliefs. For example: “Why must I never make financial errors? Answer: There is no reason why I must not, though it would be highly preferable if I made fewer errors.” You ask yourself, “Why is it awful to make financial blunders? Answer: It is not totally bad nor terrible, only quite inconvenient.” You ask yourself, “Will I remain a hopeless financial idiot forever? Answer: No, I can learn by my mistakes and make fewer of them in the future.”

If you actively Dispute (D) your destructive beliefs, feelings, and actions at B, you will create healthy instead of unhealthy ones and will make yourself reasonably happy, and perhaps quite happy, at point E, your Effective New Philosophy, Emotion, and Behavior. Keep finding and Disputing your Irrational Beliefs (IBs) with which you make yourself miserable, and you will regularly uproot them and be happy. Try it and see!

How can you be happy when very unfortunate events assail you—such as chronic illness, drastic poverty, and homelessness? Answer: You probably can’t be, because you’d feel, at the very least, keen frustration, sorrow, and disappointment. These are healthy feelings, but still far from good. So you had better first fight against your unhealthy feelings of self-damnation (“I absolutely should not have got myself into this fix. And since I did what I must not do, I am a rotten, damnable person!”). Second, fight against other damnation (“Other people helped bring about my terrible state, and they are no good, damnable people!”). Third, fight against hopelessness (“Conditions will always be this bad and I can do nothing to change them, as I must be able to do.”)

If you steadily work at these three desperate thoughts, feelings, and actions, and use REBT’s many cognitive, emotive, and behavioral methods (which I describe elsewhere) to do so, you can even be reasonably happy when you are afflicted with great Adversities. Once again: Try it!

Written by Bhushan Kulkarni

August 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Management

Tagged with , ,

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