October 10, 1996
Disclaimer: The REBT that I espouse, has not been blessed by Dr. Albert Ellis or the Institute. Although I think it follows the basic principles of Albert Ellis writings, I may differ is some aspects. For the "official" version of REBT you may have to contact the "source".
January 4, 1997
According to Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory all people are prone to two types of thinking: 1) crooked or irrational thinking that gets us in emotionally overreactive and destructive states, and 2) philosophical or rational thinking that helps us live life to its fullest, most meaningful and most happily. No human on our earth has ever attained the perfection of being philosophical or rational all the time. We often act in limited, fallible, and inperfect manner. However, it is possible, and it is the goal of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, henceforth known as REBT, to teach us to act more rationally and live more happily.
Furthermore, each human is entitled to make the best life for himself on this earth. In order to do that, he better not unnecessarily hurt others, but try to live as a member of his chosen group.
Another basic tenet is that self-esteem, is one of the most pernicious concepts that human's have evolved. We prefer unconditional self-acceptance, not based on any ratings or scales, neither deifying nor devilifying any person for his characteristics, behaviors, or possesions. Hence, we do not believe in damnation of any human being, no matter how hideous his actions, although we believe in trying to change a person's behaviors, holding him accountable for his misdeeds, punishing a criminal, and, in extreme cases, separating him from the society as long as necessary if he persists in commiting anti-social and dangerous acts. On the other hand, I do not believe in glorifying people for having attained the office of president, becoming a Nobel Laureate, or all star athlete. Each of us are unique and facism, no matter of what ilk (yes, even intellectual facism) is not to be admired.
Each and every human life is an individual process that cannot be rated globally as good or bad. Rating people is an unusaully non-productive diversion from the real meaning of life. The real meaning of life transcends the feeling of futility and absurdity of it, it is something individual, artistic and artisan-it focuses on living life as fully as possible taking into account long range hedonism. It forgoes the egotistical and useless focusing only on one's own navel to experience the richest intellectual, educational, experiential, emotional, physical and sexual feast.
Dismissing shame and guilt as manipulative emotions a rational individual tries courageously many different things fo find what he really enjoys in life. Without harming other people he pursues his own ends, calmly facint the obstacles thrown in his path by reality, his own imperfections and shortcomming, and the shortsightedness and even meanness of other people.
The rational person accepts the unpleasant realities of the present, but pursues relentlessly and with imagination the possibilities of a better life in the future. He has learned that a human individual can stand anything without mentally grovelling, whining, or whimpering, because there is always hope of some enjoyment in the future, of some moments of peace, of moments of happiness, of some feeling of accomplishment. True, some extremely rare instances occur, such as really painful terminal torture by other individuals or, say, cancer, where situations appear truly hopeless. But even then, there is the blessed exit via death, and, hence, the end of all suffering.
But we are alive...so on the living, fun, and another day in the world fraught with both pleasure and pain. The task of REBT is to help you get more of what you want and less of what you do not. The cornerstone of REBT is the hypothesis that all mental anguish, pain, fear, depression, rage, inappropriate shame (as if there is any other kind), guilt, and anxiety is self-sustained if not outright self-created. So what to do about it? First, REBT teaches you that you are the author of your inappropriate feelings of depression, rage, guilt and anxiety and teaches you how you can minimize, if not totally cast off, this onerous burden.
First step is to find or imagine and observe persons who have taught themselves this freedom from inappropriate self-defeating emotions and appropriately subsituted for them the more moderate and appropriate emotions of sadness, concern, irritation, and regret. For goodness sake, don't abonadon all emotionality, this is part and parcel of life! Having a flat affective state is a mental disease of its own! But don't dramatize when things go awry. In no way does it mean stuffing emotions, either!
So what do you do? Maturely, philosophically understand that everybody has his or her share of problems. Some may be more blessed by problems than others. Tough. This is where rational, logical, scientific thinking based on empirical evidence is very helpful. Emotionally feel and enjoy life and when everything goes to hell in a handbasket, learn a good sense of humor and, temporarily, like Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, escape using your imagination. A female doctor during her three year long stay in Hungarian communistic jail, in her dark solitary confinement composed poems in her head. An American Viet Cong captive, built a grand mansion brick by brick in his head. He planted a marvelous garden around his mansion,... Actively search out moments of bliss. (Right now I am listening to Vivaldi, to make my writing more enjoyable.)
To firm up your progress one better act on one's good intentions. Face the "dangers" of the world and find out that most of them are only imagined dangers and only involve social disapproval. Do some anti-shame exercises, such as getting on a bus and calling out the wrong bus stops. When I have done that I have never gotten hurt, although I have felt some discomfort. Using behavioral methodology pat yourself mentally when you stretch your limits, but when you fail, don't berate yourself. Tomorrow is another day! Downing yourself is such a waste of time.
We believe in most of the circumstances a person can have a full and fullfilling life, with its joys and sorrows, if only one does not take oneself or the world too seriously. And always accept yourself as you are now, but try to do better tomorrow.
November 1, 1996
Well, the basic principle of REBT is that one has the option to wear "rose colored" or "dung colored" glasses; or, more rationally, look the reality straight in the eyes. Well, not quite, REBT is simple (meaning straight forward) but not that simple (meaning simple minded). We all seem to have biologically and socially imposed "glasses" and reality is furtive, it hides in many strange and marvellous ways. Ask one hundred people about reality and you will come away with more more than one hundred impressions: just because we, humans, have "mood swings", cognitively reference ourselves to different axioms (assumed "truths") daily, if not hourly. Sometimes these cognitive and emotive shifts are small, sometimes they take the proportions of manic depression. There are other ways how reality wears masks, it is as if it owned a veritable halloween costume shop-dressing in one costume after another, first teasing us one way then another. No matter how much we clean our "glasses" we can never really fathom it. But we can, and better try to, avoid the obvious "fake visions" either due to our "glasses" or reality's "masks". That is where the practice of REBT steps in. It is based on empirical observation and logical deduction (otherwise known as scientific method) and learning to understand what we like, what is "good" for us (meaning what we will like in the long run), and keeping on refining in our minds "the meaning of life". (See Chapter 16 Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for Happier Living in Albert Ellis Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy, Birch Lane Press 1994 (updated and revised.))