Vignettes

What is "will power"?

According to Dr. Albert Ellis "will power" consists of several steps:

1. Deciding to change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
2. Acquiring the knowledge of how to change them.
3. Determining to back your decision and use your knowledge.
4. Forcefully acting on your decision.
5. Refusing to damn yourself when you fail.
6. Continuing to work and practice.

Power in "will power" is in the work.

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What is Love?

Many of us frequently think that if we like someone, she or he must love us in return. Dr. Albert Ellis differentiated "loving" from "being-in-love" (in-lovedness or falling-in-love). He had the following to say about these states:

"In many aspects loving and being-in-love are almost opposites. Being-in-love is often a socially polite term for having an obsessive-compulsive fixation on someone. This is statistically normal, since most of us are in this state one or more times during our lives. This state also has distinct advantages; it is highly absorbing, often pleasurable, and sometimes positively ecstatic. But being-in-love usually lasts for a short period of time, while loving may go on for a lifetime.

Loving, in contrast, means being interested in another human being for her own sake and from her own frame of reference. While the individual who is in-love (the state of being-in-love or in-lovedness or falling-in-love), frequently demands return love; the individual who is loving is not interested in reciprocation.

Loving stems from personal strength. When you are loving someone, you don't care whether the other person loves you and you think-feel-act strongly enough to be truly interested in the other person. It is altruistic but not self-sacrificing, since the loving individual enjoys and likes herself and has no need to sacrifice her own major interests to win other's approval."

What follows directly from the foregoing discussion is that few of us have the strength or energy to be loving to a few or even one individual. Loving is hard work, but rewards are enormous.
In contrast to many philosophies that ask us to love everyone (which is most probably impossible), REBT tells us that if we choose to be reasonably happy in our lives, we better unconditionally accept others.

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REBT and Positive Thinking

Compare these two statements: "I am a winner" and "I am loser". The first statement could be considered an example of positive thinking, while the second statement provides an example of negative thinking.

Advocates of "Positive Thinking" recommend that we repeat positive statements to ourselves over and over. Positive Thinking glosses over and covers up the all-too-human tendency to think negatively by blasting the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This tactic provides temporary relief from the effects of negative thinking. But it does not eliminate the underlying irrational, negative beliefs.

REBT, on the other hand, advocates attacking the negative beliefs directly. Instead of mindlessly repeating positive statements, REBT questions, challenges, and disputes negative thoughts by asking, for example, "where's the evidence that I'm a loser?" It is by disputing negative thinking, and showing that it is false and irrational, that REBT reduces the frequency, intensity, and duration of irrational, negative thinking.

According to REBT, both statements ("I am a winner" and "I am a loser") are false and, therefore, irrational. In the game of life, we sometimes win, and sometimes lose. Nobody always wins; and nobody always loses. So while you may have won today, there is no guarantee that you will win tomorrow or the next day. Similarly, you may have lost yesterday, but that doesn't mean you will lose again today.
REBT advocates doing away with these simple labels because they are inaccurate. When you have a setback, rather than glossing over the setback and saying, "I am a winner", REBT suggests employing rational coping statements such as, "I lost today, but that does not make me a total loser".

A rational coping statement has two parts: the first part acknowledges that all is not well ("I lost today"); while the second part keeps the first part in perspective and directly contradicts an underlying irrational belief ("that does not make me a total loser"). The two parts are separated by the all-important word, "but". Here are some more examples:
· I wish I had a mate, BUT I don't need one.
· I don't enjoy doing housework, BUT it won't kill me.
· I'd rather not do this task now, BUT the sooner I finish it the better.
· I want a job with good pay, BUT there is no reason why I must have a high paying job.

You can make your rational coping statements stronger by emphasizing the word "but" so that your focus is on the second, rational half of the statement. When you use rational coping statements (using this technique which I call "exposing the but") you can, as Albert Ellis says, stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything - yes anything!

Will Ross

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Some of Albert Ellis' ideas on Rationally Coping with Unusual Adversities

1. When you raise your aversion to death (or almost any other abhorrence) to insistence that, because it is undesirable, it absolutely must not exist, you self-defeatingly demand that what you want must be and that what you detest must not be. By raising your displeasure and sorrow at death (or any other misfortune), to a command that it cease to be, you refuse to accept grim realities, make yourself unhealthily enraged or depressed (instead of healthily sad) because of their existence, and make yourself suffer more.

2. By non-acceptance, you increase rather than minimize your suffering about unfortunate things that you cannot change.

3. However much you "horrorize" yourself about it, you still cannot change it. Not a bit! So where does your horribilizing and terribilizing get you?

4. Even if it is unfair and cruel that fine people inevitably die, without deserving to do so, who says that world has to be fair and nice? What we call Nature is frequently harmful. Whether we like it or not, we had therefore better accept that fact, as gracefully as we can, and uncomfortably - but not horrorifyingly - try to put up with it. What else can we sensibly do?

5. Be rigorously realistic and look squarely at the facts of your existence.

6 . We can only be sure that our present life exists and is potentially enjoyable. Concentrate on making it so!

7. No one in the world has to follow you desire.

8. The world doesn't follow your command. Its indifferent to our wishes. You do not absolutely need what you want.

9. There is never reason why you must get what you want. You can tolerate not getting what you want.

10. The main reason you can't be happy is because you think you can't be happy.

 

Some Rational Coping Statements, which you can strongly and frequently repeat


I don't like the adversity, but I can live with it, and find other pleasures in life.

I can tolerate it and find other pleasures in life.

Nothing is necessary; anyone, I, world, and universe.

I don't like it, but I can stand it and find other pleasures in life.

Its true that many inconvenient things exist in my life, but none of them is horrible or awful or horror.

I can live with the inconvenient things of my life, and can still make myself reasonably happy.

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How to Rationally Think-Feel-Act When Someone Close to You Passes Away

1. Learn to make a distinction between disliking unfortunate events (such as the death of a loved one) and making yourself horrified over them. It makes sense to wish that these types of thing didn't happen, and to feel sorrow and regret when they do. Feeling sad about such events is healthy and helpful. Why healthy and helpful? Because negative emotions give you the impetus to seek out the things you want in life, and to avoid the things you don't want.

2. Wishing that unfortunate events, like death, didn't happen is one thing. Demanding that they don't happen is another thing entirely. By demanding that they don't happen, you make yourself likely to suffer more than if you merely disliked them. When you demand that bad things not happen, you refuse to accept the grim realities of life, and make yourself angry or depressed-instead of merely sad.

3. Death is final. Once it happens, it cannot be reversed, no matter how much we awfulize over it. Awfulizing only makes our misery greater; it serves no other purpose.

4. Perhaps it's cruel and unfair that people die. But it is probably more cruel to keep people living on and on beyond the time when they are able to care for themselves or to really enjoy life. For the aged and infirm, death can be a welcome release.

5. If we lived forever, the planet would be overpopulated, and there would be insufficient room to grow the crops needed to support everyone. It is only by dying that previous generations have allowed our generation to live. When we die, our deaths will allow future generations to live.

6. Nature is often cruel, and we had better accept that. There is no point in our demanding that life be fair and that no cruelty exist. Mother nature won't change her cruel ways merely because we insist that she does. Life is not like that.

7. The death of others often leads us to think about our own mortality. We often awfulize about suffering through a long illness or infirmity; and/or we awfulize about the prospect of an unbearable afterlife, or perhaps not having an afterlife. To counter this, it is best to convince ourselves that dying is unfortunate and that we had better do all we can to postpone our deaths until a time when it suits us. Once we are dead, it is likely that we'll not be aware of it, and that we'll be back to where we were before we were conceived-without thoughts, feelings, or sensations.

8. In the extremely unlikely event that there is an afterlife, there is no reason to expect that it will be any worse than this life. Even if the afterlife is worse than this life, worrying about it now isn't going to change it. The only life you can be sure of is this one, so make the most of it while it lasts!


Written by Will Ross, but he wishes to clarify that these are basically Albert Ellis' ideas, which have been paraphrased by him.

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Albert Ellis and Richard Dawkins: Theory of Evolution, REBT and the Meaning of Life

My favorite Richard Dawkins book is "The Selfish Gene." To me it answered the age-old question "what is the purpose of life?" Answer: Life is the process by which DNA preserves and creates more DNA. That's where Albert Ellis steps in: If we want more out life than being merely DNA machines, then it's up to us to take advantage of opportunities that come our way, without worrying about failure or disapproval, and without catastrophizing every time we don't get what we want. If we're going to live for eighty years or so, it makes sense to enjoy our time as much as we can.

Will Ross

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Who is a good friend?

A good friend gives as well as receives. Not everyone has the same skills or abilities, but we all have the ability to be giving friends, even if it is not giving back in identical ways.

Gayle Rosellini

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Dr. Albert Ellis
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