Monday, September 5, 2016

Mount TBR #46

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything - Yes, Anything – Albert Ellis

I re-read books by psychologist Albert Ellis (1913 - 2007) when I want to brush up on the basic advice of cognitive behavioral therapy. With the school year coming up, I thought it would do no harm to read this classic of self-help.

Ellis gives the ABC model. It helps me to calm down by understanding how my thoughts, feelings and behavior interact. Let’s say I attend a meet and greet, which here is the A, the activating event. I approach somebody I don’t know and introduce myself. They smile, say nothing, and look over my shoulder, seeming to look intently at something or for somebody.

Next, I form B, my beliefs about what just happened in this activating event. I think I’m being disregarded. High-hatted. Ignored. I don’t have any evidence that this is true, but in fact my response here happens so fast, I’m not even aware how I’ve gotten to such and such a belief.

Then, I get my C, the consequence, the result of my belief about what just happened. This can include what I feel about what just happened and what I do then. I feel hurt, snubbed. I might even leave the meet and greet in a huff. This consequence might have ripple effects too: people might notice my leaving mad, I put myself down for being touchy.

Ellis argues that it my belief that I’ve been disrespected that leads to my upset feelings. I make myself upset, not other people, not the world as it is. Ellis would advise that I use D, disputing my irrational thoughts, by asking myself, ‘Just what is the evidence that this stranger snubbed me. I don’t know what was going through his mind.” Or, “Even if he did snub me, where is the law of the universe that says everybody I meet has to be friendly, talkative, and all round overjoyed to talk to scintillating me?” Ideally, I use reason to develop and support disputing ideas. And I focus on what I can control: my own responses, my own will, the one thing that I have power over, the one thing that cannot be taken from me.

Finally, E are the cognitive and emotional effects of my revised beliefs. By being rational, by thinking things through, I feel better. “Maybe that guy was having a distracted day, had something on his mind, somebody to talk to so he was not so interested in talking to anybody else. Nothing personal.” So, Ellis used to call his therapy “rational emotive therapy.”

Ellis’ advice is that I had better replace irrational self-talk with more realistic and evidence-based self-talk. A statement like "I fear I will clutch at the meet and greet" can be acknowledged as true enough, but I can follow this up with, "But I will nevertheless attend, talk to some new people, who are just as antsy about being there as I am and I will probably do OK." This leads to a calmer, more rational assessment of the situation and a healthier response to what happens.

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