Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mount TBR #24

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

Optimal Aging: Get Over Getting Older – Albert Ellis & Emmett Velten

Albert Ellis (d. 2007) founded Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in the 1950s, the pioneering form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Ellis wrote dozens of self-help books that pitched the same basic techniques of REBT to special audiences such as alcoholics, procrastinators, patients with fatal illnesses, and folks with anxiety. Dr. Velten (d. 2011) worked as a psychotherapist in private practice who taught at UCSF.

The authors readily agree with Bette Davis’ famous maxim, “Old age is not for sissies.” To deal with grief, regret over dashed aspirations, health scares, money worries, and the desert of retirement, they recommend we take time and care to examine our thoughts. Our own opinions make or break our lives. We are responsible for the things we believe and tell ourselves. Events not terrible in themselves occur, but we choose to feel disturbed or we blame ourselves, other people or the world for perceived misfortunes. As Hamlet said, “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Change the thoughts, change the feeling and mood. The authors advise that we can recognize our own harmful thoughts by asking ourselves three questions. Does this response help me or hurt me? Does this response square with the facts? Does this response seem logical and reasonable? The next time something gets up the nose - try it.

The authors suggest another technique: negative visualization. I close my eyes. I imagine the worst thing that can happen in a situation. A 30-something snot humors me. She leaves me after 35 years, telling me that she wishes she could be around to see my life fall apart. Lily’s cancer has spread to her seven-year-old bones, needing 350mg per hour of fentanyl as well as 15mg of dilaudid every two hours to get her pain down to “8: utterly horrible.”  Feel it and realize that I can feel healthy feelings of sorrow, regret, and sadness, not unhealthy depression or useless rage at a universe where these things happen daily. Imagine the worst and make myself healthfully sorry. I can do it. And I can feel better, healthfully regretful.

The authors make a very strong argument against the stereotypes of ageism. People hold such prejudices so deeply that it takes a lot of forceful, vehement disputing of these prejudices to dislodge them from inside our own heads. The authors don’t deny changing our attitudes takes a lot of work, practice, persistence, and plain old thinking but they believe that people can choose to happy, that they can fight off habits of mind that make themselves unhappy. They present many anecdotes about ordinary people who applied the three questions above systematically and cultivated attitudes that fought low frustration tolerance and contributed to unconditional acceptance of one’s self and even others, flexibility, and self-respect.

I found motivating the stories of people who persevered when confronting disabilities. We all must get older and many of us have no choice but to face injury, pain, suffering, disfigurement, debility and disability. The authors argue that we ourselves must take responsibility for the attitudes we accept in response to these trials. The people with a disability in this book accepted their disability and felt determination to lead a fulfilling life.

Anyway, I recommend this book to people 30 and over that want to avoid becoming an aging cliché.

Other reviews of Albert Ellis’ books: I read or re-read an Ellis book about once a season. Reviewing his main messages prevents backsliding.
·         A Guide to Personal Happiness

No comments:

Post a Comment