Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
When I worked with Dr. Albert Ellis in New York City years ago he emphasized the concept of discomfort tolerance. He tirelessly showed his patients and the mental health professionals he trained that humans have a strong inclination to seek comfort or to remain comfortable even when they are paying a dear price for this inclination. I was impressed by this emphasis and even more impressed by Albert’s high discomfort tolerance for working with patients, writing on REBT theory and practice, training young clinicians from around the world who came to study with him, and on disseminating his brand of philosophically based, no nonsense therapy. Albert worked from morning to night showing people how to be responsible for their emotional destiny and how not to feel self-pity when adversities occurred in their lives.
Albert was very direct and sometimes said that emotional upset could be thought of as whining and complaining about the adversities of life. We all do this from time to time. The wiser among us acknowledge we are doing this and take steps to curtail our whining and complaining and start problem solving shortly after this acknowledgement. Some mental health professionals disliked this frank description and some patients did as well. Albert’s point of view was not popular with people who thought that the world should be a certain way. Undeterred by the mental health establishment he kept showing people that the world is as it is and no amount of whining and complaining about it will change a thing.
In REBT I try to show people that they create their self-pity and low discomfort tolerance and that these are a deadly combination. When we demand comfort and our life is hard we tend to whine and complain about this discomfort and create our low tolerance for discomfort. This leads us to seek to escape the problems of life. When we create and experience self-pity we often believe we deserve life conditions to be a particular way and that they must be the way we think they should be. When we have this combination of low discomfort tolerance and self-pity we tend to not work on our problems and feel sorry for ourselves while our problems mount.
Fallible humans can do what is difficult and choose to go against the grain and fight the human tendency to experience self-pity when life is uncomfortable. We can fight the tendency to whine and complain that life is not as it is “supposed to be”. When we push ourselves to accept that life will often not be as we deserve it to be we begin to think rationally and have a far better chance of finding the emotional strength to change what can be changed. When we stubbornly refuse to whine and complain and do what is difficult and best in the long run we greatly increase the probability of making headway in solving our problems.
REBT is a no nonsense therapy just like Dr. Albert Ellis was a no nonsense psychologist. If you want to achieve your potential and change what you can change and be reasonably happy despite the ongoing existence of problems in your life then learn Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Read this blog and website, listen to my free audios on it, and read books on REBT which are linked to it. You can teach REBT to yourself or come in and see me and I will teach it to you. One way or the other learn REBT and use this powerful, liberating philosophy. You too can learn that it is well within your power to stubbornly refuse to be miserable about anything, yes anything!
Example Problem: You are an adult but your older sister treats you like a child.
ABC Analysis of This Problem
Your Goal: To be treated like an adult with respect. To be treated by your older sister as an equal.
(A) Adversity: You perceive your old sister to be treating you like a child when in fact you are a responsible adult.
Your rigid belief: My sister absolutely should not treat me like a child.
Your extreme belief derived from your rigid belief: It is awful when my sister treats me like a child.
Behavioral: You sulk
Subsequent Distorted Thinking: You overgeneralize and think that your sister always treats you like a child even when there is evidence that sometimes she does not treat you like a child.
Disputing question for my rigid belief:
When I perceive my sister treating me like a child does my belief that she absolutely should not treat me this way help me?
Answer: No it does not. My rigid belief about my sister’s behavior only makes me feel hurt which leads me to sulk. When I sulk she then thinks she is right to treat me like a child.
Disputing question for my rigid belief:
What belief could I hold that will help me not feel hurt but will lead me to feel appropriately sorrowful that she treats me as a child?
Answer: I really wish my sister not treat me as a child but she does not have to do so. I cannot control how she treats me but I can control how I react to her dislikable treatment.
Disputing question for my extreme belief:
Is it awful or merely bad and distasteful that my sister treats me like a child?
Awful really means more than 100% bad. It is not that bad that she treat me as a child. Her treating me like a child is bad and distasteful but is far from awful. Telling myself it is awful only makes me hurt and angry.
Rational Coping Statement of the Day:
I really want my sister to treat me as an adult, as an equal but she never has to do this. I do not like the way she treats me and so I will assert myself but this does not guarantee that she will change her ways. People generally do what they want and not what I want. I had better work on not getting hurt when she treats me in ways I dislike. Feeling hurt does not help to change things and so it would be better if I felt only sorrow and displeasure. It is bad that she treats me like a child but it is not awful. If she continues to treat me like a child I can either choose not to deal with her and/or I can calmly remind her to treat me differently. Regardless of what I say to her it is in my best interest not to disturb myself about her neurotic behavior towards me. Her treating me as a child says more about her than it does about me.