- Instead of “I won and I am a winner” put it to yourself as “I played well today and won.”
- Instead of “I did poorly and I am a failure” put it to yourself and say to others as well “I did poorly” and stop right there.
- Instead of “She does not like me, therefore, I am not likable” try to represent the scenario as “She does not like me” and stop right there. If you think you want to add more you could proceed with “She does not like me but that only means she does not like me. Other people do like me to a greater or lesser extent.”
You might think who in the world other than a REBT psychologist thinks this way? The answer is, unfortunately, too few people. Perhaps this accounts for the great majority of people going from feeling good about themselves when they do well to feeling inadequate about themselves when they do poorly. Albert Ellis, the originator of REBT, argued humans possess a biological predisposition to faulty or what he liked to call “crooked” thinking. He also said we are born and reared to think irrationally. I believe it is difficult to avoid using the dangerous “am” word because of this biological predisposition to crooked, overgeneralized thinking. Fortunately, we as humans also possess a biological predisposition to think precisely but such precise thinking generally requires much greater effort than does crooked, overgeneralized thinking. Precise thinking such as what I advocate here is possible but requires deliberate effort and practice. I have come to know that the rewards of such effort at precise thinking exceed the cost and I encourage you to make this effort.
Do this experiment for a few days. Try to purposively avoid using the dangerous “am” word when you do poorly and also when you do well. Do this and then reflect on how you subsequently feel in the aftermath of doing poorly. I predict you will feel healthy negative feelings of disappointment, displeasure, concern, remorse, and sadness while tending not to feel shame, self-directed anger, ego related anxiety, guilt, and depression. With your healthy negative feelings, you will likely try to do better next time and will likely learn from your poor performances. You will likely not disturb yourself and needlessly suffer when you do poorly again in the future. Do it, try it, make the effort and see how you tend to feel. I challenge you to try this.