Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Albert Ellis' 12 Self-Defeating Beliefs

Doctor Albert Ellis, a core founder and contributor to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), believed that emotional dysfunction (neuroses) for most people could be related to one or more Self-Defeating beliefs. My interest and use of CBT with my clients was recently rekindled and I came across the following list of Ellis' list of dysfunctional beliefs.  I was reminded just how such beliefs interfere with people's overall health, happiness, and well-being:

  1. I need love and approval from those significant to me-and I must avoid disapproval from any source.
  2. To be worthwhile as a person I must achieve, succeed at whatever I do, and make no mistakes.
  3. People should always do the right thing. When they behave obnoxiously, unfairly, or selfishly, they must be blamed and punished.
  4. Things must be the way I want them to be-otherwise life will be intolerable.
  5. My unhappiness is caused by things outside my control-so there is little I can do to feel any better.
  6. I must worry about things that could be dangerous, unpleasant, or frightening-otherwise they might happen.
  7. I can be happier by avoiding life's difficulties, unpleasantness, and responsibilities.
  8. Everyone needs to depend on someone stronger than themselves.
  9. Events in my past are the cause of my problems-and they continue to influence my feelings and behaviors now.
  10. I should become upset when other people have problems and feel unhappy when they are sad.
  11. I should not have to feel discomfort and pain-I can't stand them and must avoid them at all costs.
  12. Every problem should have an ideal solution, and it is intolerable when one can't be found.
While I was writing this, I was very tempted to add exclamation points after many of these beliefs! One of the tasks of CBT is for us to identify the role these beliefs play in our emotional distress so that we can more rationally respond  to them and react more calmly and appropriately (Rational Emotive Therapy-RET, Ellis).