irrational beliefs superstition black cat

Stress-free and relaxed instead of irrational beliefs

Every event in life is evaluated by us, based upon certain conscious or unconscious beliefs, attitudes or values. This happens immediately and often unconsciously. This assessment can be rational, thus logically and empirically verifiable and appropriate for the situation, or irrational, i.e. illogical and empirically not verifiable and inappropriate for the situation. The result of this assessment are emotional reactions and behaviors (e.g. joy, worry, fear). Rational evaluations lead to healthy feelings and target-oriented behavior. With irrational evaluation, stress is caused by unhealthy emotions and self-harming behaviors. We make our own stress, so to speak.

Albert Ellis, founder of the Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, a pioneering approach to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, divides the irrational beliefs into four basic categories.

  1. Absolute demands: wishes become absolute demands („must-urbation“ as in: „I have to …“, „the others have to …“);
  2. Global negative self and external labelling: instead of individual characteristics, the whole person is evaluated („I am worthless / a failure …“, „the other is useless …“);
  3. Catastrophic thinking: negative events are overrated („it would be absolutely terrible if …“);
  4. Low frustration tolerance: conviction that I cannot endure negative events („I could not stand it if …“).
    irrational beliefs reason awareness word cloud

Now we can combine the categories as desired to generate irrational beliefs. Try it. You will have noticed many such beliefs in yourself and / or others in a variety of situations. Try out which categories are involved. For starters, the list Ellis put together himself …

The irrational beliefs:

1. The idea that it is a dire necessity for adults to be loved by significant others for almost everything they do…… instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on winning approval for practical purposes, and on loving rather than on being loved.
2. The idea that certain acts are awful or wicked, and that people who perform such acts should be severely damned…… instead of the idea that certain acts are self-defeating or antisocial, and that people who perform such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or neurotically, and would be better helped to change.  People’s poor behaviors do not make them rotten individuals.
3. The idea that it is horrible when things are not the way we like them to be…… instead of the idea that it is too bad, that we had better try to change or control bad conditions so that they become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, we had better temporarily accept and gracefully lump their existence.
4. The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by outside people and events…… instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view that we take of unfortunate conditions.
5. The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and endlessly obsess about it…… instead of the idea that one had better frankly face it and render it non-dangerous, and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.
6. The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self-responsibilities…… instead of the idea that the so-called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.
7. The idea that we absolutely need something other or stronger or greater than ourself on which to rely…… instead of the idea that it is better to take the risks of thinking and acting less dependently.
8. The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects…… instead of the idea that we would prefer to do well rather than always need to do well, and accept ourself as a quite imperfect creature, who has general human limitations and specific fallibilities.
9. The idea that because something once strongly affected our life, it should indefinitely affect it…… instead of the idea that we can learn from our past experiences but not be overly-attached to or prejudiced by them.
10. The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over things…… instead of the idea that the world is full of improbability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this.
11. The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction…… instead of the idea that we tend to be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or when we are devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.
12. The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help feeling disturbed about things…… instead of the idea that we have real control over our destructive emotions – if we choose to work at changing the “musturbatory” hypotheses which we often employ to create them.

Each of these beliefs has deep roots and is not that easy to replace. But the effort is worth it, if we do not want to become victims of unhealthy feelings and self-harm.

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