Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Irrational beliefs

Jack Dikian
July 2004

In one of my favourite novels Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus is mentioned briefly. At one point Franny says: "I sat and I sat, and finally I got up and started writing things from Epictetus all over the blackboard. I filled the whole front blackboard--I didn't even know I'd remembered so much of him. I erased it--thank God!--before people started coming in. But it was a childish thing to do anyway--Epictetus would have absolutely hated me for doing it—but”

Epictetus also is credited for saying "Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.", although not quoted in Salinger’s novel. It is the thought - the idea that it is our beliefs that we hold and not the events themselves that cause us to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc.

So fast tracking to more recent history - Albert Ellis (an American psychotherapist and psychologist) developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, one of the first of the cognitive behavior therapies, and based on the premise that humans, in most cases, do not merely get upset by unfortunate adversities, but also by how they construct their views of reality through their language, evaluative and irrational beliefs, meanings and philosophies about the world, themselves and others.

Ellis put the most irrational beliefs under three main headings:

1. I must do well and have the approval of others or else I am no good.

2. Other people must treat me well and do "the right thing" or else they are no good and deserve to be punished.

3. Life must be easy, and I must get what I want without discomfort or inconvenience.

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