Top positive review
33 people found this helpful
A Little Out-Dated but Still Offers New Beliefs to Live By
on March 14, 2016
I had never heard of REBT but I came across its concepts in a psych article and thought it was enlightening: The idea that the key to improvement isn't to be more positive, but rather to be more RATIONAL, and more broadly that by controlling our beliefs we can alter our moods. This basic premise is brilliant and at the time of the original publishing date, it was revolutionary and controversial.
In fact, the first 5 chapters (which you can arguably skip) go into the science behind this theory and takes a lot of time to refute or respond to rebuttals from other doctors and researchers who questioned Ellis and Harper's theories. While I see the value in these chapters that aim to explain and set up the theory behind their methods, I found them a bit redundant and dry.
The really helpful part is in the description of the most common irrational beliefs and how to alter your thinking so they don't depress or enrage you. I saw this list online and it is what inspired me to buy this book, so I will put it here for you:
1. The idea that you must have love or approval from all the significant people in your life (101).
2. The idea that you absolutely must be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving or The idea that you must be competent or talented in some important area (115).
3. The idea that other people absolutely must not act obnoxiously and unfairly, and, that when they do, you should blame and damn them, and see them as bad, wicked, or rotten individuals (127).
4. The idea that you have to see things as being awful, terrible, and catastrophic when you are seriously frustrated or treated unfairly (139).
5. The idea that you must be miserable when you have pressures and difficult experiences; and that you have little ability to control, and cannot change, your disturbed feelings (155).
6. The idea that if something is dangerous or fearsome, you must obsess about it and frantically try to escape from it (163).
7. The idea that you can easily avoid facing many difficulties and self-responsibilities and still lead a highly fulfilling existence (177).
8. The idea that your past remains all-important and because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today (187).
9. The idea that people and things absolutely must be better than they are and that it is awful and horrible if you cannot change life’s grim facts to suit you (197).
10. The idea that you can achieve maximum happiness by inertia and inaction or by passively and uncommittedly enjoying yourself (207).
I thought going into this that #1 was going to be the chapter that best applied to my life, but as I read I realized how much of my stress actually stems from #3. I didn't realize how much judgment I was spewing based on this irrational belief, and it also explained fights I've had with others when I've been on the receiving end of that irrationality.This book gives advice based on both sides of the fence, and has some nice sections on fostering more rational self-talk as a way to alleviate crippling feelings.
The other thing that was helpful for me was realizing that I was already practicing a lot of this, and it made me thankful for my father who always challenged my perspectives whenever I got worked up about "nothing." I also recently had a friend who was telling me that I am too calm and I should be more upset about things (my dysfunctional childhood, the loss of a loved one) and I got kind of worked up and wondered if I was "in denial" or "too cold." Reading this made me realize that I was actually responding in a really healthy way--letting myself feel deep emotions but snapping out of it, and approaching my life from the "big picture," and thinking rationally as a way to stave off long-term depression, resentment, and anxiety.
I didn't give this 5 stars because of the writing style and awkward client conversations that are used as the primary examples for each irrational belief.
This was first published in 1961, and it shows. It is rather dated and the diction and conversations reveal its age. I found it amusing, but I could see how a modern reader might be alienated by it, and I wonder if an updated version might be helpful.
Additionally, the writers come of as glib, arrogant, and insensitive. They're almost mocking the clients, at times, and think of their approach to psychoanalysis as "tough love." They were speaking very nonchalantly about topics like death and suicide. They kind of encourage people to "just get over a death" by realizing that "it isn't a DISASTER" and "YOU're not the one who is dead." It was pretty awkward, and I felt myself cringing. I do understand that they talk about "healthy grieving" and encourage people to have deep feelings; rather they are aiming to discuss neuroses, and use an example of a man who was still grieving 7 years later over his mother's death as intensely as the day after (to exemplify irrational belief #5).
Also in their defense, I appreciated (at times) their levity, which highlights the absurdity in some of the clients' beliefs (it is also helpful to laugh at yourself when you are thinking so crazily), but it was often strange and even uncomfortable to read their fairly impersonal recount of their clients' issues and to make light of grave topics. Saying things like, "if you're children die it isn't the end of the world," or "if this is so upsetting, then you can commit suicide" really detracts from their credibility.
I also recognize, in defense of the authors, that the conversations are excerpted and probably taken out of context, being used to highlight the irrationality of the beliefs (which is what this book is about, after all) rather than to highlight their bedside manner, But I can see this turning off readers. Personally, I think that some combination of empathy and reasoning may be the ideal, and I would NOT recommend speaking to friends like this.
As a whole, I would recommend this book and think it has the potential to change the way you think, and in turn the way you feel. I know a few people with depression and anxiety issues, and this has also helped me understand them (what they're thinking and why it is so detrimental to their mental health). I am aiming to change the way I communicate with both myself and with these friends.