Hold the Musters

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis (Photo credit: Waltzzz)

My first impressions of Albert Ellis was that he was kind of a curmudgeon that practiced tough love with his clients and pushed the envelope of political correctness.  Ellis is the father of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy an approach that is a little more confrontational then most and looks at how we are basically our own worst enemy.  At the heart of this approach is the ABC cycle where and activating event triggers a belief that results in a consequence.  REBT shows clients how dysfunction of thought in this cycle leads to both productive and nonproductive out comes and behavior.  Often times a “D” and “E” are thrown in to acknowledge Disputing the irrational thought and the emergence of Effective new philosophies.

One of my favorite words of all times comes from this theory “muster-bation.”  This word was coined by Ellis and is used to describe a type of dysfunctional thinking that is rooted in black-and-white thoughts and false belief we are entitled to certain things.  Consider that client that you have who might say something to themselves like, “working with a personal trainer means I must lose weight.”  What happens to that individual when they don’t see weight lossright away, discouragement, depression?  This can be the beginnings of a vicious cyclewhere this type of thinking chips away at their self-esteem and motivation resulting in poor program adherence.

"People and things do not upset us, rathe...

“People and things do not upset us, rather we upset ourselves by believing that they can upset us.” -Albert Ellis (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

Much of the time our clients aren’t even aware the impact this type of thinking has on their ability to work through the programs we prescribe.  Helping them to identify these thoughts through self monitoring is very powerful and builds situational mindfulness.  The better that they become at recognizing their dysfunctional thinking the more effective they will be at halting the thoughts and replacing them with more productive beliefs.

Have your clients try this for a week:

  • First, they need to understand what this type of thinking even looks like, this will help: (http://www.fenichel.com/Beck-Ellis.shtml).  Basically they are looking for thoughts that say, “I must do ____ to be _____.”  or “______ must happen in order for me to be _____.”  Try searches on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy or search dysfunctional thoughts.
  • Have your clients monitor and record these thoughts for a couple of weeks.  Ask them to write down the situation, how they are feeling and what was the result of the thought.
  • Take the thoughts that they recorded and have them come up with alternatives.  Instead of “I must lose weight to be happy,” try “It would be nice to lose weight for my health and overall being, the type of people I want to associate with won’t care how I look on the outside anyway.”
This takes a bit of practice to encourage the people you work with to be patient with themselves and take time to work through the process.
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