“A Guide To Personal Happiness” by Dr. Albert Ellis and Irving M. Becker
Publisher: Wilshire Book Company (April 1983)
Dr. Albert Ellis invented REBT ( Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy ) from which Cognitive Therapy was invented. Cognitive therapy is based on the belief that emotions are caused by thoughts. If you think you won the lottery you feel great. If you think your best friend didn’t call you back on purpose, you feel hurt. Change your irrational beliefs and you will change your feelings.
One of the ways that Dr. Ellis’ system differs from Cognitive Therapy is that REBT holds the idea that there are 4 types of irrational thinking that every human being does, by nature. Work on getting rid of beliefs born out of these 4 types of thinking and you get rid of a lot angst for free. Of these 4 types Dr. Ellis considers “Demandism” as the root of most psychological distress. Demandism is having thoughts that demand that the reality be a certain way when it is not. These thoughts are recognized by the use of words such as “should, must, ought, must, have to, etc…”.
The book opens with a brilliant essay by Dr. Ellis on why people should put their own happiness first to get the best results for their own lives and other people. The rest of the book is filled with partial transcripts from counseling sessions demonstrating how people can reduce ( not eliminate ) their angst by identifying the irrational demands they are making and repeatedly reflecting on why reality does not have to comply to those demands.
In other words, once people accept ( not endorse ) their current situation they turn more (not all) of their energy away from being upset and turn their energy toward doing what they can about making their lives happier. I was never really sure what the head shrinkers meant by “acceptance”, but by reading the case histories in this book it dawned on me that “acceptance” is simply not having a strong emotional reaction every time you look at a situation you don’t like.
The book is light on theory and light on jargon compared to Dr. Ellis’s other books. It seems he made it with the intent of reaching a larger crowd. Being very familiar with Dr. Ellis’ ideas I can’t say for sure if the book will work for someone not familiar with his concepts.
Dr. Ellis wrote many books over the course of his half century career. Most cover similar ground. The best book of his that you can read is the one that he coauthored with Dr. Ron Harder called “A Guide To Rational Living”. The book was revised many times so make sure get a copy of the 3rd edition with 23 chapters to get the most up to date version of his views. To get a good view of what Dr. Ellis considered to be the most important concepts I would start reading that book at chapter 20, finish it and then start over from the beginning.
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