As always please excuse any typos or grammatical errors
In part 7, we spoke of four different self defeating beliefs and how we can go about exchanging those beliefs for rational ones. In this section we will continue this and finish up on Dr. Ellis’ twelve self-defeating beliefs.
I can be happier by avoiding life’s difficulties, unpleasantness and responsibilities.
This isn’t one I generally tell myself but I know of a lot of people that do. To many people avoidance is a perfectly legit way to handle many of life’s issues. I believe that most people think if you avoid a problem for long enough the problem will either go away or solve itself. Of course this rarely if ever happens. The reality is that avoidance most often makes matters worse in the long run and most of us know this already .
What can we do to combat this? We can tell ourselves rational things instead. “The longer I wait to tackle a difficult situation the more difficult it is likely to be. I can’t procrastinate if I am going to live a happy and healthy life.
Everyone needs to depend on someone stronger than themselves
As a big strong man, this self-defeating belief is also not one I have suffered from, but I can imagine it might be for a lot of people. There are a few problems that crop up immediately when we examine this belief. One is that it allows an individual to shirk self responsibility. If things don’t go as planned, they can then blame the person they are dependent on. Another is that it likely to stunt growth. It’s unlikely you will learn to be a fully self sufficient person if you rely on others. Lastly, this belief is a sure fire ticket to dependent behavior and lack of self esteem.
There is nothing wrong with leaning on a person from time to time, but to really lead a happy and healthy life you have to get to the point where you trust your own decisions. You should be telling yourself something along these lines “It’s ok to seek help from time to time, but I need to learn to be able to help myself. It’s the best thing I can do for myself.
Events in my past are the cause of my problems and they continue to influence my feelings and behaviors now.
I have probably spent the most time on this one as I think it’s the biggest and most prevalent self-defeating belief in the modern world. I also believe this has lead to our modern problems with victim mentality and not taking personal responsibility.
I mean it’s great to have a catch all dump for all the bad decisions you make, all the bad behaviors you do, and all decisions and behaviors you will make and do in the future.
However forty plus years of research into this issue has thoroughly debunked this notion. We feel the way we think about a subject or event. The past effects your now only in that it influenced how you currently think. You are choosing to keep viewing your past in a way that is detrimental to you being a happy and healthy person today. You can, with time, replace those thoughts with new ones that do lead to you having healthy emotional responses.
So what are the rational things we should probably be telling ourselves? Well a lot of that depends on your specific situation, but here are some blanket statements that are rational.
“I cannot expect that life should happen the way I wished it would. Everyone has something in their past that they can dwell on, but I refuse to make past events say anything about who I am now”
“Yes my past is unfortunate, but things that happened to me then or things I did to others then do not have to be things that will happen to me now, or things that I would do again. I have a choice each day I wake”
“Just because a certain type of person did something wrong to me in the past does not mean that everyone of that type will do the same. I need to evaluate each person as they come on a clean slate until they have given me a reason to do otherwise.” Or if I were to share one of my personal ones
“What my mother did to me is unfortunate but it has nothing to do with who I am or was as a person. It was her dealing poorly with her own issues. What she said to me was about her reality and I refuse to make it my reality by giving it validity.”
See what you can come up with for rational statements about your past.
Next we have I should become upset when other people have problems and feel unhappy when they are sad.
Talk about making a bad situation worse. I cannot think of a single positive result that could be possible by us running down the same rabbit hole as our friends or partners. The only way we can possibly help others is by staying rational ourselves. We can then objectively look at their issues and help them replace their self-defeating beliefs and irrational self-talk with rational beliefs and self-talk.
Our rational belief counterpart to this self-defeating belief is simple; there is no way I can possibly help anyone be rational or help them with complex issues if I am not being rational myself.
I should not have to feel discomfort or pain. I can’t stand them and must avoid them at all cost.
One of the most rational things I tell myself might be a surprise to most listening or reading this. “I am allowed to fail at being rational every moment of every day. I will slip up often. It is what I do when I slip up that is important.” This means I’m not beating myself up for feeling discomfort and pain. I allow myself to, at times, be in the moment and think irrationally. It’s what I do next that matters.
What I do next is knock that crap off. I recognize that I am experiencing non-productive emotions and I quickly examine what I might be telling myself to cause them. I then evaluate the rationality of what I am thinking and change them if need be. It’s a process. It will always be a process. No one thinks rationally at all times. It’s what we do after we experience non productive emotions that defines if we will be happy people.
Now that I have said that, I will say this. Not all discomfort or pain is non-productive. You can lose a loved one and go down the rabbit hole of self-defeating beliefs for a short time. Let me explain.
I have lost a lot of loved ones in my life. My last big loss was my grandmother, whom I saw more as my mother that I ever did my biological mother. My mother had me when she was 19 and her mother had her young so I was the oldest grandchild. Our relationship really blossomed after I returned from the military at 19 (I went in at 17) and I was blessed to have twenty years of quality adult time with her. She was one of the last of my relatives to die and the last relative that I was even remotely close to. I saw this as the loss of my family. I saw it as a loss for my children as I was not going to be able to offer them the benefits of an extended family on my side. Both of those statements are true and rational.
What I told myself about those rational and true statements wasn’t as rational and some part of me understood that at the time. However, I wanted to allow myself to be irrational in that moment. I wanted to allow myself to have my rather selfish thoughts – as mourning the loss of someone is really about us being upset that we no longer receive the benefits of that relationship. It’s by definition a selfish thought. However, at that time, it’s ok to examine what that person really brought to my life. It was ok for me to miss those interactions. It was good for me to really see that our personal interactions are what make life worth living.
To me, life is all about our shared experiences. Without those, I see no purpose. Me allowing myself to feel the pain of her loss and miss what she brought into our relationship reminded me, and still reminds me why relationships are so important and why I am doing what I do for others.
We just can’t allow ourselves to remain in that place for any prolonged period of time. Learn what the loss has to teach you and snap back into your rational self.
So no, don’t avoid discomfort and pain. Each time we feel them it teaches us and allows us to grow. My rational belief around this topic is as follows. “I do not fear discomfort and pain. Each time I see myself there it allows me the chance to learn from the experience. Most times it teaches me about my self-defeating beliefs and allows me the chance to get in the habit of replacing that belief with a rational one. With time, I’ll stop having those irrational beliefs.”
The last self defeating belief is; Every problem should have and ideal solution and it’s intolerable when one can’t be found.
Ah to live in such a black and white world sure would make life easier wouldn’t it? I mean everything would have such clear cut answers and we could all make split second decisions. Our world just isn’t anything close to this. Many times a problem just doesn’t have a great solution and we have to make gut wrenching decisions.
The way to really get your head right about this is to remember that it’s ok to make mistakes. We can choose poorly because rarely are decisions irreversible and even when they are, there are likely other choices you can make to take you down a different road. We have to unafraid of failure.
One of the greatest messages to ever come out of television was on the show Mythbusters. They would say – failure is always an option.
In science, failure is often the key to success. It often gives us a better understanding of how something works. As I say often; I learn more from my mistakes than I ever do my successes. It isn’t just a saying for me, I live by that.
So what would be some rational self-talk we can use to replace this self-defeating belief? We could tell ourselves “There are generally no clear cut answers to complex issues. It’s ok to make an educated guess and be wrong. The worst that happens is that it then shows us a clearer path.” or “Inaction generally solves nothing. It’s better to make a decision on what I know now than wait for the problem to get worse.”
It’s okay, to make bad decisions. It’s what we do after that defines our happiness. We can either berate ourselves or others, or we can learn from the error and use that information to make better decisions next time.
We’ve now taken a better look at Dr. Albert Ellis’ twelve self-defeating beliefs and how we might counter them. There is a pattern that emerges when you look at our irrational self-talk. It almost always leads us to non-productive emotions or other irrational thoughts. By now many of you have probably figured out that spotting your irrational beliefs is about as easy as recognizing when you are emotionally upset and then questioning how you got there. You should be able to trace back your thoughts and find a self-defeating belief at the core.
I’ve already laid out how to start changing our patterns of thought by giving you a step by step systems that will lead to change and in the next section I am going to add something new to our tools to help us get past our emotional disturbances and help us calm ourselves so we can identify our negative self-talk and replace it with rational thinking.
I am Diego Abrams and this is Triscele Life and Relationships.