Albert Ellis' 12 Irrational Ideas That Can Ruin Your Life

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Louise Hay
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Our mind is a jumble of irrational ideas that, however absurd it may seem, guide our decisions and behaviors, making us think that we are the most rational people in the world. The irrationality is camouflaged behind the traditions, the beliefs transmitted from one generation to the next and many of the messages that society sends us and that we accept without asking questions.

This was understood by Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and one of the most influential psychologists in the history of psychology. Ellis thought that much of our emotional suffering is or can be eliminated by changing irrational, counterproductive, self-defeating, and rigid beliefs. In fact, he once said that "if Martians found out how we humans think, they would die of laughter."



He stated that "there are three 'must' that do not allow us to advance: I must do it well, you must treat me well and the world must be easy". Albert Ellis started from the idea that our emotional distress is not caused directly by adversity but by ourselves, it is our irrational beliefs and thoughts that generate that suffering.

These irrational beliefs end up dictating our emotions and decisions, mediating our relationship with the world and the problems that arise. That is why it is essential to be aware of their existence and irrationality and to replace them with adaptive thoughts.

Ellis's irrational ideas

There are as many irrational ideas as there are people, but Ellis found that some beliefs are quite common and it is likely that all of us, at some point in our lives, have had them.

1. People who are important to us should love us and accept what we do


Why is this an irrational idea?

To demand that the people we relate to not only approve of us, but also accept everything we do is utopian. Furthermore, constantly seeking social approval requires enormous effort and a lot of energy that is not worth wasting.


Seeking the approval of others also generates a servile attitude, so we will end up putting our needs in the background, remaining at the mercy of the opinions of others.

To make matters worse, the uncertainty of not knowing if we will get such approval will generate insecurity and constant worry, which will end up making us very unhappy.

2. To be a valuable person it is essential to be highly competent and to achieve great results in all possible areas

Why is this an irrational idea?

No one can be fully competent in all aspects of life. Trying to be successful is not wrong, but not recognizing our limitations can cause us serious psychological and physical problems, distancing us from reality.

Seeking success at all costs implies obsessing and, above all, submitting to a continuous confrontation that often generates only frustration and the opposite feeling to that sought: incompetence.

Furthermore, the concern for success breeds the fear of failure, of making mistakes that can lead to immobility. We must understand that we did not come into the world to compete with others, but to try to be happy. This change of perspective is extremely liberating.

3. Some people are cowardly, mean and infamous and should be blamed and punished for their perversion.


Why is this an irrational idea?

We must assume that we are all limited in certain respects and that we do not always measure the consequences of our actions, but react impulsively. Sometimes we make mistakes without realizing it, but it is not a "conscious malice".

People who act badly, in most cases, are not fully aware of the consequences their behaviors have on others. Classifying them as bad or infamous, instead of showing a more tolerant and rational attitude, will only aggravate the conflict.


Nor is it very useful to play the blame card. Guilt doesn't turn anyone into a better person, it just adds anxiety to anxiety.

4. It is terrible that things do not go as we planned

Why is this an irrational idea?

It would never occur to us to think that clouds should be different or that they should go in another direction. We simply accept them as something natural, but we have a hard time accepting that things in life happen the same way.

Each event is determined by many factors, and since we cannot control all of them, there is little reason to think that things have to go differently, except our irrational belief that everything has to go according to our expectations to conform to our wishes. and necessity.

There is bad news: things don't always fit into the mental plan we had designed. Expecting everything to flow smoothly will only break us down, make us angry or frustrated, generating a mood will not help us redirect the situation or find a good solution.


5. The misfortunes are due to external causes

Why is this an irrational idea?

There are many events that are beyond our control and the sooner we assume it, the better. But things affect us only to the extent that we allow it and according to the meaning we attach to it. While we don't have control over certain circumstances, we can always choose how to react.

In this regard, Albert Ellis said: “the emotionally mature person must completely accept the fact that we live in a world of probability and chance, where there are no, and probably never will be, absolute certainties, and must understand that this is not not at all horrible. "

6. If something is dangerous or scary, you need to feel very restless and obsessed with the possibility of it happening


Why is this an irrational idea?

When we are very concerned about what might happen, nervousness will prevent us from clearly seeing what is happening here and now. Anxiety in the face of danger will prevent us from dealing with it effectively.

Worry is like a rocking chair, it keeps us busy but gets us nowhere. It won't limit the chances of something happening; in fact, it often only contributes to making our worst fears come true because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We must bear in mind that, as Ellis said, "the vast majority of things that panic us are self-created 'dangers' that exist almost entirely only in our imagination."

Most feared events tend to have a less catastrophic emotional impact than imagined. But the anxiety and fear generated by their anticipation represent a higher psychological cost than the feared situation.

7. It is easier to avoid certain responsibilities and difficulties in life than to face them

Why is this an irrational idea?

While it is sometimes easier to procrastinate, this usually has negative consequences. Often the burden of deferred activities is greater than the energy required to carry them out.

We must remember that self-confidence and resilience are strengthened when we face difficult situations, not when we avoid them or try to ignore them. Avoiding them only tends to increase the degree of insecurity and self-confidence.

8. It is normal to depend on others because we need someone stronger to trust

Why is this an irrational idea?

As social beings, interpersonal relationships are an important source of security and emotional validation. But we can't get to the point of letting others think or choose for us.

The more we depend on others, the less we choose for ourselves and the more we get carried away by the opinions and desires of others. The more we leave important decisions in the hands of others, the fewer opportunities we will have to learn, in this way we will feed the cycle of addiction and insecurity.

9. When something from the past has traumatized us, it will continue to affect us indefinitely

Why is this an irrational idea?

The past influences the formation of our personality. There are experiences that mark us and psychological traumas that are difficult to overcome, without any doubt, but this does not mean that they must become a burden that we carry forever, preventing us from becoming the person we want to be.

We must be careful not to use the past as an excuse to avoid facing the changes required by the present and therefore not make the personal effort necessary to move forward. The past should only be a valuable life experience, not an area to settle in indefinitely.

10. You have to worry a lot about the problems of others

Why is this an irrational idea?

In a society that promotes altruism to the bitter end, if we don't care about the problems of others, we believe we are bad people. But we must keep in mind that worrying, without caring, leads us nowhere, other than the fact that each person has to face their own difficulties.

Solving other people's problems for them will not help them grow. On the contrary, it will avoid them all obstacles in the way that can increase their resilience and help them develop their skills. We should not feel obligated to take on the problems of others, especially if these people do not accept their own responsibilities.

11. You must always be in control and strive for perfection

Why is this an irrational idea?

There is no total security, much less absolute perfection in the world. The search for absolute certainty only generates anxiety and false expectations that make us fall into a cycle in which, the more we try to be in control, the more this escapes us.

At the same time, the relentless pursuit of perfection causes us to fall into pathological perfectionism, a state in which we unnecessarily waste an enormous amount of energy without ever being satisfied.

12. We don't control our emotions, happiness is something that just happens

Why is this an irrational idea?

We have tremendous power to build our thoughts and feelings, although we don't usually exercise it because we are used to reacting instead of acting.

Life is difficult, and sometimes it gives us surprises that can generate intense emotions, but we have the ability to stop, think and choose how to behave in those circumstances. We can choose more positive and constructive thoughts that improve our mood and make us happier in the long run. Happiness is not something that just happens, it is a personal decision.

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