on albert ellis and not being miserable

June 6, 2015
Lately I've been on a "self-help" book kick. I started with Albert Ellis' "How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything-- Yes, Anything!" (The title just rolls right off the tongue!) Ellis draws our attention to a pattern of irrational thinking that I recognize in my own life--a habit of exaggerating the impact of a dreaded event, or of parlaying a small setback into general feelings of self-worthlessness. He's worried about the anxiety and dwelling on thoughts of "must" :
"If I lost my job, as I must not, I could never get a good one again, and that would show what a wholly incompetent person I am!" "I must have a guarantee that my mate must not die, for if he or she did, I couldn't stand being alone and would always be miserable." "It's absolutely necessary that I not lose my sight, for if I did, my life would be awful and horrible, and I could never enjoy anything again!"
Ellis has a pretty heavy hand with the italics! But he argues that for much of the time, our FEELINGS of anxiety and misery have their often hidden roots in (often irrational) THOUGHTS about situations present and future, and that by practicing thinking more realistic thoughts we can prevent these misery and anxiety causing emotions ... for example, a person feeling shame for not being able to stop smoking:
"In no way am I, a total person, stupid and worthless because I keep doing a stupid act like smoking. My act is foolish but that hardly makes me a worthless fool, only a person who is now acting foolishly, who may act less foolishly in the future, and who does many other intelligent things"
But- like all changing habits, switching thought patterns and recognizing unhelpful and irrational thoughts takes a lot of practice. I know one irrationally exaggerated fear I have is "being incorrect" (Or as Ellis would probably have me think: "now, it's hardly desirable to be incorrect, but if I'm wrong or don't see the other side of a given situation, that doesn't make me a horrible person, and I will certainly be able to have a more empathetic view in other situations!") though compared to a lot of other problems I and others will get through, it has a bit of a first world problem feel.
A real tour de force about the numbers lost in WW2, vs before and after.

(Ironic that the thumbnail uses an American flag, because it's not hard to see how lightly the USA got off, relatively speaking.)

But the infographics elements and use of sound and motion are subtle and great in this.