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The A-B-C-D-E of Healthy Living


(I get fired, I get dumped, I get in an accident, I get embarrassed, I fail a test...)


When I feel bad, I need to look for my Irrational Beliefs-IB. This downward spiral contains four levels of IB

1) I think someone or something should, ought, or must be different than the way it actually exists. This is called "Musterbating" There are three major categories.

a) I will feel guilt when I believe that I must do well or win approval or else I am a rotten person.

I must have love and approval from other people.

I must prove myself capable, competent and important.

My emotional misery comes from the outside and I am powerless to control it.

When difficulties occur, I must become preoccupied and upset by these events.

My past life must influence me and I am powerless to overcome the past.

I must have order around me in order for me to function properly.

I must have others to upon which to rely and depend.

I must feel rotten when I perform poorly or when I disappoint someone.

I must believe the opinions of respected authorities and I cannot question them.

b) I will feel anger when I believe that You must act kindly, politely and considerate of me or else you are a rotten person.

People must treat others kindly and if they do not, they will surly be punished.

If others behave stupidly, they are stupid and should feel ashamed.

People must achieve their full potential as humans or else they amount to nothing.

c) I will feel depression or worry when I believe that the conditions under which I live must remain pleasant, good and/or easy so that I get most of what I want or the world turns rotten and life is not worth living.

Things must go the way I want them to go or else my life will be terrible.

When danger exists in my world, I must continually be preoccupied by that thing in order to have the power to change that thing.

I need immediate comfort and cannot go through present pain to achieve future gain.

People must act better than they usually do. If they don't, they're bad people.

If I am handicapped, I can do nothing to change it, I am defeated and I must suffer.

I am a failure if I am unable to do something.

I must have justice, fairness, equality and democracy or else life cannot be lived.

I must find correct solutions for my problems or else catastrophe will occur.

People and external events cause all my unhappiness and I am a helpless victim of circumstance. Until these things change, I cannot help but feel disturbed.

I must have some unusual or special purpose in life.

I must not feel worried, depressed, guilty, ashamed or emotionally upset.

When things are bad and there is no relief in sight, I might have to kill myself.

2) I find it awful, terrible, or horrible when it is that way. This is called "Awfulizing."

3) I conclude that I cannot bear, stand, or tolerate that person, thing, or event that should not have been as it is. These are the "I can't stand its"

4) I think that I (or someone else) have made and/or will continue to make horrible errors and that I (or someone else) must not act this way. Because of this, I (or someone else) deserve nothing good in life, merit damnation, and can rightfully be called a failure, a bad person, a turd. This is called "Self damning".


(depression, anger, embarrassment, hurt, worry...)

Disputing: Debating, Discriminating, and Defining

1) Debating: These are rhetorical questions designed to disqualify and destroy the false belief. This is a debate between me and me-between my rational and irrational beliefs. It is here we hold all beliefs to the scrutiny of truth.

Just because I behaved very badly does not mean I behaved totally badly. I may feel awful but I am not an awful person.

2) Discriminating: Here we are confronted with similar yet contrary ideas that are brought to light as a result of debating. We discriminate between what is true and what is a lie; we have needs and we have desires; we have good and bad. Undesirable does not mean unbearable; hassles are not horrors; bad times are not end times; difficulties are not damnations; being disliked by one does not imply universal displeasure.

3) Defining: This is semantic accuracy which helps me avoid overgeneralizations about my behavior. Be very careful about the words "always" and "never". They are special words and should be used accordingly. Just because I did something stupid does not mean I will always do stupid things. Statements like "I don't know how" really means "I don't want to" and "I can't" means "I won't". Emotional disturbances do not come about by wishing, wanting, hoping, or desiring, but by commanding, demanding and absolute insistencies that take away the leeway of want versus "I can't live without it and I will never be happy until I get it."

Since we feel the way we think, we can control our feelings by confronting our iB at point D."


This is the goal of "D" - a new philosophy toward life. I can think my way through a situation rather than be ripped apart by my feelings. I do not ignore my feelings as they are crucial to understand where I am at and they give me a place from which to move. The goal is to think accurately which will make us feel good. There is freedom in the truth.

Ellis (1977) Handbook of RET

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Related Books

The Feeling Good Handbook

Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond

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