Ask Dr. Ellis

June, 2006

Question: I am still looking for the Secret of It All, and am having a difficult time finding it. Can you tell me what it is?

Dr. Ellis answers: No, I can't tell you what it is, for there probably isn't any Secret of It All; and if there were one, it would change under different environmental conditions. But since different conditions continually exist, there is no general Secret of It All, no matter what are the conditions. Alfred Korzybski said this in Science and Sanity, the bible of general semantics. We live dangerously if we say that something always, under all circumstances, exists. There are too many exceptions to this fictional rule.

What about "all things change"? Is this the "secret" of change? Probably, yes; but it really means "under usual conditions all things change." In a vacuum, they remain unchanging forever. But in a non-vacuum—that is, real life—climate, moisture, human interference, and hell knows what else seem to change even the rocks and the hills. So there!

Of course, conditions usually change, too. Especially the weather—but also living things like plants and animals. Just try to keep them from not changing!

If there were a "Secret of It All" under all conditions at all times, you would have to find it under "good" conditions and then guarantee their continuance.

Just try.

Robert Harper and I discovered in 1961 in A Guide to Rational Living that most people felt happier when they had a vital absorbing interest—drawing, painting, writing, reading ancient manuscripts, playing sports, etc. Most, but not all people—since a vital interest in, say, chess may in time become boring, and one person's vital interests may not work for someone else.

How to find your own vital interests? Try many possibilities, to see which thrill you. Then another—and another. Change it when it no longer works. After a lapse, try it again. A vacation from it may spark it again. Or a modification. If regular chess tends to bore you, try blindfolded chess—or bridge. Experiment, experiment—what have you got to lose?

Vital absorbing interests are your preferences, not your musts. You don't have to adore baseball—or anything else—just because many others to. You, again, can like baseball with some people some of the time—and loathe it when you are tired, hungry, or play poorly.

You can like success at a game or venture without needing it. If you absolutely must win at ping pong, you will be anxious about losing. Then you may hate it—and hate yourself. You also may make yourself anxious about your anxiety and about showing it to others. Then you have two problems for the price of one.

Is there no way out? No, not if we insist on finding the "Secret of It All" for all times and conditions. A mystical outlook says that it exists; but a scientific, realistic outlook seriously doubts that it does. Let us look for our own vital absorbing interests and see what we can do to enjoy them. Isn't that enough?



All Out! An Autobiograpy
This candid autobiography, the last work by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis, is a tour de force of stimulating ideas, colorful descriptions of memorable people and events, and straightforward, no-nonsense talk. Ellis, the creator of one of the most successful forms of psychotherapy-Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)-recounts the memorable episodes of his life; discusses how he coped with emotional problems at different stages of life; describes his love life; and subjects his own self-description to a ruthlessly honest critique. Click here to buy the book.

Shameless Happiness
A concise booklet that outlines the ABCs of unhealthy negative emotions and self-defeating behavior. Shows how to dispute your irrational beliefs. Great for beginners and experienced REBTers alike. Download the book.

Albert Ellis Tribute Book Series Launched
The series will include books of readings for professionals, psychology self-help, psychotherapy theory and practice, the application of philosophy to clinical practice, professional guides for working with special populations, and classroom and college texts. Learn more about the Tribute Series

Albert Ellis Documentary
A documentary about the life and opinions of psychotherapy's most important and influential voice. Watch a preview.

New eBook Released
How to Conquer Your Frustrations by Dr. William J. Knaus. Download the free eBook.

Free e-Book: Rational Emotive Education
Dr. William J. Knaus directly, forthrightly, and with no nonsense about it, shows almost any interested teacher how he or she may use REE in the course of regular classroom lessons and other activities. Download the free e-Book.

REBT Moves Forward
The outcome of two conferences points to an exciting future for REBT. More.

International REE Committee Formed
The formation of an international committee to advance Rational Emotive Education is a major step towards the introduction of REBT to school students around the world. More.

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