What is Irrational?

According to Dr. Albert Ellis and REBT, an idea is irrational if:

  1. It distorts reality.
  2. It is illogical.
  3. It prevents you from reaching your goals.
  4. It leads to unhealthy emotions.
  5. It leads to self-defeating behavior.

During his first years of practicing REBT, Dr. Ellis saw that practically all of his clients held variations of a dozen or so irrational beliefs. Although in his later writings, he was able to condense the original irrational ideas into 3 core beliefs (The Three Major Musts), it can be helpful to be aware of the original ideas that Dr. Ellis noted and his reasons for labeling them as irrational.

Irrational Idea No. 1: The idea that it is a dire necessity for an adult human being to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in his community.

Irrational Idea No. 2: The idea that one should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in all possible respects if one is to consider oneself worthwhile.

Irrational Idea No. 3: The idea that certain people are bad, wicked, or villainous and that they should be severely blamed and punished for their villainy.

Irrational Idea No. 4: The idea that it is awful and catastrophic when things are not the way one would very much like them to be.

Irrational Idea No. 5: The idea that human unhappiness is externally caused and that people have little or no ability to control their sorrows and disturbances.

Irrational Idea No. 6: The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome one should be terribly concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of its occurring.

Irrational Idea No. 7: The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face certain life difficulties and self-responsibilities.

Irrational Idea No. 8: The idea that one should be dependent on others and needs someone stronger than oneself on whom to rely.

Irrational Idea No. 9: The idea that one’s past history is an all-important determiner of one’s present behavior and that because something once strongly affected one’s life, it should indefinitely have a similar effect.

Irrational Idea No. 10: The idea that one should become quite upset over other people’s problems and disturbances.

Irrational Idea No. 11: The idea that there is invariably a right, precise, and perfect solution to human problems and that It is catastrophic if this perfect solution is not found.

Irrational Idea #12: The idea that you can give people (including yourself) a global rating as a human and that their general worth depends upon the goodness of their performances.


About The Author:

Will Ross — is the webmaster and co-founder of REBTnetwork.org; he tutors REBT self-helpers and is the author and publisher of online REBT self-help materials.



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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.

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