How to Be Rationally Stubborn, Emotionally Undisturbable, Behaviorally Happy, Unconditionally Accepting, Shamelessly Unfrustrated, and Unmiserably Reasonable While Keeping People from Pushing Your Buttons
A Tribute to Albert Ellis
American Psychological Association
San Francisco — August 17, 2007
Robert E. Alberti, Ph.D.
Fellow, Divisions 29 and 46
= = =
Life really owes me the things that I miss,
Fate has to grant me eternal bliss!
And since I must settle for less than this
Whine, whine, whine!
— Albert Ellis, Ph.D., Psychologist and Songwriter
Like most of you, my first encounter with Al Ellis came in graduate school. Unlike most of you, that was nearly forty years ago. Al was a featured presenter at a university-wide colloquy on human sexuality at Michigan State in 1969. Remember that those were the 60s. Al was at the peak of his crusade to open up the sexual attitudes of our society — and much of our society was ready (particularly university students!). He presented a number of workshops and lectures across the university during his visit. Al's major address was to a live audience of about 2,000, with thousands more watching by closed-circuit TV in classrooms and residence halls all over that campus of 40,000. My principal memory of that event was him asking — as only Al could ask — the live audience to stand and shout: "PENIS," "VAGINA," "BREASTS" and other sexual terms. We've long since taken such language for granted in polite company, so I guess Al's implosion worked.
That same year, a fellow doctoral student presented a seminar on "Albert Ellis and RET." At that time, there were twelve— count 'em — twelve irrational ideas on Al's list... How many are there today?
I met Al in person for the first time at APA in Washington DC in 1976. He had just finished a session on humor, with Harold Greenwald and a couple of other well-known therapists, during which Al entertained the audience with songs from his famous RET songbook. I was lucky enough to join him afterward in a small group for drinks and some rational conversation.
Since I've had the great good fortune to count Dr. Janet Wolfe among my colleague-friends, I kept pretty much up to date on Al's activities during the 80s and 90s, even when we were not in direct contact. Al and I exchanged ideas about anger and assertiveness training and REBT. And on occasion over the years, Al gave generous endorsements for various Impact books.
In 1997, Al asked if I'd be interested in publishing a book for professionals that he had written with clinical social worker Catherine MacLaren and called — are you ready? — Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.As you might imagine, I thought about that for a while (about 13 milliseconds!).That was the first of five Albert Ellis books we did at Impact Publishers, including How to Make Yourself Happyand Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better.Needless to say, all have been successful. It was great fun working with him, and he was very generous in his praise of our editorial work.
My last personal visit with Al was in Kansas City at the American Counseling Association meeting in 2004, where he was named one of five "Living Legends in Counseling." His health was already failing then, and his appearance at ACA was carefully monitored by a full-time staff of nurses. Still, he had energy enough to permit me to escort him from his hotel room — literally a sick-bed — to the convention exhibit hall, where he met fans and autographed his latest books. After the autographing, as we approached the elevator back at his hotel, Al made it clear to the other guests waiting for the elevator that the next car was for him alone. I didn't ask him if he considered that an assertiveact, but if it was, I've got a lot of rewriting — to do!
I guess Jon Carlson invited me to be a part of this tribute as much because I'm a book publisher as because I'm a psychologist and a friend of Al's. As you know, Al was a prolific author, with at least 85 published books — yes, 85 ! — that I've been able to identify — not including his dozens of publications produced by the Albert Ellis Institute. (The Village Voicedid an interview with Al in 2005 that it called, "The Interpretation of Reams.") I'm honored to have been the publisher of five of those volumes. You'll find a bibliography of Al's books, audio and video presentations, and that I've compiled and posted online at http://www.impactpublishers.com/authors/ellis-bibliography.htm.
I make no claim that it is a comprehensive list of Al's hundreds of publications (I did not include journal articles), but it's a pretty complete list of his books.
What you may not know is that Al's generosity, and his dedication to the Albert Ellis Institute (aka Institute for Rational Emotive Therapy aka Institute for Rational Living) extended to his copyrighting all of his books — to the best of my knowledge — in the name of the Institute (at least until very recently). I'm not an attorney, but I've been a book publisher for 35 years, and I do know a bit about copyright law. It's pretty complex and confusing, but the bottom line is that the owner of copyright controls all rights to the book — and gets all the royalties. So Al's 33 publishers are paying royalties to the Institute, not to his estate. Consider the economic consequences for Al and Debbie (Joffe-Ellis).
To end on a positive note, I'd like to share a few of Al's book titles with you — some of which already appear in the title of this tribute.
Selected books of Albert Ellis:
(1951). The folklore of sex.
(1954). The American sexual tragedy.
(1958). Sex without guilt.
(1963). Sex and the liberated man.
(2004).Sex without guilt in the twenty-first century.
(Do we sense a pattern here?)
We can joke about Al's dedication to sex education, of course, but there were many, many more, on a wide variety of topics, including his first book in 1950, An introduction to the principles of scientific psychoanalysis.
To mention just a few others:
(1957/1975). How to live with a neurotic:
(1968). How to prevent your child from becoming a neurotic adult.
(1973). How to stubbornly refuse to be ashamed of anything.
(1988). How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything — yes, anything!
(1992). The art and science of rational eating.
(1993). How to be a perfect non-perfectionist
(1994). How to keep people from pushing your buttons.
(1997). How to control your anger before it controls you.
(1999, 2007). How to make yourself happy, and remarkably less disturbable.
(2001). Feeling better, getting better, staying better
If you're interested, check out the full bibliography at www.bibliotherapy.com.
In my life, Al Ellis was a friend, mentor, inspiration, critic, author, hero, humorist, supporter, endorser, entertainer, songleader, and teacher. Al was unquestionably one of the most influential, creative, colorful and controversial individuals in the history of professional psychology.
To say we'll miss him is like saying the earth will orbit the sun over the next 24 hours.