Every morning when we wake up to a new day is an opportunity for change. I really believe that. You may be starting your day, perhaps having some coffee sitting at your desk. Or maybe you're on your phone taking a short break. Regardless, you found your way here because you've likely experienced the stress of irrational demands–– either that or you need to know what must-erbation is. Stick around, I'll feed you baby bird.
Must-erbation was coined by Psychologist Albert Ellis. This is the man famous for taking a departure from Freudian theory (a.k.a. intensely examining our pasts in order to understand ourselves). Instead, he believed in combating our issues with rationality and complete acceptance. In short, he believes it is not just traumatic events that lead to suffering, but our interpretation of them. Also, our irrational expectations of ourselves and others. Must-erbation is a tongue and cheek term for the demands we place over how our lives "must be".
This didn't just strike a chord, it rung a bell. If we truly accept ourselves and others exactly the way we are, it will free us from so much mental suffering. Ellis' spiritually tart philosophy is reminiscent of Buddha and his teachings, which urge use to purge ourselves of attachments. To clarify, that does not mean relationships, love or affection, it means clinging. And, of course, we can cling to things besides relationships, like un-wanted jobs, outmoded beliefs, negative patterns, money, possessions, popularity and status.
According to Ellis, we obsessively convince ourselves that we (and others) must live up to irrational demands, and when we (or they) don't meet them we condemn ourselves (and them). Notice: it's when not if we don't live up up to these expectations as he also cites it is inevitable to fall short of irrational demands.
In The Case Against Religion, he provides us with a set of "commandments" derived from what he considered the top irrational tendencies we are prone to, none of which are true, of course.
- It is a dire necessity to be loved and approved of
- If you are not thoroughly competent, then you are worthless
- Certain people are wicked (sometimes hopelessly), and should be severely blamed and punished for their sins (sometimes eternally)
- It is horrible (and even catastrophic) when things don’t go the way you want them to
- Humans cannot control their own levels of unhappiness
It is in our human nature to fight change, control and judge. However, it is also in our capacity to grow, evolve and let go. Through awareness, we can begin to control our mind and focus on the present, a skill that can unleash our incredible potential.
Circling back to my original question, do you practice must-erbation?