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What are irrational thoughts?

Posted: November 13, 2018, 10:56AM

Dr. Albert Ellis, a prominent psychologist, developed the theory that if we control our emotions effectively and keep ourselves (as much as is possible!) from neurotic, self-defeating thoughts, we can lead a more fulfilled, happier life.

These thoughts have been ingrained in us from childhood and have been reinforced from authority figures as well as media.  Although most of us have probably challenged those irrational premises, we have also most likely held on to many of the ideas and have maybe kept on reindoctrinating ourselves with the thoughts. 

These ideas need to be challenged and questioned as they can be self-defeating, and can negatively impact our interactions with others and with our care receivers.

Dr. Ellis noted 10 irrational beliefs in his book A Guide to Rational Living (Wilshire Book company, No. Hollywood CA, 1966).  Although the book is dated, Dr. Ellis' work and his irrational beliefs are not.

I am going to focus on 5 of those beliefs for this blog:

1.  We should challenge the belief that it is a dire necessity for us to be loved or approved by almost everyone for almost everything we do.  Although approval may be desirable, it should not be NECESSARY.  Caregivers are often on the receiving end of negative comments from friends and family, and even the care receiver.  We are doing the best we can, and we can only strive for doing our best.

2.   We need to give up the notion of trying to be thoroughly competent, adequate and achieving in all possible respects.  Our focus needs to be on 'DOING' not doing perfectly!  We need to strive to better our performance, to work for success but we need to be ready to face those things that do not qualify as successes.  This does not mean that we are not good people (or good caregivers)!

3.  We need to challenge the idea that it is terrible, awful, horrible and catastrophic when things don't go the way we would like them to.  For caregivers, we often find ourselves in situations that aren't ideal.  When conditions aren't going the way we would hope, we need to calmly and determinedly try to change them for the better.  If we can't change them, we can accept them and move on - perhaps waiting for a more opportune time to make changes.  (Think of the Serenity Prayer!)

4.  We need to rid ourselves of the thought that if something is dangerous or fearsome, we should focus on the horrid thing, worry about it and be pre-occupied with it. When we are caregivers, we face the decline of our care receivers.  Catastrophizing over what MAY come next depletes our energy and our resolve. We can miss a lot of valuable time with our care receivers, and we can miss valuable cues on their care needs.

5. We need to give up the notion that people and things should be different than they are, and that it is catastrophic if perfect solutions are not found.  Reality is reality.  Sometimes we have to accept solutions that are compromises and reasonable, rather than perfect. 

It takes work and thoughtful consideration to dispel these thoughts.  It can be difficult to challenge the long-held ideas that we believe to be truths. 

We need to be informed and prepared, but (Serenity Prayer again) we need to accept the things we cannot change, we need courage to change the things we can and we need to have the wisdom to know the difference.

 






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