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Irrational Beliefs


Albert Ellis, in his Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) identified eleven dysfunctional beliefs that people often hold.


  1. It is a dire necessity for adult humans to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in their community.

  2. One absolutely must be competent, adequate, and achieving in all important respects or else one is an inadequate, worthless person.

  3. People absolutely must act considerately and fairly and they are damnable villains if they do not. They are their bad acts.

  4. It is awful and terrible when things are not the way one would very much like them to be.

  5. Emotional disturbance is mainly externally caused and people have little or no ability to increase or decrease their dysfunctional feelings and behaviors.

  6. If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, then one should be constantly and excessively concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of it occurring.

  7. One cannot and must not face life's responsibilities and difficulties and it is easier to avoid them.

  8. One must be quite dependent on others and need them and you cannot mainly run one's own life.

  9. One's past history is an all-important determiner of one's present behavior and because something once strongly affected one's life, it should indefinitely have a similar effect.

  10. Other people's disturbances are horrible and one must feel upset about them.

  11. There is invariably a right, precise and perfect solution to human problems and it is awful if this perfect solution is not found.


Ellis's belief are deliberately extreme, to highlight that we often take unreasonably exaggerated viewpoints. He called this approach "awfulizing", as we tend to pessimistically generalize these things.


A way this can happen is that if we have a strong need for certainty, we will tend to push perceptions that actually should be considered along a variable spectrum towards the extremes. Thus, we create stereotypes of ourselves.


So what? So if you want to help the other person adopt more functional beliefs, help them first realize how extreme and irrational their generalized beliefs are. Then discuss with them how more rational and useful beliefs can be found.


See also: Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy, NY: Birch Lane Press



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Updated: 7/30/2013