I’ve been reading an old (over 30 years old!) book by the founding father of CBT Albert Ellis – and thought you’d enjoy reading his introduction to the principals of CBT, and it’s genesis in philosophy.
I have included links to relevant posts on my self help blog if you want to try out the self-help components of CBT for yourself.
Adapted from ‘A Guide to Personal Happiness’ by Albert Ellis & Irving Becker
The main blocks to almost all kinds of happiness and emotional health are various forms of needs, demands, commands, insistances, absolutes – or what in rational-emotive therapy we call musterbation. This was discovered thousands of years ago by Western philosophers such as Zeno, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and other Stoics, and by Eastern thinkers such as Gautama Buddha. Modern philosophers, including Baruch Spinoza, John Dewy, and Bertrand Russell, rediscovered this ancient teaching: as did some of the pioneering psychotherapists of this century. No, not Sigmund Freud – who got sidetracked into people’s early childhood history, their lusting after their parents, and their deeply unconscious hatreds and guilts (none of which seems to have much to do with causing their emotional upsets), but therapists like Alfred Adler, Paul Dubois, Alexander Herzberg, and George Kelly, who much more clearly realized what the philosophic causes of disturbance really were, began to develop practical means of dealing with emotional difficulties.
I believed in the Freudian view of emotional disturbance and cure and consequently went through psychoanalysis myself, was supervised in this method by a training analyst of one of the leading schools, and practiced classical analysis and psychoanalytically oriented psycho-therapy for several years before I realised it was exceptionally inefficient and was helping my clients to only a small degree. Having something of a gene for efficiency, and also having a background in philosophy (which had been one of my main interests since my college days), I sought for non-psychoanalytic methods of helping people overcome their problems, and soon observed that just about all so-called emotional disturbances were closely linked to irrational ideas, and that if I could help people clearly see and strongly dispute these self-defeating notions, they could successfully overcome their disturbances.
In experimenting with these new conceptions of neurotic behaviour and exploring techniques for helping my clients overcome their feelings of anxiety, depression, hostility and worthlessness, I developed the system of rational-emotive therapy (RET) or cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), which has now become exceptionally popular. But it was hardly so in the beginning! In the 1950’s, when I created RET, practically all the other therapists screamed and yelled about my arrogance – including the Freudians, Jungians, Rogerians, and classical behaviourists. How could I have the arrogance, the consummate gall, they asked, to claim that emotional disorders are largely problems of crooked thinking, and that by changing one’s thinking, one can overcome serious neurotic states? And how could I have the audacity to confront people directly with their crazy thoughts, to work intensively and forcefully with their feelings, and to give them homework assignments that would help them practice new ways of behaving and feeling?
Well, I could!
…. with just about any thought that you choose to believe and to follow, you can also disbelieve and refuse to follow. If the psychoanalysts were right, and your mother and father made you what you are today, you might well have relatively little ability to change yourself for the better. Fortunately, they are largely wrong: and because you mainly created your own thoughts and feelings, you have considerable power to change them, or, as Carl Jung, Abe Maslow, and others have said, to actualise yourself and to grow and develop emotionally…
Extra: click the thumbnail image to enlarge – snapshot of the first page of the foreword by Melvin Powers.