All patients come to psychiatrists with basically the same problem: the sense of helplessness, the fear and inner conviction of being unable to cope and change things.
One of the roots of this sense of impotence is some desire to partially or totally escape the pain of confronting problems because this continual battle of confronting and solving problems is a painful one, indeed. Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid them like the plague. Its human, it’s understandable, and to some extent quite natural…but it is definitely not beneficial. This tendency of avoidance and the emotional suffering inherent in it is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Keeping this in mind, it is safe to say that almost all of us lack complete mental health—including psychologists themselves.
That’s why psychotherapy is very helpful to anyone and everyone. It is a legitimate and courageous path to personal growth and freedom which bestows people with a lot of opportunities to become stronger and healthier than average. It helps bring forth the darkest and brightest parts of one’s own self in an atmosphere of utter honesty and non-judgment.
Here’s a list of insights that really changed my thought processes, understanding of human nature, and way of living:
Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.
Midlife crisis, quarter-life crisis, depression, depressive episodes….are all terms associated with the reluctance to give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things. Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken. Consequently they cling to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, thus failing to negotiate any crisis, to truly grow up and to experience the joyful sense of rebirth that accompanies the successful transition into greater maturity. It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy of life.
“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” —Albert Ellis
Your conditions for self-acceptance are entirely up to you.
“Stop shoulding on yourself” —Albert Ellis
Insight alone rarely enables people to undo their emotional disturbances. They may feel better when they know or think they know how they became disturbed, because insights can feel useful and curative, but they help you very little.
It is unlikely that people will actually get better and stay better unless they fully understand that there is usually no way to get better and stay better except by continual work and practice in looking for and finding one’s core irrational beliefs, then actively, energetically, and scientifically disputing them.
If you are abused, you have a choice about what to tell yourself about the abuse.
We are not directly affected by things but by the view we take of them. Things are not terrible, horrible, or amazing inherently–it’s the meaning/inference we attach to them that gives them importance.
Disturbed human emotions do not exist in their own right. Anger, resentment, shame, anxiety, depression—these are all SUSTAINED emotional disturbances created by irrational beliefs which do nothing but sabotage one’s goals of survival and joyfulness.
Resist overgeneralization, black and white, either/or thinking. Once you stop doing such things, your mind will open up to a world of possibilities.
The essential ingredient that makes psychotherapy successful and effective is not through magical words, postures or techniques, but LOVE. It is the willingness of the therapist to truly involve oneself at an emotional level in the relationship, to actually struggle with the patient and with oneself that constitutes deep and meaningful psychotherapy. An aloof and detached psychoanalyst never helped anyone.
Mutual loving confrontation is a significant part of all successful and human relationships. Without it the relationship is either unsuccessful or shallow.
If you have ever fallen victim or been the perpetrator of “I’ll desert you before you desert me” syndrome, it is because of a significant lack of commitment and love from your parents during childhood.
As long as one marries, enters a career, or has children to satisfy one’s parents or the expectations of even society as a whole, the commitment by its very nature will be a shallow one. The highest forms of love are inevitably totally free choices and not acts of conformity.
It is very common to confuse love with the feeling of love; it is easy and not at all unpleasant to find evidence of love in one’s feelings. But it is quite difficult and painful to search for evidence of love in one’s actions.
True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed. It is a committed, thoughtful decision.
You are the only one responsible for your emotional disturbances. The weather is not making you depressed; that coworker isn’t making your life hell. It’s your beliefs about these events that are causing you to be stressed. Instead of saying, “She annoys me” … “It angers me” … “I am hurt because of you,” try saying, “I make myself angry about it” or “I felt hurt when you acted that way.”
There is something called healthy negative emotions. Irritation is healthy but anger is not; regret is sometimes healthy but guilt is definitely not. We can’t erase all negative emotions ever. We just learn how to deal with them in a healthy manner.
People often tend to act out their wishes and desires as if they were needs and musts. They frequently elevate their personal goals and expectations into rigid and irrational rules that everyone MUST OBEY. This is a living death.
Try to minimize all should, musts, and oughts from your life. Replace them with rational beliefs that will increase the likelihood of reaching your goals and keeping you disturbance-free.
You will have to work at keeping the threshold of tolerating frustration high so that the world doesn’t swallow you whole.
Don’t create secondary disturbances about your primary disturbances. For example, don’t worry that you worry too much. Instead of that, focus on what you can do about the primary problem.
Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation in life, you always have the choice to choose your course of action and thoughts. Helplessness is an unnecessary demon stopping you from reaching your truest potential.
The law of attraction is at best controversial and at worst a huge farce. Tread cautiously. Your life is not determined by what you are attracting but through the quality of your thoughts and beliefs.
When it comes to love, understand that everybody’s definition of it is different. And it does not happen according to one’s rigid rules of what constitutes love and what doesn’t.
I DEFINE IT. IT DOES NOT DEFINE ME. Something does not bring value to your life. You assign value to it.
Want to get rid of the endless what-if’s? Drill this mantra into your head: There is a probability for everything and certainty for nothing. Learn to live with probabilities and be functional in spite of it.
People act as if there is a universal rulebook for marriage/love and how everybody has to adhere by it. The endless romantic books and movies are all testament to this. This is nothing but a perfect recipe for being miserable in love. Understand that it is stupid to believe that the nature of love won’t change. It will. The only way you can really appreciate, receive, or accept love is by not subscribing to a stringent definition of it.
Self-esteem is a myth. Work toward unconditional self-acceptance. Keep this as your new rational belief: “I would like to work on correcting behaviors that are harmful and maintaining the ones that are helpful. But I accept myself as a fallible person capable of both kinds of behavior.”