I enjoy the General Semantics (actually, more “ePrime”) exercise of debating whether anything is ever truly 100% awful.
The pat answer is that nothing is ever 100% awful because not matter how bad things become, we can always imagine something worse. It is a bit more complicated than that, so continue reading . . .
I think such debate is educational and “mind stretching.” However, some people will turn that debate into an exercise in “tail wagging the dog, ” and in doing so, lose sight of the core principles we are trying to demonstrate. As a practical matter, I think it is the “izing” part more than the “awful” part which creates most of the problem. That is, beating and beating and beating the “How terrible! I can’t stand it!’ drum over and over again until we are in a state of high dudgeon. I am sure we all know some miserable people whose personality seems to be driven by embittered, chronic and constant complaining and the inability to (graciously) accept the reality that in life . . .
1. Many things, big and small, are bound to go wrong.
2. Complaining about them only adds an emotional layer of upset to the natural difficulties of coping with problem, and burdens the people around us with our unnecessary emotional discharge.
3. Elevating ordinary events, accidents, losses, disappointments, frustrations and misadventures to the level of “awful” magnifies them in our thinking and unnecessarily, witlessly inflames us emotionally, and makes rational, creative effective problem solving difficult or impossible.
Dr. Burns to use the term “catastrophizing” more than “awfulizing” which may be clearer and leave less room for debate and “awfulizing.” Obviously, being cut off in traffic is a bummer, but hardly a catastrophe.
Curiously, as “cantankerous” and adversarial as the REBT process can seem sometimes, what you get at the other end is greater Acceptance (with a capital “A”), a kind of serenity in coping with the inevitable problems of life, much like the objectives of traditional Eastern philosophies and practices. However, if the proposition that nothing is ever truly awful upsets or offends you, it is probably is something that you would benefit from spending more time investigating and thinking bout.
Khon Kaen, Thailand
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Originally posted 2013-02-08 19:20:50.