I cried because I had no shoes . . .
The old proverb “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet” (in various forms attributed to Chinese, Indian, Jewish, Irish and other origins. Versions are attributed to Tolstoy, Helen Keller and others, and go as far back as the 13th Century to the Persian poet Sa’ di) never did resonated for me. It is guilt-provoking. It is not that I lack empathy for the poor, footless man, but I am a selfish bastard and I still want my shoes, goddamit! Still, I have a choice. I can regard my lack of shoes (the “activating event”) as unfortunate and annoying, and think about what I can do to remedy it, or live with it if I cannot remedy it. That type of healthy, “cool” thinking will produce annoyance, frustration, disappointment, sadness; all healthy, “natural” emotions from the REBT standpoint.
The problem arises, however, when I think my lack of shoes is TERRIBLE, AWFUL, THE END OF THE WORLD! When I tell myself that I CAN’T STAND IT! Isn’t that exactly what little kids do? They erupt in a bloody tantrum over some issue (activating event) that adults immediately recognize as trivial. So far as I know, REBT is the only therapeutic approach that teaches clients to clearly distinguish between what it terms healthy and unhealthy emoting. For example, annoyance and irritation are healthy while anger, rage, bitterness and resentment are unhealthy. That is, unhealthy in the sense of being unhelpful and ultimately self-defeating. Most people do not make such distinctions and are therefore a kind of emotional prisoner in an Alice in Wonderland world,over-emoting or under-emoting unable to find that “sweet spot” that lets them behave in ways which are rewarding and self-fulling, and lead them to get more of what they want and less of what they do not want.
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© 2017, Rex Alexander. All rights reserved.
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Originally posted 2017-03-25 07:16:16.