What is the difference between healthy & unhealthy emoting?

Posted by Rex Alexander on Wed 13 Mar 24 in Albert Ellis, Demanding, Emotions |


When adversities happen to people, they can choose to make themselves either (1) healthfully negative, sorry and regretful and annoyed and frustrated and disappointed about the happening  or (2) unhealthfully negative . . . 


When adversities happen to people, they can choose to make themselves either (1) healthfully negative, sorry and regretful and annoyed and frustrated and disappointed about the happening  or (2) unhealthfully negative  creating feelings of horror, terror, anxiety, depression, rage, and other disturbed feelings, along with dysfunctional behaviors. And even if they create these dysfunctional feelings and behaviors, they’re able  because we humans are born constructivists .”

    ~Albert Ellis  “Ask Dr. Ellis


has made several unique and important contributions to the field of psychology and practice of therapy. One of the cornerstones and most important of REBT theory and practice is the premise that we can emote in healthy-helpful ways or in unhealthy-unhelpful ways, and that our so called negative emotions can be either healthy or unhealthy, not really positive or negative in the way people usually think of it. With education, training and practice, we can learn to identify healthy and unhealthy emotions, and to a large extent change the unhealthy ones into healthy ones.  For example when a disappointing, discouraging loss occurs, we can train ourselves to react to it with with healthy, appropriate sadness, rather than with negative, self-defeating depression.   Not necessarily 100% of the time, but to a large extent.




This model is one of Dr. Ellis’s unique contributions to the field, that, as far as I know, is not expressed quite in this way in any other place. It represents one of the significant departures between REBT and humanistic psychology/counseling where “getting in touch with feelings” was regarded as inherently therapeutic in-and-of-itself.  It is very important. It is game changing. Especially in these here modern times, it is a vital lifeline that can help us cut through the confusing psychobabble coming not only from the woo-woo “New Age” but also from rapidly spreading postmodern-cultural marxist ideology in the U.S. and Europe. Below is a chart with a few examples of healthy and unhealthy emotions:

Healthy Emoting

sad, disappointed depressed
annoyed, irritated* angry, resentful, bitter, enraged

stoic, accepting, tolerant, equanimity,
High Frustration Tolerance.       
frustrated. That is, Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT)
concern anxiety
rational regret guilt
unconditional self-acceptance shame**


*Ellis and Dryden both refer to
healthy and unhealthy anger. I also recall Dr. Ellis saying something to the effect that he could not think of an occasion where anger was actually justified. In all due respect to both Drs. Ellis and Dryden, I don’t think the use of anger in a positive context is helpful. I go back to basics and choose to regard anger as something that is provoked by demands, most notably; shoulds, oughts and musts. Therefore I deliberately choose and prefer the words above, annoyed and irritated;  When things go wrong, we strive to feel merely irritated or annoyed, but not angry.

**In my view, shame is always erroneous, unnecessary and inappropriate. Shame results from “rating” and “self-downing” and is best distinguished from “rational regret (traditionally, “guilt”). Shame is about self, guilt is about behavior. Some rational regret–if not self-indulgent–can be constructive, if used that way. 




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Originally posted 2013-07-16 21:52:38.

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