Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Stop Awfulizing, Musturbating, and Shoulding Yourself!

Perception is more important then reality.

Think about it: two people lose their jobs. One gets depressed and shuts down, one shrugs and finds a better job. What is the difference? Only their perception of what the event means to them, about them, and/or about the world . . .

In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) clients are taught that it is the interpretation of events in life that are crucial, not the events themselves. All of us are prone to making mental errors when confronted with circumstances that are beyond our control. For instance do you ever do any of the following:

1. Awfulizing. Psychologist Albert Ellis coined the term awfulizing to refer to a distortion of thinking. When we awfulize, an event or situation is thought of in overly negative terms. It's a kind of negative exaggeration where, for example, a minor setback is seen as a major catastrophe. Or a feared event is seen as so awful is it seems impossible to endure. Awfulizing can set into motion a chain of self-fulfilling thoughts, feelings and actions; the mere expectation that things will get worse will cause them to get worse.

2. Musturbating. "Musturbating," a term coined by Albert Ellis, is defined as strong desires and goals that have mutated into absolute musts, shoulds and demands. We put immense pressure on ourselves saying "we must" get something accomplished (or be a certain way) or else! Irrational feelings of guilt and anxiety haunt us when we have strong musts and are not obeying them.

3. Shoulding. It is the same with "shoulding" ourselves. Every time you say "I should. . ." you put an irrational demand onto yourself. Why should you? Or why must you? Is it the end of the world if you don't? Again, guilt, anxiety, and depression follow the person involved who thinks or uses the word "should" alot. For those who use it on others ("he should do this") the result is anger, rage, and controlling behaviors.

Awfulizing, musturbating, and shoulding yourself - all symptoms of irrational beliefs that at the best will rob you of your peace and at the worst will leave you with depression, guilt, or anxiety. Challenging these unhelpful beliefs and replacing them with truth is way to enjoy the freedom that God has given us. Sometimes all we need to help us deal with things is someone challenging our unhelpful perceptions . . . and the courage to do so ourselves.

OK, that's enough psych theory for now . . .


Elayne said...

I'm not sure I like the word musterbating (my need for new lenses coupled with the floaters in my eyes had me mis-reading that word at first!!) but I am always fighting against "musterbating" as well as "shoulding". I didn't know any of those words existed. I think they'll stick with me. When life gets really hectic sometimes you're forced to stop "shoulding" and "musterbating" but it would be better to always be able to live free of guilt and anxiety by not putting unnecessary or irrational demands on ourselves.
Good psych lesson Mark!

Mark said...

Your welcome Mom! I found myself aware of using the word "should" a lot lately so I'm trying to get it out of my vocabulary!

Anonymous said...

OMG my therapist just told me about "awfulizing" yesterday and I have thought so much about it, I googled it today and found your site. This is so true--thinking about a minor event and making it (even when it hasn't happened yet) a major catastrophe. I loved your comment about the differing views re losing a job--that's so true!

Anonymous said...

I had a wonderful therapist give me a replacement for should. instead of should, she suggested replacing it with 'it would be beneficial to'. or it would be more beneficial to do or not do". :) still struggle with it..glad it is process, not perfection!

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