According to Ellis, described as a passionate skeptic by one biographer, Daniel Weiner in 1988, and as one of the most provocative figures in modern psychology by the writer of his Washington Post obituary, Marcus Franklin, we all experience everyday what he described as Activating Events and these prompt us to look at and interpret or at least think about what is happening around us. His principles can be described as ABC. A. The activating experience B. The resulting belief
C. The consequence. Ellis felt that the language often used to describe our experiences can be unduly negative and pessimistic. In the introduction to his 2002 book Overcoming Resistance: A Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Integrated Approach. He claims (page xi) that using words such as I am depressed gives the implication that depression is caused by circumstances we cannot control. He prefers the use of phrases such as I depress myself or I feel depressing.
In the same passage (page xii) he acknowledges that this narrow use of language makes it difficult to describe behavior and makes his writing difficult to follow. He came to the view that people were capable of controlling their feelings, as is obvious from several of his titles such as (1975) How to be happy though human , Sex without Guilt . (1958), A Guide to Personal Happiness (1982). Biography Albert Ellis was the eldest of three children born into a Pittsburgh, Jewish family.
His father was a struggling business man, often away from home and his mother seems to have suffered from a bi-polar personality according to Ellis, which also resulted in her being rather a distant parent, often asleep when the children left for school and absent upon their return, leaving Albert to be responsible for his younger siblings. All three children worked to help family finances. He was a sickly child, having 8 periods in hospital in the two years from 5 to 7. His parents eventually divorced when Albert was aged 13. His difficult childhood made him, in his own words as quoted by C. G.
Boeree in 2006 a stubborn and pronounced problem-solver. His early plan in junior high school was to become an accountant so that he could make enough money to retire while still young and then spend his time writing the great American novel. Most of his spare time was spent writing plays, novels, poetry, essays. After some two dozen full length works had been rejected by publishers he realized that writing fiction was not for him. His biographers, Mike and Lidia Abrams tell how, after gaining a degree in business studies he later became a clinical psychologist having tried first in business and as a fiction writer.
He found however that he was a very capable nonfiction writer. He began to produce work on Human Sexuality, slowing over time collecting material for a treatise The Case for Sexual Liberty which was eventually published by the Seymour Press in 1965. This was a field of psychology relatively unexplored up until that point and upon which he soon became a noted expert and counselor. It was his success in this field that led him to look for a new career as a clinical psychologist. In 1942 he started to study for a doctorate of philosophy as a clinical psychologist.
He chose Columbia University where psychologists were trained in the psychoanalytic method, a system he would later rebel against, choosing instead to encourage his clients to make active intervention. This was based upon his early experience when he cured his shyness by asking over 100 girls for cold dates in the Bronx Botanical Gardens and by making many appearances on public platforms as a peace campaigner. He didnt get any dates, but, using this early example of cognitive behavior therapy, he claims he desensitized himself from his overwhelming fear of women. He completed his M. A.
in 1943 and began a part time practice while still working towards his PhD degree. This was possible at the time because psychology was such a relatively new branch of medicine that there was then no system for the licensing of psychologists in New York State where he worked. Even before he obtained his doctorate Ellis began publishing psychological articles which were well received by his peers. One example of such an article was in 1946 when he wrote a critique of the many widely used personality tests, A Critique of Personality Questionnaires that he felt were not sufficiently validated.
His conclusion was that only one, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, truly met the standards of a research based instrument. Though out his life Ellis felt there was always more to be learnt about the human psyche. On the completion of his doctorate, Ellis sought further psychoanalytical training. As with most other psychologists of that era he was influenced by Freudian theories and is said to have believed that psychoanalysis was the best and deepest type of therapy available, something he would later refute.
He was quoted by Brainy Quotes as saying I thought foolishly that Freudian psychoanalysis was deeper and more intensive than other, more direct forms of therapy, so I was trained in it and practiced it. Part of the reason for this change of mind was that Ellis found it didnt matter how often he saw his patients daily, bi-weekly, weekly or fortnightly it all seemed to make little or no difference, they seemed to improve at the same rate. If, he thought, the frequency did not make any difference, what about the content.
Gradually Ellis became less passive than was usual in Freudian style when listening to his patients and began to put forward his own ideas as to how they could make improvements in their lives. He was able to recommended principles that were derived from the works of ancient writers such as Epictetus who said Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee. and Marcus Aurelius who is quoted as having written Be content to seem what you really are as well as Spinoza , quoted as having said Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understant and the more modern Bertrand Russell whose claim , as quoted on Brainy Quotes was that Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Ellis realized that these ideas helped his patients, and by 1955 he had totally abandoned Freudian psychoanalysis instead he would concentrate upon changing his clients irrational behavior patterns by making them face up to the irrationality of the beliefs that were the basis for such behavior and then persuading them to adopt more realistic ones.