Do you know that irrational thinking can lead to uncomfortable feelings and even unacceptable
behavior? Most of us don’t realize some of the assumptions we make until they are challenged.
Albert Ellis founded a system of psychotherapy he called rational-emotive therapy. He basically said that all
bad feelings are the result of irrational thoughts. One of my friends said, “He’s talking about stinking
I don’t want to try to teach rational-emotive therapy but I think we can profit from understanding
that way of thinking. Let’s look at just one behavior problem: trying to please everyone in my life. The
result is that even if you succeed in pleasing most of the folks who are important to you, that one that you
fail to please may become too important. The irrational thinking back of the discomfort is that you
should please everybody. Not everyone falls into this thinking trap but far too many of us do.
Here’s an example: Deep inside Mary believed she should be loved by virtually everyone in her
community. She succeeded in having many friends and even being elected to positions of honor and
responsibility in her circles of friendship. But her placating behavior kept her frustrated over the few
people who didn’t seem to accept or like her. That irrationality – everybody has got to like me – drove
Mary into depression because she did succeed. It becomes especially painful when one of the people
you can’t please is a member of your family!
Some years ago a man sat in my office. I knew he was well-respected in the community, having
won many awards and even held elected office. He slumped into the chair and confessed that the one
person from whom he wanted praise was his father. All he remembered from his childhood was a
conversation in which his Dad said, “You’ll never amount to anything.” He had lived with that feeling of
condemnation for a long time. His father had died a few days earlier. “Now he’ll never be pleased with
what I’ve accomplished.” Certainly this man would have been more satisfied if he had heard praise from
his father, but as he accepted the fact that his father lost in not establishing a mutually satisfying
relationship, he began to find a new direction for himself – improving his relationships with his own
children. He gave up an irrational dominance in his thought patterns and gained an emotional peace.
Each one of us has some irrationality in our thinking. Identifying it and accepting a more rational
approach relieves us of our "stinking thinking.” I think it’s worth a try!
Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as president of the International Family Foundation Inc. and is a resident of Canton.