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

thinking!”

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.

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