Friday, 16 September 2011

The Universe Don't Give a Shit!

The universe doesn’t care about you, it’s not for or against you, it just doesn’t give a shit. Albert Ellis
There are many quotes that Albert Ellis left us to ponder and this one’s a cracker! You can imagine him talking to the regular Friday night crowd at the (now fake) Albert Ellis Institute. He would demonstrate his ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance to help volunteer clients gain insight into what was causing their emotional and behavioural disturbances. He would listen carefully to his client protest about how unfair this or that was and that if only life wasn’t so hard he could be happy. He would ‘cherchez le should’ listening intently for the tell-tale signs suggesting that his client believed the world owed him easy passage through life. Dr Ellis would challenge the belief that this or that shouldn’t have happened and that life was so unfair! ‘It happened therefore it should have happened. Yes it was unfortunate but not so awful that you can’t stand it! You can’t change what happened but you can change how you think about what happened.’ Ellis would invite his client to examine the veracity of his errant beliefs and to reconsider them in the light of the evidence and to replace them with healthy preferences. As the workshop ended his client would have something to work with on his onward journey, the audience members would leave well informed and heartily entertained and Dr Ellis would retire to his room and no doubt continue to work on his writing assignments! In my role as school counsellor I work with students who believe that life should be easy and that it isn’t fair when they are required to do something they don’t like. How do I know this? Often they will articulate exactly how they feel. ‘That teacher pisses me off because she wants me to do a science experiment with some kids I don’t like.’ He would be according to Albert Ellis unhappily ‘musturbating’, demanding that he must get what he wants. But mostly their behaviour and accompanying anger tell me what they believe, what their philosophy of life is. According to Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance 'it’ doesn’t make the student angry but it's their expectation that they shouldn’t have to do 'it' that causes them grief! It is the false belief, constructed over time and practiced daily that ‘life should be easy and it is awful when it doesn’t give me what I must have!’ Try and tell a student that he or she is making his/her anger and aggression and not the teacher and she will look at you as if you are nuts. I talk often with colleagues about students who draw most on teacher time and school resources in terms of intervention and support. We agree that most of these students blame someone or something for how they feel and behave. We have found Ellis’ REBT to be a very useful tool to help them learn about the link between thinking feeling and behaving through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education. Students learn about the Catastrophe Scale and how often the belief that a problem is bigger than it is relative to others will cause emotional upset not the event or problem itself and that it is not so awful that it cannot be tolerated. They also learn how extreme negative and unhealthy emotions are driven by irrational musturbatory beliefs. At our school we are applying REBT principles in daily practice through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education. We are systematically challenging the errant view that strength of feelings and behaviours are made by other people and events and we teach that it is the individuals own personal irrational philosophical beliefs that determine largely how they feel and act! For those students who blame their teachers, the weather and others for how they feel and act we are using Ellis’ wise advice, that the world doesn’t give a shit about us and it doesn’t owe us anything so we’d better start taking responsibility for our own actions and emotions.
Giulio wrote this!