Uncle Albert's Method

by Aaron Davidson [1]



Albert Ellis is at this moment an elderly, professional Helping-Dude living somewhere in the USA. In the 1950's he developed the following way of helping people deal with their mental pollution - though he didn't call it mental pollution. He called it having irrational beliefs. His approach is called Rational Emotive Therapy. Albert Ellis's method goes as directly as possible to the roots of emotional distress, the actual thinking errors and the faulty beliefs that are active in the present moment. It is a method that relies upon you to develop the ability to observe your own thinking, tracking down the erroneous bits in order to challenge and to dispute them. It is based upon the notion that your greatest asset is your ability to expand your understanding.

In the rational emotive way of looking at emotional distress, anything that triggers habituated thinking and feeling is called an activating event. Makes sense, doesn't it? An activating event can be anything that happens: an insulting remark, a conversation, a smell, a memory, a shouting match, bad news, good news, the time of day, the weather - anything at all.

The activating event triggers some of your habituated thinking patterns - thinking which conforms to your beliefs - your irrational or faulty beliefs, and your realistic, reasonable, rational beliefs. When your thinking patterns kick into gear - presto! - your emotional energies are given their shape in that moment. What wonderfully responsive beings we earthlings are!

Here is the gist of Albert Ellis's method:

1. You notice that you are upset, disturbed, depressed, angry, frustrated, scared or whatever.

2. You watch your thinking, so that you know what emotion-shaping thoughts are going around in your noggin. (This skill takes some time to develop, since so much of our thinking is automatic and habituated - it just happens without our awareness of it.)

3. You identify the irrational, faulty beliefs and the crooked logic.

4. You debate, dispute and argue with the faulty beliefs and thinking errors. You insist on reliable evidence. You dispute your habituated, wonky notions vigorously - you do not just sit back and let them pummel you.

5. In the instant that your disputing and debating begins to take effect, your emotional state will change. Of course it will. Your emotional energies have just been given a different thought-shape to flow through! Good work.

6. Reach over your shoulder and pat yourself on back.

The above is Albert Ellis's famous ABC diagram. Does it look familiar? (See The Double Whammy.)[2] Where do you think I got the idea? From Uncle Albert of course. The next diagram shows this process including the disputing of faulty beliefs which when successfully done, leads to a new improved emotional state.

Here is the main point - memorize it:


Aaron Davidson was an MSc student in computing science at the University of Alberta.  His thesis was on Opponent Modeling in Computer Poker.  He is currently working as a software developer for a small company specializing in producing tools for genomics and proteomics research.

Amongst his many academic interests he lists projects in medical genetics and bioinformatics, computer poker research, artificial life, and distributed computing over the internet.

In his leisure time he loves to "juggle, ski, hike, watch low-brow sketch comedy, surf the net, develop software, work on useless web pages, and compose cheesy electronic music.  I like cats.  I am interested in Extropian/Transhumanist philosophy.  I am an INTP.  I've been developing my web page since 1994, so there's a stink of things to look at.  You'd be surprised at some of the strange things you can find at http://spaz.ca/aaron/SiteMap.html." 

[2]  http://spaz.ca/aaron/billious/RCYS/Chapter7.html