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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Failure to Elucidate


When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I invite clients to consider that the words we use matter. This is especially relevant when working with people who maintain personality disorders.


For instance, when I attended a three-day personality disorders course, materials for the class stated that the first rule for working with personality disorders was an emphasis on clarity. Attendees were told, “It is more important to be clear than to be precise,” and, “Mistakes are OK, confusion is not.”


Nevertheless, it rarely fails that something I’ll state about REBT will be unclear and result in confusion. In fact, the most common critique I receive about my blogposts is that my message tends to be somewhat convoluted. Alas, I’m a fallible human being who tries to improve.


Similar to my unclear, imprecise, and confusing method of communication, I often hear clients misuse the word “feeling,” and derivatives thereof (e.g., I feel like she said that just to hurt me). Clarifying this matter, I stated in a blog entry entitled Cognitive Distortions:


[A]lthough people often express to me that they “feel” one way or another, they often conflate hunches, suspicions, thoughts, and beliefs with the true nature of feelings – emotions or bodily sensations. I suspect you have familiarity with this occurrence.


Person X may say, “I feel like I’m worthless.” In this case, “feel” doesn’t represent joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, surprise, or other emotions. Likewise, it’s not the same thing as saying, “I feel hot,” or, “My throbbing head feels like it’s going to explode.”


Thus, person X’s statement doesn’t represent a feeling at all. (Not even a little bit.) Rather, this individual could accurately say, “I believe I’m worthless.


Even after providing this distinction to people, some individuals continue misusing feelings-based terms. When this occurs, I ask them to elucidate—to give a clarifying explanation.


Still, responses I receive are sometimes subject to obscurum per obscurius—(explaining) the obscure by means of the more obscure. This process is referred to as a failure to elucidate. Regarding this matter, one source expands:


Description: When the definition is made more difficult to understand than the word or concept being defined.


Logical Form:


Person 1 makes a claim.


Person 2 asks for clarification of the claim, or a term being used.


Person 1 restates the claim or term in a more confusing way.


As an example:


Client: My boss told me I’m not performing to my full potential, but I feel like she said that just to hurt me.


Me: What do you mean by “feel” in this instance?


Client: I mean that I think she knows I’ve been busting my ass by arriving early and leaving later than everyone else, though she’s saying I’m not performing well just to motivate me in her own twisted way of how she usually plays mind games with our team in order to supposedly help us realize our full potential.


Not a single feeling was expressed therein – not one. Moreover, the description is made more difficult to understand than the word “feel” was perceived to have meant.


Thus, the failure to elucidate results in obscurity and confusion, and valuable time in a session is then devoted to psychoeducation regarding feelings-based language. While I can’t preemptively address all matters worthy of elucidation, I can adequately clarify “feeling” terms herein.


For the sake of my approach to REBT, a feeling is either an emotion or bodily sensation. That’s it. I hope that’s clear.


By “clear,” I mean that which is free from obscurity or ambiguity when used to a term’s highest potentiality for unhampered limitation of understanding in context to unmistakable interpretive communication regarding a messenger’s intended conveyance of data. (See what I did there?)


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Hollings, D. (2024, May 18). Cognitive distortions. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, May 11). Fallible human being. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, January 1). Psychoeducation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, April 21). Sensation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Logically Fallacious. (n.d.). Failure to elucidate. Retrieved from

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