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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Fallible Human Being

 

In a blogpost entitled Human Fallibility, I posed the following provocative questions:

 

Who among us is perfect? While perhaps you know people who behave as though they make no mistakes—living life as though they are the saintly among us—in actuality, do you consider these people to be infallible?

 

Similarly, in a blog entry entitled Plastic People, I raised a similarly pertinent query:

 

Something I learned long ago is that humans are fallible creatures. No matter what script we’re given, we aren’t capable of achieving perfection. But why let truth get in the way of irrational behavior – actions taken to give the appearance of infallibility?

 

These rhetorical questions share a singular and obvious answer: no one is perfect. Thus, every human being is fallible—capable of making mistakes. Nevertheless, I continually encounter irrational beliefs expressed by people to the contrary.

 

One person may say, “I have to make a perfect score on this exam,” as another individual may express, “I’ve gotta make sure my eyebrows are perfect for the wedding photo.” Is it possible that people actually believe they can sustain perfection? Yes… many people erroneously believe so.

 

An astute reader may retort, “Aha! You’re wrong, Deric, because someone who scores a 100 on an exam that has only 100 possible points has, in fact, achieved perfection!” All the while, the imperfect being that achieves a perfect score is nevertheless a flawed individual.

 

Although humans may achieve perfect standards under certain conditions (e.g., achieving a perfect score on an exam), we’re incapable of sustaining perfection for anything other than a relatively short period of time (i.e., scoring perfectly while simultaneously worrying about failure).

 

When examining this matter through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I think of demandingness—use of prescriptive beliefs often expressed through should, must, or ought-type statements. Such inflexible assumptions are structurally imperfect.

 

The late psychologist who developed REBT, Albert Ellis, humorously described these formulated assumptions as shoulding and musturbating. For instance, he stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”

 

The fallible human who self-disturbingly believes, “I must do well on this exam” may achieve the desired result. However, repeated use of demandingness such as this can make it difficult to sustain continued success in life, because perfection isn’t a permanent human characteristic.

 

Aside from functioning as prescriptive demands, declaring that things have to, gotta, or better result in a particular manner may also serve the interest of moralizing—giving moral direction regarding subjective principles of right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise.

 

Fallible human beings are incapable of perfect moral arbitration. For instance, unhelpfully believing, “I’ve gotta make sure my eyebrows are perfect for the wedding photo, or else I’m a lousy wife” serves a moralizing demand toward perfection.

 

Suppose one cannot achieve or sustain perfect standards – given that each and every human one has ever known, currently knows, and every will know is fallible – is it rational (logical and reasonable) to demand that which is virtually impossible?

 

To better understand this matter, consider the following syllogism:

 

Form –

If p, then q; if q, then r; therefore, if p, then r.

 

Example –

If unappealing eyebrows are preserved in lifelong wedding photos, then I’m a lousy wife for not caring more about this moment or the future.

 

If I’m a lousy wife for not caring more about this moment or the future, then my marriage is doomed to fail.

 

Therefore, if unappealing eyebrows are preserved in lifelong wedding photos, then my marriage is doomed to fail.

 

Logically, the major premise (preservation of a memory regarding unappealing eyebrows equates to being a lousy wife) and minor premise (a lousy wife’s marriage is doomed to fail) result in a valid conclusion (unappealing eyebrows will result in a failed marriage).

 

However, a valid argument may result in a false conclusion, especially when the premises are false. While it may be true that an unappealing appearance is considered undesirable, jumping to a conclusion about the likelihood of marital success based on one’s eyebrows isn’t reasonable.

 

Herein, I’ve provided trivial, though pragmatic, examples of irrationality associated with human fallibility. With understanding related to the inescapability of human imperfection, I now turn to more substantial examination regarding this matter.

 

When I initially began my blog, I used safe examples related to REBT – anecdotes which didn’t reveal my own fallibility. Feedback I received from those who were personally closest to me related to the inauthenticity of my presentation.

 

Essentially, I was told that my fallibility wasn’t present in the examples I used. One individual cautioned that the perception of a disingenuous psychotherapist may not be relatable to a target audience.

 

Noteworthy, the critiques received by those who cared about me didn’t serve absolutistic or moralistic demandingness. Rather, people shared their open, honest, and vulnerable assessment of my writing so that I may hone my craft in a more meaningful way.

 

Therefore, I began bringing my authentic self into my blog. As an example, in a post entitled Good Man, I stated, “In all honesty, I don’t think I get to say whether or not I’m a good man. After all, others would certainly disagree with me either way.”

 

Additionally, in an entry entitled Body Count, I stated, “I use unconditional other-acceptance (UOA) by admitting that just as I’m fallible, other people are also flawed. Therefore, some people will hold against me actions of the past – as to attribute a body count of historical mistakes to my total value as a human – and I accept without condition their actions in doing so.”

 

Moreover, in a blogpost entitled Depriving Freedom, I stated, “I’ve twice seen the inside of a brig detention unit. I was fortunate enough to observe the inside of an Alcatraz cell while merely visiting the facility. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the inside of a detention cell at the Travis County Jail.”

 

Although I could continue listing examples of imperfection shared within my blog, the point I’m making is that I’m a fallible human being. Undeniably, so are you. Likewise, so was Ellis. According to one source:

 

The danger of Ellis’ openness about his personal life is that, as Norcross (2010, n.p.) wrote about his autobiography, “Psychotherapy clients and the public are likely to be engaged but, unfortunately, may come away with a strengthened perception of psychologists as sex-obsessed crackpots.” It would be easy to condemn Ellis for his misbehaviors, or to describe him as narcissistic or misogynistic, but perhaps he should be admired for being more honest and open about his foibles than most people. As his autobiography makes clear, Ellis was, at the same time, a fallible human being and a creative pioneer of new and effective psychotherapy techniques. It is remarkable that the man who had such obvious personal issues was also one of the greatest innovators in the history of psychotherapy.

 

Rigidly or morally demanding that anyone shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to be a fallible human being facilitates the essence of one’s own imperfect nature. After all, expecting perfection from imperfection is neither a rational nor impeccable trait.

 

Perhaps the late psychiatrist Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow addresses this matter in a more comprehensible manner than offered by me herein. According to one Texas A&M University (TAMU) source:

 

Jung chronicled much of his experience with the Shadow self in his work Aion, and it is agreed today that the Shadow self can be described as highly emotional, driven by primal instinct, often violent, and usually concealed from the social world by the conscious mind. Jung also believed the qualities in our Shadow were determined by the things we criticize the most in others. It is, so to speak, the dark mind, everything we separate from the rest of ourselves.

 

Perhaps my earlier blogposts unintentionally concealed darker or undesirable aspects of myself. Thankfully, those who were closest to me were able to help me address what wasn’t apparent at the time so that I could then share even the shadowy elements of my fallibility. The TAMU source continues:

 

But it’s becoming increasingly recognized that humans ought to seek stability with their Shadow selves, and seek reconciliation. The harder one fights against the nature of their Shadow and the deeper they hide it, the more unstable their relationship is with that part of themselves they refuse to accept. Likewise, if one allows their Shadow to control them and their actions, they leave their mind open to being overwhelmed by their Shadow and can become a danger to others or themselves.

 

Although I’m not entirely uncomfortable with the lighter, darker, and neutral aspects of myself, as a fallible human being, I once kept details of these elements from public view. However, using REBT techniques of unconditional acceptance and shame attacking, I now share myself in a more authentic way. The TAMU source continues:

 

The key to stability with this darker nature is not to give in to the Shadow, but to embrace it and how it helps define one as a person, and find a balanced way to express it in one’s daily life. Interacting with and overcoming the Shadow in this way is often best done by self-reflection, meditation, dreaming, or daydreaming, with the goal of self-discovery, and the process is commonly referred to as “shadow-work.”

 

Currently, I’ve posted well over 600 blogposts – many of which contain personal anecdotes. Considering that the average time it takes to draft a post is around two hours, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time tolerating and accepting my fallible shadow.

 

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that everything I do regarding blogging, REBT, and existing in general is done imperfectly. When all is said and done, I’m merely a fallible human being trying to improve my life while also attempting to help other flawed individuals improve their lives.

 

Perhaps you’re looking for a psychotherapist who is as pure as the driven snow. I don’t know where such a person is, as I doubt that one even exists. Still, you may not desire help from someone who willingly shares the imperfection of his life in such a public manner, as Ellis did.

 

I unconditionally accept that my approach to wellness isn’t something everyone will appreciate. Moreover, I don’t irrationally demand that others should, must, or ought to allow me to help them.

 

If it’s perfection you demand of a psychotherapist, you have the right to disturb yourself with absolutistic, moralizing, and unrealistic requirements. For everyone else, I’m available to acknowledge your fallible nature while helping you improve upon your default human condition.

 

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


 

References:

 

AEI. (n.d.). About Albert Ellis, Ph.D. Albert Ellis Institute. Retrieved from https://albertellis.org/about-albert-ellis-phd/

Hollings, D. (2024, April 11). Body count. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/body-count

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2024, April 23). Depriving freedom. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/depriving-freedom

Hollings, D. (2022, October 5). Description vs. prescription. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/description-vs-prescription

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2024, April 2). Four major irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/four-major-irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (2022, November 22). Good man. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/good-man

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 4). Human fallibility. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/human-fallibility

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

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Hollings, D. (2022, June 23). Meaningful purpose. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/meaningful-purpose

Hollings, D. (2024, April 9). Moral arbiter. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/moral-arbiter

Hollings, D. (2024, March 3). Naturalistic and moralistic fallacies. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/naturalistic-and-moralistic-fallacies

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth

Hollings, D. (2023, June 3). Perfect is the enemy of good. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/perfect-is-the-enemy-of-good

Hollings, D. (2024, March 27). Plastic people. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/plastic-people

Hollings, D. (2024, May 5). Psychotherapist. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/psychotherapist

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2024, January 20). Reliability vs. validity. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/reliability-vs-validity

Hollings, D. (2024, January 4). Rigid vs. rigorous. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rigid-vs-rigorous

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2022, September 8). Shame attacking. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/shame-attacking

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Hollings, D. (2023, June 22). Shoulding on art. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/shoulding-on-art

Hollings, D. (2023, October 17). Syllogism. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/syllogism

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, February 25). Unconditional other-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-other-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2022, August 8). Was Freud right? Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/was-freud-right

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