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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

L'Eggo Unhelpful Ego

 

In a blogpost entitled Was Freud Right? I addressed Sigmund Freud’s concept of the ego. Noteworthy, the late psychologist Albert Ellis, who originated Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), once practiced Freud’s psychoanalytic therapy. Describing his understanding of the ego, Ellis stated:

 

Much of what we can call the human “ego” is vague and indeterminate and, when conceived of and given a global rating, interferes with survival and happiness. Certain aspects of “ego” seem to be vital and lead to beneficial results: for people do exist, or have aliveness, for a number of years, and they also have self-consciousness, or awareness of their existence. In this sense, they have uniqueness, ongoingness, and “ego”. What people call their “self” or “totality” or “personality”, on the other hand, has a vague, almost indefinable quality. People may well have “good” or “bad” traits—characteristics that help or hinder them in their goals of survival or happiness—but they really have no “self” that “is” good or bad.

 

In essence, Ellis appears to have maintained that an individual’s concept of self is neither good nor bad, though a person may have good or bad traits. For instance, person X may have a tendency to embellish (lie) about her positive traits (e.g., I was the best player on the team).

 

However, person X’s lying – which is generally perceived as a bad or undesirable trait – doesn’t equate to her diminished worth as a human being. Thus, one’s behavior may represent an individual, though actions or traits aren’t indicative of one’s intrinsic value. Ellis continued:

 

REBT first tries to define the various aspects of the human ego and to endorse its “legitimate” aspects. It assumes that an individual’s main goals or purposes include: (1) remaining alive and healthy and (2) enjoying himself or herself—experiencing a good deal of happiness and relatively little pain or dissatisfaction. We may, of course, argue with these goals; and not everyone accepts them as “good.”

 

When seeing clients, I assume Ellis’ first proposition – an individual attending psychotherapy with me desires to remain alive and healthy. Of course, if suicidal ideation is expressed, this assumption is readjusted.

 

Nevertheless, assuming that one who is alive desires to remain alive, I assess the client’s subjective measure of what “healthy” means. Through my approach to REBT, I promote improved functioning and quality of life.

 

As an example, if person X seeks services with me and wants to decrease her lying behavior (functioning), she may determine that success with this goal may reduce conflict and help maintain close relationships (quality of life). However, unlike Ellis, I don’t assume that people wish to enjoy life and I don’t promote “happiness.” Allow me to explain.

 

In a blogpost entitled Happiness Is a By-Product, I stated:

 

[P]age 15 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion [“Pocket Companion”] invites REBT practitioners to help clients understand that happiness is a short-lived by-product of pursing meaningful objectives. However, happiness isn’t a long-lasting experience—nor is “good vibes.”

 

As such, one of the goals of REBT is to promote psychological wellness rather happiness. Wellness involves being content, which is merely the experience of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.

 

Suppose that client X seeks happiness through the practice of REBT. Forming an inflexible demand, she concludes, “I must be happy as a result of attending therapy.” This is an unhelpful ego-based belief.

 

Although I advocate tolerance and acceptance regarding matters over which people cannot control or influence, I can’t guarantee happiness. In fact, I think it’s a fool’s errand to irrationally pursue happiness rather than wellness.

 

Imagine that when client X’s rigid demand isn’t realized, and although she’s content through REBT practice, she isn’t happy. She may then disturb himself into unhealthy negative emotion when her irrational belief isn’t met. In a blog entry entitled Happiness Is a Trap, I clarified:

 

For the record, I don’t think there’s anything bad, wrong, or otherwise with the pursuit of happiness. It may be a worthwhile endeavor for some people to continuously chase the proverbial carrot dangling from a string at the end of a stick.

 

Quite often, I find that rather than actually capturing that carrot, people upset themselves with their beliefs about happiness. In these instances, they wind up beating themselves with the stick and creating an outright unpleasant situation. They have the right to abuse themselves in such a way.

 

Thus, I agree with Ellis about assuming that an individual desires to live in a healthy manner, though I make no assumption regarding happiness. If a core component of an individual’s ego involves demandingness associated with an aim for happiness, I would assist the person with disputation of the self-depreciation belief, per page 101 of the Pocket Companion.

 

Likewise, if a person presents with awfulizing or low frustration tolerance beliefs concerning non-ego-based problems, I assist by disputing these assumptions and advocating unconditional acceptance. As well, similar techniques are used with an individual’s other-depreciation beliefs.

 

As an example, if client X were to express the unhelpful belief, “Others must make me happy,” I would challenge the unhelpful ego-based assumption. Importantly, client X’s beliefs don’t equate to a “bad” person or self.

 

Although individuals use unhealthy and even bad traits which contribute to suffering, such behavior doesn’t serve as a value-based assessment of people as a whole. Therefore, when we can l’eggo (let go) of our ego, we may then live rationally and in a healthy manner.

 

*Happiness acquired separately. Terms and conditions may apply.

 

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/

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Ellis, A. (2021, September). REBT diminishes much of the human ego. Albert Ellis Institute. Retrieved from https://albertellis.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/REBT-DIMINISHES-MUCH-OF-THE-HUMAN-EGO.pdf

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/blog/categories/disputation

Hollings, D. (2022, May 17). Circle of concern. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/circle-of-concern

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

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

Hollings, D. (2024, January 6). Happiness is a by-product. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/happiness-is-a-by-product

Hollings, D. (2023, December 26). Happiness is a trap. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/happiness-is-a-trap

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

Hollings, D. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/interests-and-goals

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

Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance

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

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. (2022, June 27). Rigid terms of service. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rigid-terms-of-service

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, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

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

Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat

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

Hollings, D. (2024, March 18). Unhealthy vs. healthy negative emotions. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unhealthy-vs-healthy-negative-emotions

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

Wayhomestudio. (n.d.). Vertical shot of lovely curly haired woman bites appetizing heart shaped waffles focused above enjoys eating delicious food dressed in casual jumper isolated over white background empty space [Image]. Freepik. Retrieved from https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/vertical-shot-lovely-curly-haired-woman-bites-appetizing-heart-shaped-waffles-focused-enjoys-eating-delicious-food-dressed-casual-jumper-isolated-white-background-empty-space_28946416.htm#fromView=search&page=1&position=47&uuid=44c583f2-b390-4c7c-852d-cc1dc5354d66

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Sigmund Freud. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud

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