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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Of Sticks, Stones, Rubber, and Glue

 

Raised in the cohort of Generation X, I often heard axioms such as, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and, “I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” I suspect that members of the Gen X cohort remain familiar with these dictums.

 

According to one source, the sticks and stones aphorism “is used as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying, intended to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation, and/or to remain calm and indifferent.” In essence, this adage relates to the practice of Stoicism.

 

According to a separate source, the rubber and glue maxim “is a school-ground retort used by children to suggest that one’s insults are being ignored by the intended recipient of the insult and counter that the insult rather refers to the insulter. On a deeper level, it may imply that a person insulting others is an indication of their own insecurity and weakness.”

 

Similar to the former precept, the latter theorem encapsulates Stoic principles of tolerance and acceptance. Thus, these principles coincide with the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

 

REBT theory uses the ABC model to illustrate how when Activating events (“Actions”) occur and people maintain irrational Beliefs about the events, these unhelpful assumptions – and not the actual occurrences – are what create unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral Consequences.

 

Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, people disturb themselves using a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that in the context of the naturalistic or physical world there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.

 

Furthermore, this helpful psychotherapeutic modality uses the technique of unconditional acceptance to relieve suffering. This is accomplished through use of unconditional self-acceptance (USA), unconditional other-acceptance (UOA), and unconditional life-acceptance (ULA).

 

For context regarding how Stoicism is incorporated into REBT, consider what Stoic philosopher Epictetus once stated, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” This principle serves as the basis for the B-C connection.

 

For example, suppose that when on the playground at school, little Johnny is mercilessly teased by other children (Action); it isn’t the mockery that results in the unpleasant outcome of anger, a rapid heartrate, and lashing out behavior in the form of fighting (Consequence).

 

In the naturalistic world, an A-C connection may occur when little Johnny punches another child (Action) and as a result is suspended from school (Consequence). However, the unhelpful chain of self-disturbance which led to little Johnny’s behavior is better demonstrated by the B-C connection:

 

Action – When on the playground at school, little Johnny is mercilessly teased by other children.

 

Belief – Little Johnny irrationally believes, “Other kids should be nice to me and it’s awful when they aren’t! I can’t stand being treat this way, because these mean kids are completely worthless, and I’m gonna teach ‘em a valuable lesson!”

 

Consequence – Because of his self-disturbing belief, little Johnny experiences the unpleasant outcome of anger, a rapid heartrate, and lashing out behavior in the form of fighting.

 

Noteworthy, the ABC model incorporates Disputation of unhelpful assumptions in order to explore Effective new beliefs. In the case of little Johnny, disputing his four major irrational beliefs would incorporate encouragement for use of Stoic principles.

 

Thus, the method for decreasing his level of suffering would entail little Johnny’s consideration of sticks and stones, rubber and glue. Somehow, these axioms were made available to Gen X; whereas subsequent generational cohorts may not have received such guidance.

 

Ultimately, understanding of sticks, stones, rubber, and glue may serve adults, as well. If you find that when encountering unpleasant taunting events your cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral outcomes aren’t serving you well, it may be worth considering the B-C connection along with helpful Stoic principles.

 

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:

 

Avoid Ink. (2024, May 7). Illustration of the boy from the reference inspiration [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from https://playground.com/post/illustration-of-the-boy-from-the-reference-inspiration-embo-clvwq5wyu035xcmuaj8rbe8g8

Explain xkcd Wiki. (n.d.). 1139: Rubber and glue. Retrieved from https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1139:_Rubber_and_Glue

Goal Chaser, The. (n.d.). Epictetus quotes – The power of our own thoughts. Retrieved from https://thegoalchaser.com/epictetus-quotes/

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