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"Shoulds" and "Claims" in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy


Albert Ellis's (pp. 16-17) core concept of "musts" undoubtedly has its origin in Karen Horney's tyrannical shoulds and neurotic claims. According to the REBT theory of human disturbance, we "foolishly raise our strong goals, desires, and preferences, into unrealistic, overgeneralized, self- (and social-) sabotaging absolutistic shoulds, oughts, musts, and commands, most of which come under three main categories (with almost innumerable subheadings):

1. Self-demandingness. "I, myself, absolutely must, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well!) and win the approval (or complete love!) of significant others. If I fail in these important—and sacred!—respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer." This ego-oriented form of demandingness often, when blocked, leads to strong feelings of self-hatred, anxiety, depression, and suicidalness and to dysfunctional behaviors like procrastination, withdrawal, and obsessiveness.

2. Other-demandingness. "You, significant people with whom I relate or associate, absolutely must, under practically all conditions and at all times, treat me nicely, considerately, and fairly. Otherwise, it is terrible and you are rotten, bad, unworthy people who will always treat me badly and do not deserve a good life and should be severely punished for acting so abominably to noble me!" This other-directed form of demandingness often leads to strong feelings of anger, rage, fury, hurt, jealousy, and self-pity and to disruptive behaviors like love addiction, fights, vindictiveness, riots, homicides, feuds, wars, and genocide.

3. World-demandingness. "The conditions under which I live (my environment, the ecology, the economic and political conditions) absolutely must, at practically all times, be favorable, safe, hassle-free, and quickly and easily enjoyable, and if they are not that way it's awful and I can't stand it. I can't ever enjoy myself at all. My life is impossible and hardly worth living!" This form of world-demandingness often leads to low frustration tolerance and strong feelings of self-pity, despair, anger, and depression, and to dysfunctional behaviors like withdrawal, inertia, procrastination, phobias, and addictions."


Core Beliefs in Personality Disorder

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by Wayne Froggatt.



Albert Ellis (1994). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy, Revised and Updated New York: Birch Lane.





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