No. 3 - The Dirty Dozen 1-6

No. 3 - The Dirty Dozen 1-6

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These False Beliefs Are Guaranteed to Make Your Life Miserable


Introduction to the Dirty Dozen


Albert Ellis compiled the following expectations that can cause various psychological problems in those who live by them. If we want to be happy and have a healthy sense of self-worth we need to identify and eliminate any of the Dirty Dozen that lurks in our subconscious selves.

As you will see, many of our attitudes and expectations lack reason and logic. The main reason for this is we allow our emotions and feelings to determine our reactions and choices, when these may be very different if we lived more by principles and logic. Often we rush in, pushed by our emotions, and make some crazy decisions. Taking the time and calmly considering the situation using logic and reason, could lead to more fruitful outcomes.

Don't worry; there are very few people who could claim they haven't at times acted in accord with any of the Dirty Dozen. In my rational mind, I reject the dirty dozen, but at times my emotional self approves them.


The Dirty Dozen  1-6


1. I must be loved and approved by all significant others.

The word 'must' implies that something bad will happen if anyone I consider 'significant' doesn't 'love and approve' of me, all the time. 'All the time' is implied in the statement. What is this 'something bad'. Usually the 'bad' has to do with my perception of self, i.e. self-worth, self-respect and confidence, are damaged, and I see myself as worthless, useless and unlovable. This kind of thinking can contribute to significant psychological challenges.

How logical is this kind of thinking? It does sound a  bit crazy when everyone perceives and defines love differently. Each of us has a love language. It is even more illogical to expect everyone I care about to always approve of me; we all act out at times.

 To get my feet back on the ground I need to ask the following questions and answer them logically:

  • Do I always show my love to those I value in a way that they will know I love them?
  • Does everyone love in the same way?
  • Are there times when I don't approve of what the significant people in my life do?
  • Are we all faulty and do or say things of which others might disapprove?
  • Do the behaviour and attitudes of others change the person I am?
  • Does everyone feel accepted and happy all the time?

 At times have I behaved as if I identified with this false belief?


2. Everyone should think and believe the way I do (especially those close to me).

Have you ever became irritated, annoyed, combative or angry because you could not convince the other person that you were 'right'? If you have, you lived out, for a  time, this false belief. For some people, the whole world comes to an end if anyone close to them disagrees with you.

The questions to ask ourselves are:

  • "Will everyone see things in the same way?"
  • "Have you ever changed your mind after someone else gave their point of view?"
  • "Are your knowledge and opinions always correct?"
  • Are you the source of eternal wisdom and knowledge?


3. I should never make mistakes or fail.

If I understood that I learned most things by making mistakes, I would not come down hard on myself when I make mistakes or fail. Logic would tell us that no one goes through life without making mistakes; it is my making errors that I learn what not to do next time. It is not reasonable to expect anyone to go through life without making mistakes. Many people don't dare to try something new because they can't do it well the first time, and so they fail to discover their hidden talents. Mostly this kind of behaviour is a result of people determining their self-worth by other people's opinions.

 I need to tell myself, "I will only progress in life if I allow myself to make mistakes. Does a baby learn to walk without falling over? Does anyone become a successful mathematician without getting some sums wrong?" Mistakes are an essential part of making progress physically, mentally and socially.


4. I should never let anyone down (especially those I love).

In a way, this statement says much the same thing as the previous but is socially oriented. The focus here is on the feelings of others while the earlier emphasises self. Have you ever become irritated or angry  with yourself when you:

  • Were late for an appointment.
  • Forget to buy something someone asked you to buy.
  • Broke something belonging to someone else.
  • Ran into another car.
  • Forgot someone's birthday.

If you have, and you felt terrible, you have at that moment this false belief.

The kind of self-talk that is helpful in cases like this sounds like this, "It is inevitable that on some occasions I am going to let down someone close to me. Some of my close friends have let me down at times, and I didn't hold it against them. Sometimes my friends are faulty, and I will allow myself to be human and make mistakes as well.

 As I have swings of emotion, I also have swings of rationality. The same event one day will not cause any concern, but on another day my feelings dictate my response, and I have a bad hair day. I have concluded that life is unpredictable because I am unpredictable. If I am, so are others. I have to accept the fact that some people are more predictable than others. I want people to see me for what I am, warts and all. So, to be reasonable, I should allow others to be themselves and not try to push them into the mould I made for them.


5. My life must be conflict free (especially with those closest).

Oh, if it was possible for this statement to be true, what a beautiful place the world would be!

To live a life that is free from conflict, some people become hermits; then they have to deal with internal strife and the loss of companionship. People often come to desire a stressless life because they have stress overload. It is understandable that as they cannot handle any additional stress at that particular time, they wish to be relieved or all conflict. In this case is not irrational thinking.

To combat the idea that life can be conflict free, I need to keep uppermost in my mind that there are some benefits from experiencing conflict.  Desirable character traits are developed through trials and difficulties, i.e. through stressful situations. Through trials and difficulties, I have improved my social skills, made wiser decisions, learned to avoid certain individuals and did a better job looking after my health.

 I keep telling myself, "I can get along with some people some of the time, but I cannot get along with all the people all of the time. I don't want to get along with some people, so I need to accept the fact that some people don't want to get along with me."


6. I need to be accepted by others at all cost.

This false belief is virtually the same as the first of the Dirty Dozen above.

We all need love and acceptance, but is it sensible to expect that everyone will accept us? Usually, we only experience acceptance when we show acceptance toward others. Many are damaged socially and are very reserved and cautious when they meet people for the first time; some take a long time to thaw out. I have found that when I show acceptance first, people will often return the favour.

I know not everyone will receive me, no matter how friendly I am. I decided to be proactive and get out there and meet people where they are, not expecting many to respond. Now and then I meet someone with whom I 'click. I know some people will ignore me, weirdly look at me or get annoyed, but that's okay, I give people the freedom to choose how they respond to me. If I make eye contact with people, I smile, it's a bonus if they return it. But I have to be cautious not to give people the wrong message; my manner, the time, the place, the circumstances and the type of person need to be appropriate. I keep in mind that everyone has a bad hair day.

 If I don't accept myself, why should others accept me?

Richard Warden


Next Article in this Article Series: No. 4 - The Dirty Dozen 7-12

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