Albert Ellis was an American clinical psychologist, who became unhappy with the results of psychoanalysis and in the 1950’s developed his own theory on personality after he realised that clients made progress when they changed their way of thinking, He called this Rational emotive therapy, which later became REBT, he continued his work until he died in 2007.
Albert Ellis believed that psychological disturbance wasn’t caused by events that took place in people’s lives, but by the views, beliefs and values that the individual holds. An example of this would be two people having the same experience in life but their emotions or behaviour being completely different. His inspiration came from a 1st century roman philosopher Epictetus who quoted “People are disturbed not by things but the views they take of them”.
Albert believed that emotional and mental distress was caused by 3 important sources, thinking, emotional and behavioural, and that “thinking” was the main cause of this.
He believed there were 2 types of thought, rational thinking which promotes self-fulfilment thinking, it does not cause emotional distress and is very logical, healthy and reasonable whereas Irrational thinking is unhealthy, unreasonable, self-defeating, it is what causes emotional distress, it prevents you from doing things you enjoy, reaching goals and it is often a distortion of the truth, Albert also believed that what he called the “three musts” are all ways of irrational thinking, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
Irrational thinking and Self-defeating behaviour is learnt through events that took place in the past, beliefs and cultures that are passed down from socialisation (Parents, etc.) which become accepted and believed.
It is irrational thinking that creates a person’s own negative emotions and behaviour.