FRIDAY NIGHT WORKSHOP
March 3rd, 2006
Unsure About Love
"Marcia" is a young woman who not sure she is "in love enough" to marry her partner.
Reading through this, it might appear Dr. Ellis steam-rolled right over this girl, but that wasn't the case.
"Marcia" tended to spend a great deal of time giving each question very long, very serious consideration. Al simply took advantage of the many silences - demarcated in this transcript with ellipsis (...) - to keep chiming in with anecdotes, suggestions, explanations and further questions.
The active-directive approach, if you will...
This demonstration was vintage Ellis - classic REBT.
I've made some changes to the formatting to allow for greater legibility.
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Debbie Joffe: On your behalf and mine it is a great pleasure to welcome the magnificent Dr. Albert Ellis.
Thank you, Debbie. As Debbie's already told you, I've been doing this for 40 years, and will continue tonight and forever!
How about "Marcia?"
What problem would you like to start with?
Right now, I'm having some trouble making a decision about whether or not to pursue a relationship.
Right. So - what are you telling yourself to cause the trouble? It can't trouble you - YOU trouble yourself ABOUT it.
That - I guess that I'm not sure whether or not I'm more committed to the idea of being in love with someone versus being in love with him.
"And I have to be sure"?
Why must you be sure - like NOBODY is when they marry - why MUST you? Not "Why is it preferrential?" You'd like to be sure, but why do you have to BE sure? Why?
I want to know that I'm not going to make a mistake.
So why must you never, never, never make a mistake... and allow me and Debbie to make 'em?
I think in other areas I do make mistakes. And that's okay-
Yeah - but
with this I- I don't...
Suppose you make one! Marry and then divorce. Why is THAT terrible? If you do...I got divorced twice and I'm still alive and kicking.
Well, I guess because I don't want to go into something if that's going to be the outcome. I wouldn't do it if I thought that was going to be the outcome.
But you're never SURE! Why must you be sure, which creates practically all human disturbance?... 'A' -" I want to be sure." -OK. And 'B' - " I gotta be - I gotta be sure!" Why MUST you be?...Where is it written?
I don't know. I don't think I have an answer.
The only thing you're sure of is death. But that's a long way away. Now why must you be sure of marriage?...It's preferrable, but why is it necessary?
I don't know. I don't think -
Give me one reason.
I don't think I want to be wrong about that.
So, why must you be right and never wrong? Never. Why?...Why is it necessary?.......In the A-B-C's of REBT, at 'A', you are in doubt - as everybody is when they marry. They may think they're not, but they really are. And at 'C', they're anxious about it - afraid. Not because of 'A', but because of 'B' - the bullshit you're telling yourself. ONE - "I'd like to be absolutely sure this is the right person for me, and a good marriage" - that's OK - and TWO - "I've GOT to be, I've GOT to be". Then you MAKE yourself anxious. You don't BECOME anxious, you MAKE yourself. You have a choice. Now, I give you the choice of NOT being anxious about anything. If the world comes to an end - un-fuck it - it comes to an end. But it won't... So, how can you change 'I have to be sure, I have to be sure!" into a preference?
I don't think it's that I have to be sure about- I think I struggle with "What is more real to me?". Is it this idea of having this kind of relationship and being in love or is it that I'm REALLY in love with this person - and not this kind of glorified fantasy about -
But again, you're saying, "I have to be sure that I'm REEAALLY, REEAALLY, REEAALLY in love." That would be NICE. But why MUST you be really REALLY sure?...even after you're married, why must you be sure, or that it's a good thing? Why?...He may be a DUD.
I guess I wouldn't want to put myself through that, I guess, pain, if it didn't work.
But nobody wants to, but they very often DO - marry and get divorced - or marry and find out it's 'not for them'. And they survive...suppose I had that problem. I'm about to marry Debbie, and I say, "Oh- I must know, I must know - is it really love? Does she really love me? Do I really love her?" What would you tell ME, to make me un-anxious?.
I have no idea- because I would ask myself the same thing. I think if I don't know, who's gonna know?
Well, you'd have to challenge the question why I MUST - and ask me, "Why MUST you?". And then I'd say, "Oh - I HAVE to, I have to, I have to - it would be awful if I don't". Then what would you tell me?... "I have to be sure!"....Beat me over the head.
I don't know - I guess I would go with "What's the worst that could happen?"
That's right. What's the WORST that could happen? A - he can kill me. And B - we could get a divorce. If he kills me, that's too bad. I'm dead. So let him kill me if he does. But maybe I'll kill him first!...See, you are demanding absolute certainty. And certainty doesn't exist. You just have a high degree of probability that if you marry him, it will be OK. But there's also some degree of probability that it won't be. So you live with that. And you RISK it, risk it, risk it. And if it doesn't work out - you shoot me! Too bad...but you have to decide- either 'yes' or 'no'. Because even if you decide 'no', it's a decision. So you have to make decisions in life. Why not make them and get 'em over with?
[pause] I- I guess I don't think it's that easy. I don't think you 'yes' or 'no' it. I think it's more somewhat of a struggle to figure out why I feel that way.
Everybody is in doubt - if they're honest. There's no certainty. So if they pick 'yes', they're in doubt. It may not work out. If they pick 'no', they're in doubt. It may work out. So, EVERYbody lives with uncertainty, and you'd better damn well LIVE with it. That's the only choice you have. Certainty you DON'T have- so you have UN-certainty. Pick it! Very few people die of uncertainty... I haven't met them yet...But they LIVE by saying, " I can't stand it! It's awful. It's terrible. I must be certain." Then they live miserably, then they get depressed and anxious...So you take a chance. And if it doesn't work out - "Sue me!"...And I'll just remind you - "Well- what d'ya know? Uncertainty."...Plunge in.
And you just apply that? Because I feel like I have this thing - idea- with having family, too. With having children. It's the same uncertainty that I know-
You don't know if the kids will be thugs. They probably WON'T be - because most aren't. But if they are - you visit them in jail! Too bad! So you don't know whether it will work out, you don't know whether the sex will be good, whether the relationship will be good, or the children will be thugs. There's lot's of things you don't know. But you can always ACCEPT them, and live with them. And get, first - unconditional self-acceptance. If YOU make a mistake and marry the wrong people, you say "That's bad- but I'm OK". "I'm ALWAYS OK - even though I picked the wrong partner". Then you accept HIM - "HE'S OK even though he's not for me, he's still a fallible, un-fucked up human , who's OK for him and other people."
And third - "The world is too bad, and has lot's of rotten things in it. But I ACCEPT, accept, accept what I don't like." Now, if you do those three things, you won't be much in doubt. But you have to ACCEPT- not LIKE. You make a mistake - tough!
But why is it just in this aspect of my life? It doesn't really show up anywhere else. In other places I feel like " Yeah, I can face that."
Because this is very important, and we don't want to change the importance. But because you're saying it's important that I pick the right man, then I HAVE to - which is not true. So, it's important. But you can always be happy and human - even when you pick the wrong man and get a divorce three or four times, like many people do. You're divorce doesn't mean that YOU are no good. You're OK - he just was the wrong person. And HE'S OK - He's the wrong person FOR YOU. Too bad, you see. So you imagine the worst- say that it could exist - it may not, but it could. And if it does, I'll live happily WITH it - in spite of it.
Let me give you an emotional, evocative way of DOING this which is called Rational Emotive Imagery. Close your eyes - and imagine the worst. That you decide to marry him, and he turns out to be no good in bed, and no good in relating, and no good as a partner. He's just-not-good-enough. Can you vividly imagine that? Just imagine.....Imagine the worst.
I'm imagining it
And how do you feel - in your heart, in your gut - as you imagine it. What's your honest feeling?
That's OK - to feel sad. It IS sad that you made a mistake. but do you also feel depressed and self-downing for making a mistake? Because you MADE it - it didn't make you. So do you feel depressed and self-downing for making this horrible error? Be honest.
I wouldn't use depressed.
What would you use?
What highly negative feeling would you have?... YOU made a terrible error...Everybody else wants to marry him, but he's not for you. You screwed up. How would you feel about you?
But how would you feel about MISLEADING yourself? You mislead YOURSELF. He didn't mislead you- you did. Now how will you feel about THAT?...Be honest.
All right. Get in touch with that - feel STUPID. IDIOTIC. HORRIBLE. About YOU. NO GOOD for being THAT STUPID. FEEL it. Don't supress it. Don't repress it. don't push it away. FEEL very,very no good. Feel very like a louse, a worm, a no-goodnik. Are you feeling that? - no good.
And now - keeping the same image - you're still screwing up, and he's not doing it. you're doing it. Make yourself feel a healthy feeling of SORRY, DISAPPOINTED, with what you DID, but not sorry and disappointed about YOU. Not no good. And tell me when you feel OK about YOU, "Marcia", but not about what you did. You can do that. Now, do it.
You can change your feeling.
Tell me when you changed your feeling.
I feel like I changed it.
How did you change it?
What I said to myself?
I said," All I could know is what I knew at the time"
That's very good. See, you're able to change your feelings. By changing your thoughts, you change your feeling and your behavior. And by changing your feeling, you change your thoughts and behavior. So, you can change your feelings - and you did it - which is great.
But I want to make sure that you keep it up, because you just did it temporarily. Now, we want you to do it permanently. Now: every day, for the next thirty days - not forever, 30 days - it only took you a minute - get in touch with your feelings. Put yourself down for making this horrible, horrible error. Feel it. Don't suppress it. Then change it the way you just did. and several other coping statements. "Tough! So I'm falliable. I made a mistake. tough! Too damn bad!" and then you'll gradually conciously and unconciously get sorry and disappointed in what you did- which is healthy - but NOT disappointed in you - not putting yourself down.
Now, will you do that for one or two minutes a day for thirty days? Will you do it?
All right. Just to make sure, we'll give you homework. What do you like to do that you do just because you like it? What sort of pleasure?
Read. AFTER you do the Rational Emotive Imagery and change your feelings - then you're allowed to read. What do you hate to do - that you don't do because you hate it?
Right. That always reminds me of Thurber, who said, "Whenever I get an urge to excercise, I lie down until it goes away."
So, every day, for the next 30 days, whenever you DON'T do the Rational Emotive Imagery, make yourself run for an hour or two.
Is there anything about this main problem which we didn't cover?
Debbie Joffe:Is it all right if I describe my observation and ask Dr. Ellis to comment?
When I was observing you, and you listen intensely, and you think - you reflect and ponder. And - one of the things you said at one point, when Dr. Ellis was saying, I think, "Take a plunge", was "It's not as easy as that. I don't think it's that simple. It's not just 'yes' or 'no'". And also at times he was making jokes - not to be flippant or disrespectful, but possibly to give you a broader, maybe wider, perspective. Am I on track so far?
So, Al, it seems that 'Marcia" has a tendency to take things that she thinks are important very, very seriously.
Right. TOO seriously.
So what would you say to that?
That nothing is all-important. Nothing is sacred. Don't give up the importance. keep them as important. but don't make them sacred. And then you'll lighten up and be able to make a decision fairly quickly. And if you make the wrong one, you make the wrong one. Tough.