Dear Readers,

This is my first time. My first time writing to you, for you, hoping that this begins a healthy connection in which some or much of what I share informs, stimulates, enhances, provokes. Perhaps at times it might also delight! Any and all of the above would be in service of my strong wish and intention. Briefly put, this is that through sharing my thoughts, beliefs, personal experiences, discoveries, epiphanies, and selective professional findings from credible journals and other such sources, you may contemplate them and, in so doing, benefit from thinking about your own thinking and beliefs. And that you also question them! It is my hope that, in-so-doing, you will—as a consequence—suffer less emotional upset when things you don’t prefer do happen. It is also my hope that you will experience more joy and satisfaction that comes from refusing to be swayed by beliefs you have never substantially questioned and also from refusing to be swayed by consensus opinions that you may have assumed to be facts and haven’t bothered to examine clearly and objectively.

Perhaps you already know a bit about my work and life from reading the biographical material attached to the Psychology Today blog, or from other sources. I consider what I do less ‘work’ in the mundane sense of the word, and more my life’s activity, which provides great meaning and fulfillment to me. It is my passion, and at times it feels like a mission. The approach created by my husband, the late, great and astonishing icon in the field of psychology and elsewhere—Albert Ellis Ph.D., which is the approach I continue to teach and write about, is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. REBT for short. I not only use it in my counseling, lectures, workshops and writings—I also attempt to live it. For REBT is not only a powerful and empowering no-nonsense evidence-based therapeutic approach, but also a way of life and living. REBT is not only a great problem solving device, but is also a philosophy and attitude imbued with compassion, kindness and encouragement. REBT reminds us to work towards experiencing greater unconditional acceptance — in the best and the worst of times. It asserts that it is not what happens to us that creates resultant emotions—but what we tell ourselves about what happened that creates the emotions. REBT informs us that when we think in healthy rational ways in response to not getting what we want—or to getting what we don’t want—we create healthy and non-debilitating emotions. REBT reminds us that each one of us is responsible for creating our own emotional destiny. Of course we take into account biological factors that may impact a person’s ability to apply such principles, but by and large for people with adequate cognitive function, and self-awareness, there comes the choice about thinking about our thinking. As a result, we can actively choose to adopt healthy attitudes, thereby creating healthy emotions and behaviors.

My husband practiced what he preached during times of intense adversity, and I do my best to do so too—for if I did not, I would feel like a hypocrite, and that is not a role I choose to play in my life. REBT is arguably the most holistic of approaches in the fields of counseling psychology and psychotherapy, and it motivates and fulfills me to live according to its tenets, and to share them.

But please don’t think you will get loads of theory shoveled your way in my Psychology Today writings. I intend to stick to discussing topics and issues that may affect each of us in our various places and stages in life. I want to provide you with words of interest, and practical offerings, hopefully expressed in non-boring ways!

In what I have just shared about REBT I have simply presented to you the roots of my thinking, which in no way preclude respecting and applying other life enhancing doctrines and approaches. Rigidity and fanatical clinging to one and only one approach is avoided!

So—there’s the body of ‘my first time’ blogging—I hope it has aroused some curiosity and interest. And to conclude—here is an invitation.

Starting today, until—at the very least—the time that your eyes take in the offerings of my second time, I invite you to seek out and read so-called uplifting clichés and platitudes: with skepticism. For example:

“It will all be for the best”.

The last thing I would want to do is rob you of hope and optimism, so before any rush to judgement—consider the purpose of my suggestion!

When we succumb to thinking in overgeneralizing and Pollyanna-ish ways—we set ourselves up for a fall. If we expect and demand good outcomes from a tough situation, and they do not eventuate, there is the danger that we will succumb to depression by thinking along the lines of believing that things in life never work out. We may decide that all of life is awful; or we may create rage by our railing against that which we could not change.

Does it not serve us better to hope for the best, but not to assume it will be so, and to remind ourselves that we have the ability to experience great resilience even if things don’t work out for good—and that it doesn’t mean that all of life is bad when some bad things happen—and that we can indeed stand what we don’t like?

Healthy optimism and realistic thinking do not dampen hope. Instead they prevent false expectations and debilitating responses when firm expectations and demands don’t manifest.

Essentially in my invitation, I am inviting you to think about what you think.

Will you take me up on it?

So here concludes my first time. Felt good to me.

Hope it was good for you too, and that we enjoy more blog times in times ahead!

About the Author

Debbie Joffe Ellis

Debbie Joffe Ellis, MDAM, Licensed Australian psychologist and Licensed New York Mental Health Counselor, teaches at Columbia University in NYC.

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