Bruce hated his work as Operations Officer at a large bank. He especially disliked the staid, reserved image he felt compelled to project. However, he lived by the assumption that, "in order to be accepted by my father, I must live up to the 'perfect banker' standard he established." Failure to do so, he reasoned in the absence of any observable behavior, meant he was unworthy as a son.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> Karla had been a successful attorney until she married Tim and found herself with an instant family of one husband, three children, two dogs and a hamster. She had always assumed that, "in order to be accepted as a fulfilling woman I must marry and have a family." Thus, she was living her idealized version of the perfect mother and wife. When her own baby was born, she let her career dissolve, forcing herself to be a patient, giving, ever-attentive super-mother and wife. For to not have done so, she concluded, would have left her feeling ashamed; a failure as a homemaker.
 At age thirty, Janet was a thoughtful intellectual woman who enjoyed reading philosophy and writing poetry. She preferred conservative dress and a generally unobtrusive style. However, she also assumed that, "to be happy, I must be accepted by ALL people at ALL times!" Believing that certain individuals might consider her an unacceptable bore, she began wearing flamboyant clothes and adopting a flirtatious manner. She found her friends from "party people", who were a majority in her neighborhood and totally disinterested in philosophy or good conversation.
 These people have something in common. Life has them square by the... irrational beliefs. They have sacrificed their true beliefs (those that confirm or "match" their behaviors), in service of irrational, self-defeating standards of how they "ought" to behave. As a result, they are just going through the motions of living; unhappily ever after. How often have you found yourself doing the same? Do you maintain any of the faulty assumptions that were suggested, last week? (If you missed it, rather than believing you are inept, allow yourself to experience "curiosity", and go find a copy). If so, they may be causing disharmony between what you do and what you would rather do. In order to live more harmoniously with yourself, it is useful to replace some of your irrational beliefs with more rational ones. A few suggestions are in order:

  • 1- Make a list of all the behaviors you perform by categories-- i.e., "work", "family", "recreation", etc.-- that you really do not enjoy doing. Bruce would rather not wear a tie and jacket and speak in a monotone voice; Karla, having become a wife and mother, disliked having to please everyone in the family (in a variety of specific ways) except herself; and disliked abandoning her law practice in order to do so. Janet disliked running around in flamboyant clothing, flirting and partying.
  • 2- Pay exquisite attention to what you tell yourself on the "inside" to be reasons for your undesirable behavior-- i.e., your unconfirmed, irrational beliefs! How do they not match what you observe on the "outside" from people? What do you think will result if you don't behave as you supposedly "should?" For example, from what you observe about an individual and your own behavior, must you constantly please that person in order to earn his love, as you believe? Are marriage and children, by your observations, truly the ultimate yardstick of fulfillment? Does your success solely depend on what others think? If you fail to act according to these irrational beliefs, do you then chastise yourself?
  • 3- Actively challenge your irrational beliefs by creating "doubt." Consider how you internally represent these beliefs. If a little voice contributes to the irrational thought, change the tone, rhythm and pitch of that voice. Play music behind it. How do these shifts alter the belief? Does your irrational belief contain an internal picture? Change it. Make a "still shot" a movie. If its in color, go to black and white; if large, reduce it; bright, make it dimmer. Run the movie forward much faster--then as a cartoon! Run the entire scene backwards! If feeling is associated with the irrational belief, change it by making a new feeling from an entirely different experience, while running the belief (i.e., remember a time when you felt confident about something?).
  • 4- As you create sufficient doubt for each irrational belief, replace it with a more rational one, and try on a new behavior that blends harmoniously with each new belief. Dare to risk change and something nice may happen!