Thursday, July 26, 2007

Goodbye #1: Farewell Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis: 1913-2007

Some memorable quotes from one of psychology's most brilliant curmudgeons and one of my idols:

"I would have liked having children to some degree, but frankly I haven't got the time to take the kids to the goddamn ballgame."

"Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it's conditional."

"The art of love is largely the art of persistence."

"The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny."

"There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy."

"There's no evidence whatsoever that men are more rational than women. Both sexes seem to be equally irrational."

"We teach people to be flexible, scientific and logical in their thinking and therefore to be less prone to brainwashing by the therapist."

When I discovered Albert Ellis while getting my M.S.W. at Michigan in 1980, it suddenly seemed possible to make sense of human travails -- my own and those of my clients. And he delivered his pungent advice with a puncturing and cleansing humor that was a great relief to me when surrounded by people at Michigan who seemed humorless, elitist and arrogant. A rascal and big-mouth, Ellis founded the school of cognitive behavioral therapy (actually, he called his branch of it "rational emotive behavior therapy") and wrote 78 books. I read the one above from cover to cover and used it daily with clients in my brief three years as a counselor. I applied it to my own tempestuous life as well, and I think it helped. And I daresay I use it today in my teaching.

He is one of my intellectual grandpas, and I'm very grateful for his breathtakingly sensible work.

Below is a photo of Ellis, right, with one of my other heroes, Aaron Beck.

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