Tag Archives: belief

The Obituary of Albert Ellis

(originally published in the Obituary Section of The Guardian on August 10, 2007)

Albert Ellis (1913-2007)

Shyness was among the many problems successfully treated by the American psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who has died aged 93. But it was not an affliction that it was wise to bring along to his legendary Friday night workshops, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side: there, patients were hauled up on stage in front of an audience of hundreds, to be rigorously cross-questioned by Ellis, usually with plenty of swearing. “Let me tell you why people are always making you so angry,” he informed a troubled young woman, one warm evening in 2005. “Because they’re screwed up! They’re out of their fucking minds! We’re all out of our fucking minds!”

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A Brief Survey of Step Four

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

In the essay, On Human Nature, three basic human instincts — the survival instinct, the social instinct, and the happiness instinct — are described as the foundation of all cognition, behavior and emotion.  Though the means by which we endeavor to satisfy these innate end objectives vary greatly by individual and by society, the most common manifestations thereof were first noted by the renowned psychologist, Andrew Maslow.  In a 1943 article entitled A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow proposed a universal hierarchy of instrumental needs which exist as means to satisfy instinctual end objectives.

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On Human Nature

Discourse on human nature tends to focus on those natural characteristics which appear to distinguish humans from other forms of life. The general theme is usually anthropocentric and goes something like “that which makes us different is that which defines our humanity.”  While comparing differences is informative in some contexts, it is an exercise that is too often undertaken as a means to demonstrate a special, preordained standing in nature for mankind and moral supremacy.  In fact, the essence of human nature is not that which sets us apart from or above other forms of life, but those characteristics which we share in a common evolutionary history.

It is along this continuum that core human operational modules — such as survival, socialization, and the pursuit of happiness — have developed by natural selection.  Thus, it is from the broad perspective of unity and inclusion that human nature is best described and from which an understanding of morality may be gained.

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My Personal Second Step

STEP 2:  We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The belief I found in Step Two gives me hope for recovery.

While the First Step left me in a position of  defeat and subsequent surrender, it is in the Second Step that I am given the opportunity to embrace the hope of recovery.  It is now that I can begin to shift my beliefs from reliance on self to reliance on a way of living that has proven to bring peace and happiness in the lives of others.  Taking the Second Step gave me the opportunity to explore the insanity of my addiction, the concept of belief, the potential for my  own restoration to sanity, and to begin to conceive of a power, or powers, greater than myself.

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Believing Again

Aristotle and Plato engage in philosophical discussion.

To say that the human mind is complex is a vast understatement.  Cognitive functions such as believing, hoping, and desiring are intertwined and interrelated to such an extent that each resists reduction to simple explanation.  The relationships between these processes are at times unilateral, and at times multilateral; parallel at times and perpindicular at others.

Further complicating matters is the nexus which forms between multiple disciplines when  studying the workings of the human mind.  The principles of philosophy, psychology, sociology, logic, and linguistics all come to bear with equally convincing force upon the subject.  Notwithstanding these and other limiting factors, the concept of belief is explored.

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