If you’ve studied Ellis, his model, and the man himself, you might not immediately pair him with the concept of mindfulness. For those of you unfamiliar with Albert Ellis, I’ve included an excerpt from an interview done with him by Thinking Allowed Productions entitled A Guide to Rational Living so you can also be in on the joke, if you will. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyRE-78g_z0
With his no-nonsense approach and use of “strong language,” Ellis hardly seems to be an advocate for mindfulness. But he actually lays the groundwork for merging the fundamental tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and those of mindfulness. You see, in the purest form of CBT, one only focuses on the activating event, our belief about the event, and the consequence we cause as a result of our belief. Change your belief and you’re good to go. Very clinical, very precise, with little room for exploring the actual emotion. When I was in training we jokingly referred to it as “snap out of it” therapy. While it is a very accurate and efficient model for treating specific disorders, treatment using this model does not focus on the hows and whys of our belief systems. By failing to do so, patients are often left with improvement in specific behaviors or situations, but the crux of the issue remains and often resurfaces in different arenas. You may have heard the term “dry drunk.” This is a great example of someone who has ceased to engage in a specific behavior, has not dealt with the underlying emotions that they chose to subdue with alcohol, and now pacify them with other, possibly just as harmful and ineffective behaviors. The fact of the matter is, sometimes you develop a belief from a real or actual threat or situation you have experienced. While the ABC model can teach you to not respond to certain stressors in certain ways, it does not help you to actually explore and resolve the emotions you have regarding the traumas you have experienced. As gruff as he seems at first glance, Albert Ellis paved the way for this by developing his model of Rational-Emotive Therapy. Here’s a link to a recorded session he had with an actual patient if you are interested in how he utilized RET in treatment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odnoF8V3g6g
Interestingly, for as kind and soft and gentle as mindfulness sounds, it really isn’t any gentler in the long run than an interview with Albert Ellis, it just approaches the topic from a different angle. Like Ellis, mindfulness encourages a direct and honest assessment of a situation, one’s role in that situation, and one’s emotions regarding that situation. During any meditation or other mindful activity, one is not expected to suppress or deny one’s emotions, but to sit with and openly acknowledge them. For as soothing as these activities may sound, it is not at all uncommon for people to cry while meditating, practicing yoga or engaging in other mindfulness-based activities. By allowing themselves to be open, they will encounter the pains and scars from the past. Then, as Ellis suggests, they have the opportunity to openly and objectively view those situations, refute any incorrect emotions they have developed, own responsibility for the strength they have given those situations or emotions, and create new, healthier perspectives.
This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.