Stop musterbating!

Spring clean your most important organ —your brain

By Marie Kouthoofd


The No. 1, quintessential, most important cleanse you will ever need.

In the age of fad diets, body cleanses and rejuvenating health hacks, it’s hard to know which way to go. This spring, why not try something new?

How about a technique that promises to minimize suffering and maximize joy?

Does this sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Great success has come to those who conquer this one stumbling block.

What is this coup de grace, end-all be-all remedy?

Here it is: You absolutely, positively must stop “musterbating.”

Yes, you read that correctly, STOP MUSTERBATING!

Dr. Albert Ellis (1913-2007) introduced the term musterbation to the field of psychology in 1955.

According to Ellis, if you believe you or the world has to (or must) be other than it is, then you my friend are a “musterbater.”

We are stuck in traffic and we say to ourselves, “I can’t stand this.”

We get in an argument with our partner and we yell, “You always do this!”

A politician acts a certain way and we lament, “Politicians should not act that way!”

Reality check

People will cut us off in traffic. Our partner, at some time, will be short with us. Politicians will be politicians and people will continue to act any way they want. To believe or demand otherwise, will only create instability and frustration.

We all live by a certain life philosophy, a set of rules to bring order to an otherwise chaotic world. When our life philosophy is flexible and harmonious with our environment, all is good.

Conversely, when we begin to expect and demand our selves and others to live by our standards, we are on the road to musterbation.

We all know what happens to avid musterbaters, don’t we? They live a frustrated, angry, unhappy existence.

Our thoughts and beliefs create our reality. Each thought we have is a practice session for our future thoughts.

Cleanse your mind

How often do you lament, “I can’t stand this” or “this is driving me crazy”?

Perhaps you’re the “it’s horrible” or “this is killing me” type?

Ellis would tell you to dispute the lie. Stop lying to yourself and start speaking the truth.

Is it really killing you, or is it uncomfortable?

Is the whole state of affairs horrible or do you dislike it?

Should you or others act in a certain way or would you prefer that to be so?

Eliminate extremes like awful, horrible, killing me, can’t stand, never and always. Try to stick with objective, justifiable, rational and flexible preferences such as “I prefer,” “I dislike,” or “I’d rather.”

Give it a try

Take a look at the below statements. Which seems less rigid and hence evokes a more rational emotive response?

“I can’t stand your behavior” versus “I don’t like your behavior.”

“You should not act that way” versus “I’d rather you didn’t act that way.”

“I hate being cut off in traffic” versus “it’s frustrating when I get cut off in traffic.”

Can you see how the latter statement or appraisal might leave you feeling a bit more balanced and a little more in control?

Musterbation turnaround

My husband and I went on a hike together a while back. At the mouth of the trail, a man had his car temporarily standing while unloading passengers.

As the passengers exited the vehicle, another driver began erratically and excessively honking. Although the standing car was not blocking the honking man’s vehicle, he seemed infuriated by the situation.

At the finale of his car horn symphony, he exited his car, approached the driver of the standing car and angrily barked, “This is a turnaround!”

The driver of the standing car looked at the disgruntled man, paused and remarked, “Yep, so turn around.”

In this example, each individual clearly demonstrated his philosophy or belief system for this situation.

Can you guess which one was the musterbater?

One exhibited a more flexible notion about turnaround etiquette, while the disgruntled man had a clear belief that the turnaround should be used solely for its named purpose.

His musterbatory rules:

— You should not use the turnaround for anything other than turning around.
— You have to adhere to the rules.
— If you do not follow the rules, you will make me angry.
— This rule MUST not be broken.

Did you catch me musterbating in this example?

Just by the way I wrote my description, it is clear I am not a fan of excessive horn blowing.

My musterbatory rules:

— It irritates me to no end.
— I can’t stand it when people lay on their horns.
— People should not abuse their horns.
— Horns MUST not be used in this way!

Get the point? Your thoughts create your emotions.

If you’re unhappy about how you feel or act in any given situation, then change the way you think. Kick off this spring with real change.

Cleanse your mind and change your world.

Cleanse the most important organ you possess — your brain — and for goodness sakes, do yourself a favor and stop musterbating.

Innovative thinker

Ellis, a native New Yorker and known by many as the father of rational emotive behavior therapy, held a master’s degree and doctorate in clinical psychology.

A mover and shaker of his time, his humorous and provocative approach to therapy took the field of clinical psychology by surprise.

Had you acquired Ellis’s services in the mid-1950s, you may have been diagnosed with a bad case of “I can’t standitis” or be surprised to find your struggling with the “Chicken Little syndrome.”

Then there were the “shouldisms,” a daily habit of “shoulding” all over yourself. Finally, he may have noted your repeated “awefulizing.” Ellis theorized that situations, people or places did not cause emotional upset; rather, it was the individual’s belief about the above said conditions.

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