A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis & Robert Harper


“A discussion of the roots of neurosis is mainly a discussion of distorted thinking. From the point of view of mind/brain as computer, most human beings are innately poor programmers. They seldom succeed in setting themselves up to get along very happily in an imperfect world.” – Ellis and Harper
According to the PN, this book is all about challenging the irrational beliefs that we have and re-programming our software.


“Bottom line: it’s not our life events (Actions) that, themselves, directly disturb us (produce unpleasant emotional Consequences). It’s our irrational demandingness, our shoulds, oughts, and musts (Beliefs), that largely do the job.” – Ellis and Harper
Action -> Belief -> Consequences
It is normal to thank that you feel a certain way because of an action (external force). However, take a deeper look and you will realize that when something happens, you first have to process what happened, what it means to you, and what you should feel, before it becomes a consequence. If you were to intervene during that process and look at it from multiple angles, you will be able to change the outcome of your feelings.


“Let us emphasize that we do not believe that any human can, for any length of time, feel perfectly or completely happy. Your frantic search for a perfect anything, in fact, almost dooms you to misery. You aren’t the kind of animal that achieves perfection in virtually anything—especially perfect happiness. Because of your ever-changing experiences, you are subject to hundreds of irritations, pains, ills, diseases, and stresses. So you can overcome many of your physical and emotional handicaps, as we show in this book. But not all.” – Ellie and Harper
I’ve been viewing the journey to being perfect as the adventure and challenge of my life. Of course I know that I will never reach it, but seeing myself become a better person day in, day out is rewarding.


“Misery, in other words, consists of two fairly distinct parts: (1) desiring, wishing, or preferring that you achieve some goal or purpose and feeling disappointed and irritated when you do not achieve it; and (2) demanding, insisting, commanding, and necessitating that you achieve your goal or purpose and making yourself feel bitter, enraged, panicked, despairing, and self-drowning when you do not.” – Ellis and Harper
Once you are able to internalize that, and even better – once you can see yourself 10 years out and see how this current challenge was merely a bump on the road, you will realize just how little this situation is.


“In the final analysis, however, you’d better make some kind of plunge. Make this plunge experimentally, with the full knowledge that it may work out well—and it may not. If you fail, it will be unfortunate, but rarely catastrophic. And failure doesn’t have anything to do with your intrinsic value as a person. Humans mainly learn by doing and by failing—a fact that you can, without liking it, gratefully accept.” – Ellis and Harper
Such a powerful quote. I’d like to personally highlight that humans mainly learn by doing and by failing. I make it a goal to myself to learn as much as I can as fast as I can by failing as quick as I can. Only then will I know what doesn’t work and what might work.


“All right, it is difficult. But it is also difficult for a blind man to learn to read Braille, a victim of polio to use his muscles again, or a normal person to swing from a trapeze, learn ballet dancing, or play the piano well. Tough! But they—and you—still can do it.” – Ellis and Harper
Look at where you were as an individual when you entered high school to when you entered post secondary, and for those who are past that, when you entered the workforce. Did you see just how much you’ve changed during that time? Now realize that most of those are 4 year intervals! What might seem impossible now does not have to be impossible in the future – but what you need to do is slowly work towards making that happen.


“We can actually put the essence of neurosis in a single word: blaming—or damning. If you would stop, really stop, damning yourself, others, and unkind conditions, you would find it almost impossible to upset yourself emotionally—about anything. Yes, anything.”


“Yes, you acted poorly, and will keep getting unfortunate results if you continue to act that way. But don’t, under any conditions, put down yourself, your entire personhood, for making such errors. Don’t blame or devil-ify yourself in any way, no matter how many times you err. Your acts may be foolish or immoral, but you cannot justifiably be damned or downed, or devil-ified for performing them.”
Nothing will change until you accept what has happened and move on.

My Take Aways

This PN was just full of so many great quotes. Although none of them really resonated with me (mainly because in general I’m just super happy with life), I know so many people that face depression and can’t find a way out. It pains me to see them like that, especially since I have so many ideas to help them out, but I’m still too green to provide them real support. A book like this would definitely help them. That said, I’m going to get this book, read it, and lend it to everyone who needs a little help. If you are a person that I just described and you’re struggling to find a way out, please seriously consider reading this book and reflecting on it. You don’t have to read it all at once – make it the one goal for the coming month to accomplish. You can get a copy of A Guide to Rational Living at Amazon via this link (please note that I will be getting a small amount from Amazon, though it does not affect how much you pay – Amazon just makes less money than if you were to go onto the website yourself). I also suggest you check out the actual Philosopher’s Notes (note they even have courses that consolidate many of the concepts in the books that Brian Joshnson covers and puts them into videos that are really easy to digest). This is the first program that I’ve signed up for and am definitely getting my money’s worth!

Let me know what your thoughts are after reading this book!


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