The Three Major “Musts”

“Everyone knows that the yielding overcomes the stiff,

and the soft overcomes the hard.

Yet no one applies this knowledge.” 

― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

We all express ourselves differently, but the irrational beliefs that upset us can be placed under three major headings. Each of these core beliefs contains an absolutistic must or demand. These three majors musts can be summarized as follows:

I. I must do well and win the approval of others or else I am no good.

This type of distorted thinking places unrealistic expectations on oneself, an over-concern with others’ opinion of oneself. Ones self-worth measured by achievement and popularity

The Sub-beliefs

  • I must have love and approval from everybody.
  • I need someone to love me.
  • I must not do anything that would cause others to think less of me.
  • I must be competent and successful.
  • I must have an important skill or talent.
  • I must successfully avoid unpleasant or undesirable situations.
  • To be “good,” and “worthy,” I must be competent, successful and popular.

The Emotional Consequences

  • Depression
  • Anxiety and/or panic
  • Self Downing

The Behavioral Consequences

  • Risk-avoidance
  • Shyness
  • Procrastination
  • Unassertiveness
  • Workaholism

II.     Other people must do “the right thing” or else they are no good and deserve to be punished.

The type of distorted thinking assumes one’s authority over others, assumes a clear-cut difference between right and wrong and assumes one’s ability to in-errantly differentiate between right and wrong. It places oneself at the center of the universe with others catering to one’s needs and wants. It leads to conflict with others who also see themselves as the center of the universe. 

The Sub-beliefs

  • Everybody should treat everyone else (especially me) in a fair and considerate manner.
  • If they act unfairly or inconsiderately, they are no good.
  • If they act unfairly or inconsiderately, they deserve to be punished.
  • Society or the universe must ensure that they get the punishment they deserve.
  • Other people must not act incompetently or unwisely.
  • If they act incompetently or unwisely, they are worthless idiots.
  • If they act incompetently or unwisely, they should be ashamed of themselves.
  • If they act incompetently or unwisely, they should expect none of the good things in life.
  • Talented people must use their talent.

The Emotional Consequences

  • Anger, rage or fury
  • Impatience
  • Bitterness
  • Resentment

The Behavioral Consequences

  • Aggression and violence
  • Bigotry and intolerance
  • Bullying
  • Nagging

III.   Life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience.

This type of distorted thinking pattern over-estimates one’s right to a trouble-free life and under-estimates one’s ability to cope with adversity.

The Sub-beliefs

  • Things must go the way I want them to go.
  • I need what I want.
  • It’s awful if I don’t get what I want.
  • I must constantly worry about life’s predicaments.
  • I must control, avoid or change life’s predicaments.
  • I must make myself upset over life’s predicaments.
  • Making myself upset gives me the power to control, avoid or change life’s predicaments.
  • I must avoid, rather than face and deal with, life’s difficulties and responsibilities.
  • I must not be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable.
  • I cannot discipline myself.

The Emotional Consequences

  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Self-pity
  • Depression
  • Discomfort anxiety

The Behavioral Consequences

  • Procrastination
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Overindulgence in “feel good” behaviors (e.g., overeating)

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