The Three Majors Musts

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.

  1. Summary
    1. Inflexible
    2. Places unrealistic expectations on oneself
    3. Over-concern with others' opinion of oneself
    4. Self-worth measured by achievement and popularity
    5. Non-self-accepting
  2. Sub-beliefs
    1. I must have love and approval from everybody.
      1. I need someone to love me.
      2. I must not do anything that would cause others to think less of me.
    2. I must be competent and successful.
      1. I must have an important skill or talent.
    3. I must successfully avoid unpleasant or undesirable situations.
      1. Unpleasant and undesirable situations upset me.
        1. I can't control my emotions in difficult situations.
    4. I must avoid dangerous or life-threatening situations.
      1. If I do encounter such situations, I must worry about them to make them go away.
    5. I must think, feel and act the same as I always have.
      1. My past has such a strong influence on me that I cannot change.
    6. I must find order, certainty, and predictability in life.
      1. If I don't find these things, I cannot feel comfortable or act competently.
    7. I must depend on other people because I can't depend on myself.
      1. I must rely on superstition and religion especially in difficult times.
    8. I must understand the secrets of the universe.
      1. I cannot be happy unless I understand the nature and secrets of the universe.
    9. I must rate myself as either "good" and "worthy," or "bad" and "worthless."
      1. To be "good," and "worthy," I must be competent, successful and popular.
      2. If I am not competent, successful or popular then I am "bad" and "worthless."
    10. I must never feel depressed, anxious or enraged.
  3. Emotional Consequences
    1. Depression
    2. Anxiety and/or panic
    3. Self Downing
  4. Behavioral Consequences
    1. Risk-avoidance
    2. Shyness
    3. Procrastination
    4. Unassertiveness
    5. Workaholism

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

  1. Summary
    1. Inflexible and unrealistic
    2. Assumes one's authority over others
    3. Assumes a clear-cut difference between right and wrong
    4. Assumes one's ability to inerrantly differentiate between right and wrong
    5. Places oneself at the center of the universe with others catering to one's needs and wants
    6. Leads to conflict with others who also see themselves as the center of the universe
    7. Non-accepting of human fallibility
  2. Sub-beliefs
    1. Everybody should treat everyone else (especially me) in a fair and considerate manner.
      1. If they act unfairly or inconsiderately, they are no good.
      2. If they act unfairly or inconsiderately, they deserve to be punished.
        1. Society or the universe must ensure that they get the punishment they deserve.
    2. Other people must not act incompetently or unwisely.
      1. If they act incompetently or unwisely, they are worthless idiots.
      2. If they act incompetently or unwisely, they should be ashamed of themselves.
      3. If they act incompetently or unwisely, they should expect none of the good things in life.
    3. Talented people must use their talent.
      1. Everyone must reach their potential.
      2. People who don't live up to their potential have little or no value as human beings.
    4. Other people must not criticize me.
      1. If they unjustly criticize me, they are no good and don't deserve anything good to happen to them.
  3. Emotional Consequences
    1. Anger, rage or fury
    2. Impatience
    3. Bitterness
    4. Resentment
  4. Behavioral Consequences
    1. Aggression and violence
    2. Bigotry and intolerance
    3. Bullying
    4. Nagging

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

  1. Summary
    1. Inflexible and unrealistic
    2. Over-estimates one's right to a trouble-free life
    3. Under-estimates one's ability to cope with adversity
    4. Non-accepting of life's vagaries
  2. Sub-beliefs
    1. Things must go the way I want them to go.
      1. I need what I want.
        1. It's awful if I don't get what I want.
    2. I must constantly worry about life's predicaments.
      1. I must control, avoid or change life's predicaments.
      2. I must make myself upset over life's predicaments.
        1. Making myself upset gives me the power to control, avoid or change life's predicaments.
    3. I must avoid, rather than face and deal with, life's difficulties and responsibilities.
      1. I must not be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable.
      2. I cannot discipline myself.
      3. I can't stand the present pain that is necessary for future gain.
    4. It must be easy to change things that I don't like.
      1. Difficulties must not exist.
      2. I am powerless to change my circumstances.
        1. Any effort to change my circumstances is pointless because it is doomed to fail.
    5. Justice, fairness, equality, democracy and other "right" values must prevail.
      1. I can't stand it when my values are trodden on.
    6. All problems must have a perfect solution.
      1. The perfect solution to all problems must be found.
        1. It's awful if a perfect solution can't be found to my problems (or those of people I care about).
    7. I must not die prematurely.
      1. I should be able to live forever.
      2. It's terrible that I will one day die and no longer exist.
      3. It's terrible that people I love will one day die and no longer exist.
    8. My life must have meaning and purpose.
      1. a.     If I can't create meaning or purpose for myself, the universe or something supernatural must provide it for me.
    9. I must not experience depression, rage or anxiety.
      1. I must not have psychological problems.
        1. I must not be institutionalized.
        2. I couldn't stand to be institutionalized.
        3. I could never recover if I went "crazy."
  3. Emotional Consequences
    1. Low frustration tolerance
    2. Self-pity
    3. Depression
    4. Discomfort anxiety
  4. Behavioral Consequences
    1. Procrastination
    2. Shirking
    3. Drug and alcohol abuse
    4. Overindulgence in "feel good" behaviors (e.g., overeating)

About The Author:

Will Ross — is the webmaster and co-founder of; he tutors REBT self-helpers and is the author and publisher of online REBT self-help materials.



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