Can Stoicism Help Tame Frustration?

frustrationFrustration is not a foreign concept.  We have all experienced it — some more than others and for a variety of reasons.  But does this mean that frustration is an inevitability?   According to Albert Ellis — founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy — the answer is no.

While it is important to allow space for our emotions (frustration included), often times  our frustrations arise and/or are exacerbated by faulty or irrational beliefs that creep their way into our thinking processes (Dr. Elliot D. Cohen — Ellis’ student & founder of Logic-Based Therapy, a philosophical variant of CBT/REBT and modality of philosophical counseling — refers to these as ‘supressed’ irrational beliefs…not to be confused with Freud’s ‘repressed’ beliefs). According to Ellis:

If you understand how you upset yourself by slipping into irrational shoulds, oughts, demands, and commands,unconsciously sneaking them into your thinking, you can just about always stop disturbing yourself about anything. – Albert Ellis

Interestingly (though not coincidentally), this sentiment is not far removed from one of Stocism’s main messages. Namely, you don’t get frustrated (or angry, or sad, or any other feeling for that matter) because of events.  You get frustrated because of your beliefs about the events.

People are disturbed not by things, but by the views they take on them. – Epictetus

Ellis used this Stoic concept when he developed CBT/REBT and provided a method for individuals to analyze their thoughts and feelings, identify how shoulds, oughts, demands and commands affect our beliefs, and…ultimately several means to change one’s beliefs (as applicable).  In this article, Eric Barker — writer for Wired Magazine — discusses how Ellis’ theory can be applied to taming frustrations.  Read more…

NOTE:  In a conversation had with Dr. Cohen about Logic-Based Therapy (a modality used by many philosophical practitioners), we raised the question about rational frustrations, rational sadness, rational anger, etc.  as it seemed that there were many examples of feelings that were epistemically justified and without faulty/irrational components.  Though it is unclear whether or not Ellis held this to be the case, Cohen does allow for the possibility of rational feelings (frustration included) that do not involve faulty beliefs (or irrational thinking).

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