STOP Mustabating!

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‘Mustabating’ was a term coined by Albert Ellis, one of two godfathers of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Adams 2009).  His unconventional style would sometimes prove to be contentious at times, especially the televised case of Gloria but on the whole he survived becoming one of history’s most celebrated psychologists (Hergenhahn 2009).

Albert Ellis born in 1913 and died 2007 aged 93.  He was the eldest of three children, his father was a businessman and mother whom according to Ellis was ‘self-absorbed’ suffering from bipolar depression.  Later on in his career he described both parents as emotionally distant and that they did not take care or pay attention to things like the health of the children.  Ellis himself was a sickly child with some hospitalizations for kidney disease, tonsillitis and other infections.  So Ellis being the eldest took it upon himself to be the carer for his siblings (Schultz and Schultz 2008).

Ellis studied for his BA in Business at City College of New York Downtown in 1934 and after a brief period of work then he wrote a piece on human sexuality which then inspired him to follow a career in clinical psychology. He then studied his MA in Clinical Psychology in 1943 at Teachers College, Columbia and then enrolled onto his PhD which he did part time so as to start a private practice.  1947 he graduated with his PhD and at this time believed fully in psycho-analysis as an effective form of treatment. He was in supervision with one of the most prominent psycho analysts of the time, Richard Hulbeck but after some extensive training he began to question psycho analysis and look for alternatives

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Ellis struggled with stuttering and described himself as a ‘total loss’ with dating women.  He then began to create the early form of REBT called Rational Therapy which was influence greatly by a Russian psychologist Alfred Korzybski looking at semantics and later drew upon Buddhism when he developed the concepts of unconditional self, other and life acceptance (Dryden 1991). He highlighted that when we hold a ‘must’ in our mind rigidly that we go further away from the goal. This ‘must’ happen or that ‘must’ be, would get us into trouble and so he coined the term ‘mustabating’ as a way for the public to understand this (Schultz and Schultz 2008).

Famously he used REBT in the form of a therapy exercise to test out some negative predictions and went out in New York City to chat up 100 women.  Even though he did not get a date he found that the prediction “I cannot tolerate the thought of being rejected” to be false, feeling instead very confident and that a burden had been lifted. Indeed he had many sexual liaisons with his longest relationship being 24 years to Janet Wolfe and talked widely about the importance of being sexually free and marrying and divorcing for the right reasons. He worked closely with Alfred Kinsey working as a sexologist and sex therapist encouraging the use of condoms for family planning and prevention of STI’s which was controversial at the time (Coon and Mitterer 2011).

In fact Ellis was a controversial figure with his liberal views on sex with his publication ‘Having Sex without Guilt’ was a major best seller as was the book ‘A Guide to Rational Living’.  And even with the failed TV therapy session with Gloria he managed to stay afloat becoming a major figure in psychology for 6 decades (Hergenhahn 2009).


Adams, B (2009) The psychology companion. Hampshire, England. Palgrave Macmillan

Coon, D., Mitterer, J. (2011) Psychology a journey. Australia. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Dryden, W. (1991) Rational emotive behaviour therapy: A reader (Ed), London, Sage

Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009) An introduction to the history of psychology (6th Edn). Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Schultz, D.P., Schultz, S.E. (2008). A history of modern psychology (9th Edn). Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

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