Albert Ellis Quotes

A Selection of Quotations by Albert Ellis

Image: By permission of Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis,

Albert Ellis was an influential psychologist perhaps best known as one of the founding father's of cognitive behavioral therapy and his own approach to psychotherapy known as rational emotive behavior therapy. He was also a prolific writer, publishing more than 75 books on topics including therapy, sex, and anger.

The following are just a few selected quotations by Albert Ellis.

  • “The trouble with most therapy is that it helps you to feel better, but you don’t get better. You have to back it up with action, action, action.” The New York Times, 2004
  • “People don't just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness. They always have the power to think, and to think about their thinking, and to think about thinking about their thinking, which the goddamn dolphin, as far as we know, can't do. Therefore they have much greater ability to change themselves than any other animal has, and I hope that REBT teaches them how to do it.” – Psychology Today, 2001
  • "The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny."
  • “Practically all humans are born very gullible or teachable, especially in the course of their childhood, and consequently they accept many kinds of ideas, feelings, and actions that their parents and other caretakers tell them are beneficial and often reward them for believing, feeling, and behaving.”
  • “Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they're alive and human.”
  • “The art of love is largely the art of persistence.”
  • “To help people gain unconditional self-acceptance and to believe that they are okay or are good just because they exist had better be taught to all children in the course of their schooling, from early childhood onward.”
  • “We teach people that they upset themselves. We can't change the past, so we change how people are thinking, feeling and behaving today.”
  • “The emotionally mature individual should completely accept the fact that we live in a world of probability and chance, where there are not, nor probably ever will be, any absolute certainties, and should realize that it is not at all horrible, indeed—such a probabilistic, uncertain world.”
  • “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well.  And the world must be easy.”
  • “Life is indeed difficult, partly because of the real difficulties we must overcome in order to survive, and partly because of our own innate desire to always do better, to overcome new challenges, to self-actualize. Happiness is experienced largely in striving towards a goal, not in having attained things, because our nature is always to want to go on to the next endeavor.” - The Art & Science of Rational Eating, 1992
  • “If people stopped looking on their emotions as ethereal, almost inhuman processes, and realistically viewed them as being largely composed of perceptions, thoughts, evaluations, and internalized sentences, they would find it quite possible to work calmly and concertedly at changing them.”
  • “The emotionally sound person should be able to take risks, to ask himself what he really would like to do in life, and then to try to do this, even though he has to risk defeat or failure. He should be adventurous (though not necessarily foolhardy); be willing to try almost anything once, just to see how he likes it; and look forward to some breaks in his usual life routines.”

Learn more about Albert Ellis:


Epstein, R. (2001, Jan. 01). The prince of reason. Psychology Today. Retrieved from