It’s Time to Stop Musterbating

I’m guilty. You?

The hardest part is admitting it. The next hardest part is stopping.

And don’t get all up in arms with me. This is not in any way suggesting you should stop doing that other thing that sounds a lot like musterbating. That’s private. None of my business.

But all of the musterbating I do in my life is slowly killing me. Or not so slowly. And there are no benefits to doing it. Unlike the thing that’s private and none of my business, musterbating is not a tension-reliever (Mom, kids: if you’re reading this, I hope you are laughing and not horrified). Musterbating is a tension-creator. It is one of the biggest sources of emotional disorder in many of our lives.

Yet, most of us are addicted to doing it.


I’m having way too much fun saying that word out loud. Glad I don’t have a parrot.

The term was coined by Albert Ellis, a pioneer of cognitive therapy, who defined musterbating as imposing our musts and shoulds onto reality and making ourselves miserable in the process.

The three basic musts that cause us so much misery, according to Ellis, are:

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

2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.

3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want and I can’t stand it.

Ellis and his proteges contend that the first “must” often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt; the second “must” often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence; and, the third “must” often leads to self-pity and procrastination.

In the 1950s, Ellis created a form of psychotherapy and philosophy of living called REBT (for more info go to,) which is practiced by many therapists today. It sets out to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Ellis contends that although it’s unlikely that we can entirely eliminate the human tendency toward irrational thoughts, we can reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of our irrational beliefs.

I’m banking on that contention because I want to be happy more of the time. We’re only on this earth for a short while. We might as well enjoy the ride. Don’t you agree?



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9 thoughts on “It’s Time to Stop Musterbating

  1. Great word, Sara. It is jarring to consider the number of minor “musts” that could be included in the major categories that Ellis identified? As usual, the thoughts your post stimulates will stay in my head for quite a while to come.

    1. My original post was on a related but different subject, then I came across the word and a whole new concept was born. It means a lot to hear that the thoughts in my posts stay with you for awhile. Thanks for saying so.

  2. I’ve spent so much of my life hung up on #1. In my head, it follows that if #1 happens, then I don’t have to deal with #2 or #3. Ah, the life of the eldest child in an Irish-Catholic family…
    Great post, Sara!

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