s Lenny Bruce: Get Over It! Stop Whining!
By DAN HURLEY
n a recent Friday evening, nearly 200 people came to the
Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan to watch a master
performance — call it stand-up psychotherapy — by a
As he has on nearly every Friday night for more than 30
years, Dr. Albert Ellis, the 90-year-old psychologist who
invented rational emotive behavioral therapy and wrenched
psychotherapy out of the age of Freud and into the age of
Dr. Phil, was demonstrating his no-nonsense,
confrontational, obscenity-laden technique before a packed
house on East 65th Street.
"Do you know why your family is trying to control you?" he
asked a volunteer who joined him at the front of the room.
"Because they're out of their minds," he said, adding an
unprintable adjective between "their" and "minds."
Another volunteer, Kristin Bell, spoke of her sister who had
been killed by a drug dealer eight years before. "Why can't
you understand that some people are crazy and violent and
do all kinds of terrible things?" Dr. Ellis asked. "Until you
accept it, you're going to be angry, angry, angry."
It is Dr. Ellis's conviction that people can always rationally choose to change and that a
psychotherapist's job is to nudge them, gently or otherwise, in the right direction. That
view has defined his career and has helped usher in an emphasis on quick results over
Even so, his exhortations to give up anger did not prevent him, less than an hour later,
from shouting, "Get out, get out, get out!" when his path out of the room and into the
elevator to his penthouse apartment was blocked by the crowd.
"I wasn't upset," he insisted later. "I'm just very firm. I was determined to get them the
hell out of the way."
Dr. Ellis has, throughout his life, been firmly determined to let nothing stand in his way,
not the critics who have derided him and his methods, not the gastrointestinal infection
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(May 2, 2004)
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