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Imperative Thinking

Imperative thinking is dominated by the idea of demands which, according to Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, lie at the very heart of emotional problems.

It is also one of the thinking traps that can stop you from feeling happy or successful.

One of the key signifiers of imperative thinking is the widespread use of words which limit flexibility, including words or phrases like:

  • I must do what I am told.
  • I have to do these things.
  • I really ought to be better at this.
  • I’ve got to put others first.
  • I should be a better person.

When you use these ‘rigid’ imperative words in the things that you say or think to yourself, you reduce the range of choices that you believe you have available.

Do you really have to do what other people tell you to do, or do you actually have a choice?

Imperative Thinking banner - man holding head in frustration

Examples of Imperative Thinking

The use of these imperative thinking styles can lead directly to unhelpful perceptions, for example:

  • You believe that you must have the approval of your friends and work colleagues so your social behaviours become focused on doing what ever it is that gets approval, even if this is at your own personal expense.
  • You believe that as YOU try so very hard to be kind and considerate to other people that others really ought to treat you the same. Unfortunately as people tend to develop their own rules and regulations for how they live their own lives, this can lead you to having unrealistic expectations and feeling hurt or let-down when others don’t behave the way YOU do.
  • You believe that you should never let other people down and as a result tend to put your own needs last and other people needs first. This often leads to stress and anxiety when people don’t put YOU first.

Imperative thinking like this can easily lead to anxiety and stress because they leave you feeling powerless to decide what YOU really want to do.

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Contact Paul

Wolverhampton Psychologist Paul Lee MSc.

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:


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Pluralistic Therapist Joan Lee in Wolverhampton

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07434 776504

or by e-mail at:


Paul Lee MSc.

Psychologist Paul Lee BSc MSc

About Paul

TEL: 07434 776125

Joan Lee D. Hyp.

Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

About Joan

TEL: 07434 776504

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