Thinking Yourself Happy: Three Basic Demands Typical of Neurotic People

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Bonnie grew up expecting life to be simple and easy for her. She came from a wealthy family, attended a small private school, and never had to contend with very much adversity, or even to take care of herself. When she entered college and left her over-protective environment where everyone had pampered her, she fell apart. Now she was expected to make it on her own, to be independent, but Bonnie had no skills ~~ or desire ~~ to face life alone.


Imagine going through life with these three demands: “I must do well,” “Others must treat me well,” and, “I should never have to deal with hardships or difficulties.” Some people actually believe that they should never be caught in a traffic jam, have to wait their turn in line, deal with red tape, or suffer any of life’s small indignities.

The antidote is to abandon all demands. As Dr. Albert Ellis put it, “I now almost always think that it would be better or nicer if I did well, others treated me fairly, and the world proved easy and pleasant. But it doesn’t have to turn out those ways ~~ and that makes quite a difference!”

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Dr. Ellis is one of the most acclaimed, prolific and widely cited authors in the field of clinical psychology. The innovator of a treatment he calls Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Ellis has identified three demands that underlie neurotic functioning.

The first demand ~ “I must do well” ~ is referred to as an “ego mandate.” Simply stated, this means that:

• people often place unduly high expectations on themselves.

They insist that they must always live up to their ideals. “I must do well. I must be successful. I must be competent. I must achieve whatever I am capable of accomplishing. If I do not attain these goals, if I fail to live up to my expectations, I am a miserable failure and deserve the worst.” This kind of thinking is the basis of self-denigration, self-hatred, self-downing and self-abnegation.

The second demand ~~ “Others must treat me well” ~~ shows itself when:

• people hold the unreasonable expectation that others must treat them respectfully, fairly, considerately and decently.

When this fails to occur, or when others are less than kind, courteous and respectful, the person’s rage becomes extreme and the basic sentiment is that the perpetrators deserve nothing but the worst. Such attitudes are behind hatred, anger, hostility and rage.

The third neurotic demand is that “I should never have to deal with hardships or difficulties.”

• People drive themselves crazy believing that other people, circumstances, or the world at large should not disappoint or inconvenience them.

They insist that mother earth should provide them with what they want quickly and easily. Such individuals suffer from low frustration tolerance and tend to magnify any setbacks into major catastrophes.You can easily see how unrealistic and self-defeating these demands are. It takes hard and diligent work to let go of them, but the results fully justify the efforts.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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