Modal Operators (Meta-Model)

Modal operators make a must out of a preference. Albert Ellis, developer of rational emotive therapy, focused on this one a great deal. People cause themselves a lot of suffering with modal operators, because, when the “must” is not achieved, they feel like some horrible injustice has taken place. It distracts them from finding creative solutions and enjoying life as it is.

If a client says, “I must have that woman, but she likes my friend,” you might say, “It sounds like something really awful will happen if you don’t get her. Tell me about that.”

He might say, “Well, that is the really awful thing. If I don’t get her, that will be really awful.”

You might say, “So if you didn’t get her, you will be in a really bad way emotionally, really broken hearted.”

To which he might say, “Yes, I couldn’t handle it.”

Now you can go in for the exception, asking, “I wonder how many months it would take before you got your sense of humor back.” His subconscious mind would have to have an incredible amount of restrictive control over him to keep him from clicking into exceptions.

You could add fuel to this. “I suppose you’d know that from how you’ve handled a broken heart in the past.” Witty quotes charm us because they toy with our internal syntactical violations.

Consider this quote from Oscar Wilde:

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”