Musterbation: Stop rubbing yourself the wrong way

May 28, 2021

How often do you musterbate? What about the people you know? Some of them might musterbate a lot, maybe even daily. Now before you assume where this conversation is going, be sure you read that word correctly – MUSTerbate. While I wish I could take credit for creating this word, it was Albert Ellis, a behavioral psychologist, who coined the term. Musterbation is the experience of telling ourselves we “must” do things. It extends to additional words – “should”, “have to”, “need to”, and “ought to”. These aren’t just words. They are the start point in the creation of emotions which are detrimental to our growth and mental wellness. Words like these create shame, guilt, self-doubt, stress and pressure. They typically have the authoritative tone of parents, teachers, bosses, or embody the norms dictated by society or culture.

At a mild or moderate level, musterbation stops our creative thinking, inhibits problem solving, and builds limitations on our dreams and goals. This is when working with a coach trained and educated in cognitive behavioral approaches can help. Through executive, life or couples coaching, individuals learn strategies to stop musterbating. They strengthen these practices and apply them in their daily lives, replacing guilt, shame and self-doubt with functional control, confidence and abundant thinking. The coach acts as an objective, outside perspective to help clients identify the cognitive roadblocks and change the habits, resulting in improvements in their present and successes in their future.

At a severe level, musterbation contributes to the development of anxiety and depression. The tendency to use these words feeds the anxiety or depression, maintaining or building the dysfunctional emotions and experiences. This is when working with a therapist can help. Through therapy, individuals can explore where the source of the words came from to explore what experiences from their past are affecting their present. Particularly when working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, patients will then learn strategies to manage the words and thoughts contributing to the anxiety and depression. Often, a psychiatrist will be part of the approach to prescribe medications to help balance the neurotransmitters and allow the therapy to work more effectively.

Ultimately, whether through coaching or therapy, individuals learn to stop rubbing themselves the wrong way and break the pattern of musterbating.


Dr. Robin Buckley has her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Hofstra University and is also a certified coach. She owns Insights Group Psychological & Coaching Services in New Hampshire, a practice offering coaching (executive, elite athletes, couples), neuropsychological evaluation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Dr. Robin works specifically with executives and high-powered couples to achieve their goals efficiently and successfully through the use of a business framework. To find out more about Dr. Robin, please go to, or to learn more about her practice,

Readjusting to Your (Social) Life after Lockdown – Elian Beattie

May 3, 2021

For the past year or more, a lot of us have been itching to be able to leave our homes, socialize with loved ones, travel, and many other activities that used to be a part of our norm. Now, with COVID-related deaths decreasing and access to the vaccine increasing, the world is starting to open back up again. You are likely facing invitations and opportunities that six months ago you felt like you were begging for. But now, you might feel a sense of dread and anxiety when you think about socially reintegrating to the world. Why?

We adapt to our circumstances.

A few of my clients have recently said, “But I don’t get it. I used to love going to a crowded beach in the summer, and now I feel panic at the thought of leaving my house.” Or, “I miss my friends and family so much, but the thought of going to a party makes me really anxious.” We have gotten used to living a life of more predictable, narrow opportunities. While that has brought about feelings of loneliness and isolation, it has also unintentionally caused us to feel some sense of control over our day to day. Even when the pandemic felt out of control, our daily routines and lives became less variable. We became used to knowing and controlling what a typical Saturday looked like, how we spent our off time, and when our zoom calls started and ended.

We want to maintain our perception of control.

In cognitive behavioral therapy, we look at the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We cannot control the thoughts that pop into our head or how we automatically feel, but we can control our actions. That awareness and control does not extend to others. We cannot read other people’s minds, predict what they will do or say, or control how they feel towards us. Going to a party means introducing a set of variables that we are not used to mentally facing. It might bring about more, “What if…” type of questions and leave us feeling self-conscious about how we are perceived.

We underestimate our ability to tolerate uncertainty.

“I won’t be able to handle it,” is the most common thought that prevents us from taking risks. Avoidance perpetuates anxiety. It might seem overwhelming to think about going to a large family BBQ or an in person networking event, and that’s okay. The first step is being self-compassionate and acknowledging why your anxiety is higher now than it was in the past. The second step is to set healthy boundaries and not feel obligated to do what you are not yet ready for. You do not need to supply an elaborate excuse to decline a social invitation. The third, and most important, step is to start reintegrating in small ways where you feel a sense of control. Perhaps you meet a friend for coffee, have one or two people over, or agree to stop by a social event for a shorter period of time. Feeling stuck? Make a list of things you’ve done over the past ten years that you once could not or did not think you could do. Maybe it was driving a car, graduating from school, being a parent, changing careers, or something else. Remind yourself that change is possible.

The more we practice going into situations where we do not know what will happen next, the less we dread them. A lot of our fears about “what if” get dispelled through experiences, and we learn that we can handle difficult things. Let your values guide your behaviors, not fear. – Elian