You need to ACTIVELY question and dispute your thinking. Too many people get in an unhealthy, unproductive mood or engage in a self-defeating behavior and think they are using REBT when they passively say rational ideas to themselves. This does not work. The irrational voice in your head is strong and is well rehearsed. You also need to really customize your rational attitude to the irrational attitude which is actively maintaining your disturbance. If you passively accept or just observe the negative stream of inferences and attitudes underpinning your disturbance you will remain in a rut. You are not doing what REBT prescribes and this is probably why you are not making progress with this liberating philosophy.
Ask and reflect on the questions found below. If the situation permits write down on paper the answers or speak them into your cell phone voice recorder. Don’t be lazy! Writing or speaking aloud the answers to these questions are more ACTIVE ways to practice REBT than to merely answer these questions in your head:
1. What is the specific demanding attitude I am holding which I use to make my depression, anger, unhealthy jealousy or shame? (Zero in on the must, have to, absolute should.)
2. Where is the evidence I deserve what I want? (Specifically articulate your answer. There is NO evidence any of us deserve to get what we want. The universe does not work that way.)
3. Is my "have to" way of thinking, my rigid way and extreme way of thinking, helping me move on and enjoy what I still can enjoy or is it hurting me? (Specify explicitly how it is helping or hurting you.)
4. Is my "must have, have to have, absolutely should have" way of thinking true or false? (If you think it is true explicitly call to mind the evidence. You know that absolute musts are false but don't just say they are false. Specify and call to mind why they are false.)
5. Create a new flexible, non-extreme, non-deserving attitude that is true and will help you function in reality as it is and not in a false reality that you ideally want to exist.
6. Now use my RFA mnemonic. R stands for repetition, F stands for force, and A stands for taking action. Take the new flexible, non-extreme, non-deserving attitude and repeat it to yourself often, say it forcefully to yourself when you repeat it, and most importantly take action on that new rational attitude. If you had conviction in it how would you act? What would you go and DO? Now go and DO that. Repetition, force AND action lead to conviction in a new attitude. This is how YOU make yourself get and stay better with REBT!
"I want the conditions of my life to be as I envision them to be BUT they do not absolutely have to be that way. This might be VERY DISAPPOINTING but it is not AWFUL, TERRIBLE or the END OF THE WORLD. It is uncomfortable for me to adapt to reality as it is NOT how I dream it to be but it is NOT unbearable for me to adapt to reality as it is. This is well worth doing as disturbing myself does not do me any good and therefore I COMMIT to taking ACTION on my new attitude. I can THINK and DO better!"