Each day think of the ABC model of emotion. Remind yourself that your beliefs at point B play a very important role in how you react at point C when things go against you at point A. Control your beliefs. You can control this one thing. You cannot control other people, you cannot control what happens in the world, but you always can control what you choose to believe. Your beliefs will help or hurt you. Think about the advantage that this gives you.
Anger is a terribly self-defeating emotion. In my sessions with patients I do my best to show them how to give up their unhealthy feelings of anger. People have great difficulty letting go of anger but it never helps them cope with their problems or a problematic relationship.
Sometimes people get angry at themselves. They think “I should not have allowed myself to be fooled and I am a fool.’’ This reasoning never helps them once they have been fooled. In REBT we take a very practical approach and show people that even when they have been fooled this never makes them a fool. Having been fooled is proof that they are human, a fallible human. Humans live and learn and the trick is to learn from those instances when we have been fooled. Self-directed anger will not help us do this. Getting angry is a mistake on top of a mistake. Getting angry is making the same mistake over and over again. I believe the trick in life is to learn from our mistakes and to make new mistakes rather than to keep making the same mistake over and over again.
Anger directed at others is equally bad. Anger leads to violence and other short-sighted behavior. We can be easily manipulated when we are angry. Anger does not solve problems. REBT is about solving problems and the best way to start to solve a problem is by giving up one’s unhealthy anger. Unhealthy anger also is exhausting. If you are angry at another person consider following the biblical recommendation to “condemn the sin, not the sinner.’’ Have healthy anger for what a person did to you, but do not be angry at the person. To do this you are well advised to avoid condemning the person for what they did to you. This strategy is best for you and for them.
Anger directed at the world is also problematic. People often think ‘Life should not be so difficult or the world should not be so unfair.’’ This belief never helps us live in a difficult and sometimes unfair world as it leads to anger. This belief leads us to have low discomfort tolerance and to quit instead of persisting at solving our problems. Persistence and creativity are essential ingredients for solving problems. It is hard to be persistent and creative when we are angry.
REBT teaches people tolerance and acceptance. Fallible humans tend not to be inclined to tolerate and accept what they do not like. In REBT when we speak of tolerance and acceptance this does not mean we are complacent. We try to change what can be changed so that what we dislike does not continue to happen. However, we first give up our anger with tolerance and acceptance. This allows us to see how best to take action against what we dislike.
REBT is a simple philosophy to understand but at times of anger it is a very difficult philosophy to implement. Fallible humans easily experience emotional disturbance. Thankfully, we have the capacity to think about our thinking and see when our thinking is leading to self-defeating anger and self-defeating behaviors. With this awareness we can work to change the one one person we pretty much have total control over. We can control ourselves by examining our rigid, angry generating beliefs and adopting beliefs that help us cope with the situation or the people we most dislike. This is not easy. However, it is easier to change yourself rather than change another person or to change the world.
"When confronted with a situation which we cannot change, we are then challenged to change ourselves."
Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Viktor Frankl survived a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps. His book Man's Search For Meaning describes his ordeal and how his own beliefs and internal coping capacities allowed him to carry on despite a very grim reality. His message is very consistent with the message of REBT. Use your capacity to think rationally about inescapable conditions so that you can bear them until you can change them. For anyone who is facing a difficult or inescapable situation, REBT can help you experience growth and the necessary strength to bear such inescapable situations until you can change them. Study REBT and read Dr. Frankl's book if you wish to learn how you too can cope with inescapable situations. You have this capacity but you need to develop it and REBT shows you how.
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