The healthy group signals we do not like something and helps us change what we can change. These negative feelings are helpful and motivating.
The unhealthy group signals we do not like something and can sabotage our effort to change what we can change. These negative feelings are unhelpful and either are too strong or undermine our motivation to change what can be changed.
REBT theory argues that rigid and extreme beliefs expressed with words like must, absolute should, have to's, ought to's, need to's will lead to unhealthy negative emotions when we do not get what we value.
Flexible and non-extreme beliefs expressed with words like prefer, wish, want, like, desire, hope for will lead to healthy negative emotions when we do not get what we value.
To use REBT you need to understand the basic theory. The ABC model of emotion is part of that basic theory.
A stands for activating event. B stands for your beliefs about that event. C stands for emotional and behavioral consequences.
People can help themselves by seeing that an Activating Event is only an opportunity to get upset. Our rigid and extreme beliefs about activating events largely cause our emotional upset at point C.
Clients usually try to change other people or situations at point A when they feel unhealthy negative emotions at C.
REBT says first look for your contribution to the upset you feel. This is called the principal of emotional responsibility Look for the rigid absolute should or must at point B.
General examples include:
1. You must treat me as I value.
2. The conditions of life must be as I value.
3. I must be as I ideally wish to be.
Begin to try to identify your Musts (humorously called Musturbation or shoulding on yourself or others...).
Once you have identified an absolute should or must try to question it. Is it helping you? What is the emotional consequence of this rigid belief?
If you can admit to yourself that your rigid thinking is leading to unhealthy negative emotions and self-defeating behaviors (arguing, sulking, self-medicating, procrastinating, avoiding good behaviors) try to replace your Musts and Absolute Shoulds with a preferential philosophy. General examples include:
1. I would prefer that you treat me as I value but you do not have to. I can choose not to experience unhealthy emotions that lead to self-defeating behaviors when you do not treat me as I wish.
2. I wish the conditions of my life be as I wish, want, hope and desire them to be but they do not have to be so. When they are not as I want them to be I can first choose not to experience unhealthy emotions that lead to self-defeating behaviors when things are not as I wish. Then I can use my healthy negative emotions (sorrow, displeasure, annoyance, disappointment, concern, healthy envy, healthy jealousy) to try to make the conditions of my life better.
3. I would like to be as I ideally envision but I do not have to be so in order to accept myself. When my characteristics and behaviors deviate from my ideal I can acknowledge this but see that I am not less worthwhile because of these things and I can attempt to change what can be changed about my behavior and characteristics. This attitude of self-acceptance does not absolve me of responsibility for the things I do or say.
REBT is simple to understand but difficult to implement. Humans tend to stick to their rigid and extreme beliefs even when they can see how these beliefs and their associated emotional reactions are impairing them in life and harming relationships. With my help and your effort you can go against the grain so to speak and think in a more adaptive and functional way. It takes work and practice but we can do it if you accept the challenge REBT makes to you to be responsible for your emotional reactions when you face adversity. REBT will give you emotional leverage over some of the most difficult aspects of life if you learn it and then use it.