REBT teaches you how to effectively respond to your tendency to think crookedly and to subsequently disturb yourself. We start with the idea that disappointments, misfortunes, injustices and other difficulties are Adversities which never directly lead to our emotional upset. Let us assign the letter A to our Adversities and the letter C to our emotional upset. A never leads directly to C but is influenced by the beliefs we hold. So Adversity at point A is processed in our fallible brains by our Beliefs at point B and the emotional consequence of our beliefs is C our emotional upset. This is the famous ABC model of emotions that REBT teaches you.
REBT teaches you to look at your beliefs and examine them for their usefulness and for their internal logic. When we are upset at point C we are likely to be holing rigid beliefs which fall in one of four categories:
1. Musts – I must do well, you must treat me as I wish, and the world must be as I would like it to be.
2. Low Discomfort Tolerance – When conditions are not as I want them to be I cannot stand this. Whine, whine, whine...
3. Awfulizing – When things go badly they are awful and more than exceptionally bad, they are awfully bad.
4. People Rating and Damnation – When I perform poorly or misbehave, I am wholly bad as a person, worthless and damnable. When you misbehave you are wholly bad as a person, worthless and damnable.
REBT teaches you how to question these rigid and extreme beliefs and to see how they lead to unhealthy, self-defeating emotions like depression, anger, anxiety, shame, guilt, envy and jealousy which lead to all sorts of self-defeating behaviors, addictions, compulsions, and avoidances.
REBT teaches you how to give up these four irrational beliefs and adopt flexible and sensible beliefs that help you feel healthy feelings which motivate you to change what can be changed and to work for your long term personally important goals.
The four rational beliefs that REBT encourages you to adopt are:
1. Preferences - I prefer to do well, I prefer that you treat me as I wish, and I prefer that the world be as I would like it to be. Despite these preferences I see that there is no law of the universe that says my preference must occur.
2. High Discomfort Tolerance – When conditions are not as I want them to be I can stand this. I certainly do not like it but by acknowledging I am capable of tolerating what I do not like this enables me to stick with changing aspects of the situation that are modifiable even if this takes considerable time and effort.
3. Rating badness on a 0-100% scale while not jumping off the scale to awful – When things go badly they are somewhere between bad, moderately bad to exceptionally bad but they are never more than exceptionally bad. Awfully bad is like infinity it really means limitlessly bad and no matter how bad things get they really can get worse so therefore it pays for me to stick to a 0-100% badness scale and not jump off the scale into the emotional abyss of “awful”.
4. People Acceptance with rating of their deeds – When I perform poorly or misbehave, I am never wholly bad as a person, worthless and damnable. I am responsible for my bad behavior so I best learn from it and avoid the consequences of such bad behavior. Bad behavior proves I am a fallible human. When you misbehave you are never wholly bad as a person, worthless and damnable. You are responsible for your bad behavior so you too had best learn from such bad behavior. Bad behavior proves that you are a fallible human.
REBT is a sensible and elegant philosophy that helps you deal with the most difficult adversities of life. You have the capacity to think as REBT teaches but it takes work and practice. Sadly, humans resist this work at rational, sensible thinking. Due to our nature it is easier to complain about adversity and seek magical solutions to life’s most difficult problems. The result of taking this easy way out and giving into our tendency to think irrationally is to experience needless emotional suffering. The good news is that you too can join the ranks of countless others who have learned to mount vigorous attacks on their irrational beliefs in the service of becoming better able to effectively respond to life’s most difficult adversities.