In order to feel healthy negative emotions like displeasure, annoyance, concern and sorrow we in REBT encourage you to avoid four irrational beliefs. These are
1. Rigid Musts/Absolute Shoulds (known as Demands)
2. Low discomfort tolerance/Low frustration tolerance “I can’t stand it…”
4. Rating of people as people and condemning them for their actions
The irrational belief I would like to focus on today is the irrational belief known as “awfulizing.” Fallible humans are biologically prone and reared to see all sorts of inconveniences as awful, terrible and horrible. Although true tragedies exist, often we needlessly upset ourselves about all sorts of hassles and inconveniences and turn them into “holy horrors.”
Life is full of inconveniences and misfortune. Technology is always promising greater convenience but inevitably we will face inconvenience. These inconveniences can be rated or scored on a percent scale of badness, misfortune or inconvenience from 0-100. When we evaluate a bad or inconvenient event as “awful” we are placing that bad event beyond the 100-point location on the badness/inconvenience/misfortune scale. Doing so plays havoc with our emotions. It is also illogical and invalid. Most importantly, it is unproductive. When we label an event as "awful" we are very likely to feel unhealthy negative feelings like anxiety, panic, anger, rage, depression, despair, shame and self-loathing. These emotions rarely help us cope and problem solve. For example, if we see traffic jams as awful and terrible we will be prone to emotional upset. A traffic jam is inconvenient. Maybe we could rate it as 75% bad. If the traffic jam causes us to miss the start of a ballgame, concert or play then perhaps the traffic jam is 85% bad or very inconvenient. If the traffic jam prevents a pregnant woman in labor from making it to the hospital and she ends up giving birth to a baby in a car then the traffic jam is perhaps 95% bad or very, very unfortunate. In each case, the person experienced greater inconvenience or misfortune because of the traffic jam. However, to view the traffic jam in each example as awful is extreme and self-defeating. It lumps each unfortunate event into a limitless category of badness and misfortune that is beyond the 100% location on the badness/inconvenience/ misfortune scale. Awfulizing beliefs stem from the demand that things must not be as bad as they are and are extreme in the sense that we believe at the time something like:
1. Nothing could be worse;
2. The event in question is worse than 100% bad; and
3. No good could possibly come from this bad event.
Instead of awfulizing the next time you face an adversity push yourself to see it as bad, very bad, inconvenient, unlucky, a hassle, a very challenging problem to be solved but not a holy horror that is awful and terrible. Make no mistake you can make this choice. The language we use to describe reality strongly affects our feelings and subsequent behavior. If you want to rise to the challenges of life, you would be well advised not to see any of those challenges as awful, terrible, and horrible. There are bad events and many great inconveniences in life. Hardship clearly is part of the human condition. Each can be ranked on a scale from 0-100 percent bad. Sadly, no matter how bad things get, greater misfortune can be imagined and actually occur! If you avoid the temptation to make a magical jump off this 0-100 percent bad/misfortune/inconvenience scale when you encounter an adverse situation I will predict you will do better at coping with the adversity you encounter. Try it and see!
Rehearse this belief: “This problem is inconvenient but NOT awful. I can tolerate it. It is bad but NOT awful!”