REBT is unique among cognitive behavior therapies in that we do not take as our initial therapeutic move the tack that your perception of reality is false and try to point out these thinking errors. I often say “Let’s assume the worst that your perception of reality is as grim and unfair as you say it is. How are you making yourself upset about that?” Implicit in my question is the idea that even when reality is negative, whether you have a distorted point of view about reality or not, there is still something you are doing to contribute to your self-defeating emotional upset about reality as you perceive it. This is a good way to proceed because it is very hard to really know the truth about reality. You have a point of view and probably know more about the situation than I do as your psychologist. However, what I am trying to teach you is that even when facing a grim reality when you are upset there is a rigid belief that is linked to your emotional response. For example, if you think you have been rejected that is your perception of what is going on. Maybe you have been rejected or maybe you have not been rejected. It is difficult to know what is really going on. The more important thing to examine is what you tell yourself about the perceived rejection. Do you hold the belief that rejection absolutely should not happen to me in this situation and now that it has happened it is unbearable? Do you evaluate yourself as bad, inadequate or worthless as a person because you have been rejected?
REBT goes after your self-defeating thinking and beliefs about your perceived rejection. My goal is to get you to see that if you have in fact been rejected although that is certainly not a good thing it is bearable. You can tolerate it and will do so better if you do not hold the belief that it is unbearable and unbearable things absolutely should not happen.
Also I try to show you that even if you have been rejected that fact does not mean you are bad, inadequate or worthless even if your behavior contributes to your rejection. So REBT does not try to get you to reframe reality. Instead I show you how to accept reality and tolerate it well. REBT also always reminds you to never put yourself down even when you have contributed to a negative set of circumstances. Your performance might be bad but you can never be legitimately rated as a bad, inadequate, worthless person. You are ever changing and complex and your performance yesterday and today never defines your “self” since tomorrow is still up for grabs. If you learn from today you may act very well tomorrow. You are not rotten even when you have turned in a rotten performance. Tomorrow you could perform well and therefore you are still a fallible human, nothing more and nothing less. Rotten apples stay rotten. People are different. They may perform in a rotten way today but people are capable of turning in a better performance tomorrow. People are in flux. So a person’s essence is never rotten although their deeds may very well be!
The REBT message is challenging to grasp but when you do grasp it you are liberated from emotional misery even when reality is grim and when you have contributed to that grim reality. With this view of tolerance you can better reflect on what has happened in reality and see if you are misperceiving reality in some way. You can also look towards the future and find ways to try and not repeat what has happened if this is possible. Finally, you are better able to outline steps you can take today to cope with what has happened. By assuming that the worst has occurred you have set the stage to liberate yourself to tolerate reality as you perceive it, accept yourself unconditionally, go back and reflect on what happened with less emotional upset, and then plot and scheme how to take steps to cope with what has happened. This is what can happen when you use REBT successfully and for the moment accept that the worst case scenario has occurred. In this regard you might say REBT is a no nonsense therapy.