- Must people actually do what I want them to do? Where is that written?
- Where is the evidence that life should be as I want it to be?
- How is it that I am a bad or worthless person because I have done a bad thing or possess a flaw?
- Is this bad event really awful, the end of the world or is it only highly inconvenient?
- Is this uncomfortable situation truly unbearable or merely a pain in the neck?
- Am I making this hassle into a holy horror?
- Is my "must" or "must not" causing me to pay a price? Does it help or hurt me in effectively dealing with fallible humans?
Once you have questioned and disputed your self-defeating belief I want you to try to write your own rational coping statement. This is the new philosophy you will hold and act on to help you cope instead of mope. Here are a few examples:
- I want people to do what I want but they do not have to do what I want. Facing reality head on will help me cope. People tend to do what they want not what I want. The one person I can control is me. Let me spend more time on me and less time trying to control others. The best I can do is to attempt to influence others and the extent of my influence generally is not terribly strong.
- I wish life were as I want it to be but it does not have to be so. Life is at it is which is sometimes good, sometimes difficult, and sometimes neutral. I would be well advised to change what I can change and accept what I cannot change so that I can experience some happiness despite the hassles, difficulties, and disappointments we all encounter in life.
- It is true I have misbehaved and have my own set of flaws but these aspects of me do not define the whole of me. The part of something never defines the whole of it. I am a fallible human who has good, bad, and neutral qualities and behaviors. I will unconditionally accept myself instead of rating myself. I can only validly rate what I do not who I am as a person. People cannot be rated as people. People are in a state of flux and change. People are complex. People cannot be rated but what we do can be rated. Let me not self-rate as self-rating leads to self-downing which leads to emotional disturbance. I will take responsibility for my behavior but never rate myself as a person as such a rating cannot be validly done and is emotionally harmful.
- Yes this bad event is bad. No way around that perception of it given my values. However, it is far from the end of the world. It is bad, inconvenient, a hassle, but not awful, terrible or the end of the world. More importantly it never helps me to wrongly define an event as awful. Awful, when properly defined means that the bad event is beyond 100% bad and that no good can come from the bad event. In reality no matter how bad things currently are they definitely could get worse. The other point that is worth keeping in mind is that good things sometimes ironically emerge from bad events. Finally, the emotional impact of wrongly defining a bad or very bad event as awful or the end of the world is to render myself emotionally disturbed or unsane. Emotional disturbance and unsanity never helps me effectively respond to bad or even very bad events. Most bad events are highly inconvenient and it pays to define them that way.
- This uncomfortable situation is a struggle to tolerate but I can bear the struggle, I can tolerate it, and it pays for me to see this fact. Telling myself I cannot stand what I really can stand but find uncomfortable will lead me to self-defeating behavior. I will either avoid dealing with this uncomfortable situation, self-defeatingly medicate myself to cope with it, or experience unnecessary emotional upset as I cope with it. I cannot stand being deprive of oxygen, water, food, and I cannot tolerate extremes of temperature. Other than those things in nearly all cases I can tolerate uncomfortable situations even if I would strongly prefer not to tolerate them.
- Life is full of hassles and inconveniences but I will needlessly traumatize myself if I see my hassles as holy horrors. Let me call an inconvenience what it truly is namely a royal pain in the neck, an inconvenience, a hassle but not a holy horror.
- Rigid beliefs or what REBT calls “musturbation" will lead me to pay an emotional price. When I musturbate, that is put demands on others - life - myself, I will disturb myself when I do not get what I wrongly think I must get. Let me keep my values and desires for what I want. I am entitled to want what I want, to value what I value, to desire what I desire but when I wrongly transform my desires into demands or musts I will experience disturbance when I do not get what I wrongly think I must get. Let me look for my musts, look for my absolute shoulds and rip them up which will liberate me from emotional misery.
In summary, I want you to identify your irrational beliefs when you are experiencing emotional upset and then question these rigid and extreme beliefs. This questioning or disputing of your self-defeating beliefs will lead you to see that you have many desires but very few absolute needs. Once you see this it would be wise to write out a clear statement that you can use as a rational coping statement in order to assist you in effectively changing what you can change and accepting what you cannot.