Once the client sees that some of their feelings are self-defeating I then encourage the client to examine the tacit beliefs which they hold and which are associated with their unhealthy feelings of anger, bitterness, depression and despair. Often people will report beliefs such as:
1. Given the time and effort I have put into this endeavor I should have achieved the results I expected.
2. Life should not throw so many difficult problems my way at one time.
3. Given how I have treated this person they should treat me differently than they are treating me.
In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, we try to focus rather quickly on ideas which are not working in reality. The three philosophical ideas I listed above are on the one hand “understandable” but unfortunately are not consistent with the reality the person is facing. Life and other people have not met their expectations and holding onto the notion that these expectations absolutely should be met is making the individual vulnerable to unhealthy feelings of anger, bitterness, depression and despair. With these feelings self-defeating behavior often follows.
The art of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is to help the client develop beliefs of accommodation to reality as it currently exists until the client can change what can be changed. Through a philosophical but very focused and practical discussion, use of metaphor, judicious self-disclosure, and other means I guide the client to a functional idea that will help them gracefully cope with their reality as it currently exists. Our discussions aim to help people carve out a more adaptive philosophy and to truly believe and implement that philosophy. With regard to the examples given above, my aim would be to help my client to accept that it is in their best interest to meet life’s expectations instead of demanding that life meet my client’s expectations. Life often throws a person multiple problems at once, life sometimes can be very unfair or even cruel, and the person who copes well is the person who focuses on meeting life’s expectations instead of focusing on how life has not met their expectations. Likewise, our fellow fallible humans will sometimes disappoint us and not live up to our expectations. Instead of rigidly believing that others must and absolutely should meet our expectations we can cope better if we hold onto a preference for how we wish others to treat us but give up rigid adherence to the idea that others must meet our expectations.
In a nutshell Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy encourages a philosophy of determination with healthy flexibility. Humans have the capacity to remain simultaneously determined and flexible. REBT can show you how to walk this psychological tightrope so that you can better rise to challenges and meet life’s expectations. Imagine that.