- What emotions do I experience that are self-defeating? (Pick from anger, depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, unhealthy envy, and unhealthy jealousy).
- What behaviors do I display that are self-defeating?
- How might I change so that I get more of what I want in life and less of what I do not want?
- What are my priorities?
- What is best in the long run for me?
There are several core ideas of REBT. The one that is essential and starts the ball rolling so to speak is the principle of emotional responsibility. The principle is that we upset ourselves about what others do or fail to do. Most people think their emotional upset is externally caused. With this idea you are a prisoner to the behavior of someone else. REBT teaches that other people misbehave but you can hold flexible and realistic beliefs ABOUT their behavior which will help you to have healthy emotional reactions to their misbehavior.
Instead of saying "I get upset because of what she does" try instead to say to yourself "I make myself upset over what she does. I can choose to think in a way that helps me not be miserable and to try to react in a constructive way that is best in the long run."
Instead of saying "He hurt me." Try to see it this way. "He did what he did and that is something I do not deserve. I am disappointed with him. He has acted badly but I accept him as a fallible person, a born mistake-maker. I will point out what he has done which I believe I do not deserve. I will ask him to change his behavior. Hopefully he will but if he doesn't I can choose not to disturb myself about his behavior. Then I can choose whether or not to remain in this relationship in the long run. If I choose to remain in the relationship it is good for me to learn not to disturb myself about her/his behavior".
REBT points out that changing another person is next to impossible. We can influence others by being assertive, not reinforcing negative behavior, or ignoring it. Yelling at people may work in the short run but has long run negative consequences. Sarcasm does not work effectively either as it is based on anger. See that people resist being changed from external sources. Accept this insight about the human condition and then choose not to disturb yourself about what other people do or fail to do. This does not mean you put up with anything. You may choose to leave a relationship if you do not get enough of what you want. Keep your wants. Give up your demands and rigid beliefs, as these lead to emotional misery. When we think in a demanding way we disturb ourselves (e.g. she/he absolutely should not be so ___________.) Instead try “I really wish she/he was not so ____________ but she/ he is as she/he is and I have emotional choices”.
REBT is simple but not simplistic. Give it time. Learn it. Then most importantly use it. See that you can choose your emotional destiny. You increase your chances of solving interpersonal problems when you take responsibility for your emotional upset.