When people have a problem, an adversity, they try like all hell to change it. This is fine and in REBT, we call this a practical solution. Unfortunately, sometimes we cannot easily achieve good practical solutions. Let us assume you dislike your job. What I am going to demonstrate will apply equally well to other types of adversity. You may be unhappy with your residence, your friendships, or your romantic life. For teaching purposes let me confine my example to the adversity where you very much dislike your job and wish you could leave it for another.
You get upset about your job. In this example, your adversity is your undesirable job. Your emotional upset is your C or consequential emotion. You may be depressed, miserable, or self-pitying at point C. It would great if you could have a quick fix to your emotional upset, locate a better job, and obtain it. Your emotional upset would go away quickly and you would have a fine practical solution to your problem. This would be the end of the story.
Unfortunately, people are often unable to find ideal practical solutions. Therefore, this is where you want to learn to use the emotional solution or what we call in REBT the philosophical solution. This involves acknowledging that you are facing a grim adversity at point A. You also acknowledge that you have two general types of emotional reactions you could experience at point C. You can feel healthy negative feelings like sadness, displeasure and disappointment or you could feel unhealthy negative feelings of anger, depression, misery, and despair. REBT argues that depending at what you think at point B you will feel either unhealthy negative feelings or healthy negative feelings. The healthy negative feelings of sadness, displeasure and disappointment are in a sense good because they motivate you to keep your eyes open for another job and to keep your resume current so that you are ready to apply to another job when you find one. Alternatively, the unhealthy feelings of depression, anger, misery and despair make it less likely that you will do well at your present job until you find a better fitting job. With these unhealthy negative feelings, you are likely to neglect your resume, give up searching for another job and just conclude the situation is hopeless.
The most important distinction between these two sets of emotions in this example is that with healthy negative emotions you can still experience some degree of happiness while you are in a lousy job situation. You are capable of acknowledging that you are unhappy at work, would prefer to have a different job, but you are still able to have pleasure in other areas of your life. When people experience unhealthy emotional reactions, they tend to have emotional upset that bleeds over to other areas of their life. So individual makes herself upset about what is going on at work and then when she is home she is depressed about what is going on at work. There tends to be less room to be happy at all when you have unhealthy negative reactions.
REBT tries to help people get out of this quandary by adopting the philosophical solution. Here the person changes her beliefs about her job. Instead of holding the belief “I very much dislike my job and I must be miserable about it”, she chooses to believe “I very much dislike my job and I never have to be miserable about it.” The latter belief system rests on a few other related beliefs. Those include the following:
1. My job is bad but it is bearable as far as I will not die if I continue to do it.
2. Being miserable about a lousy job will never help me have some happiness in life outside of work.
3. When I can leave this lousy job, I will do so but until that fine day arrives, I still can have some happiness despite my lousy job.
4. Even when I am at work, I do not have to be miserable. I have a choice as to how I feel.
The philosophical solution is a solution that rests on tolerance and acceptance. The philosophical solution is not a rose-colored glasses type of solution. It merely is a philosophy that allows a person to go on despite the existence of a grim reality until that grim reality can be changed. It is a liberating solution to life’s most difficult problems. Many people resist the philosophical solution and remain miserable while searching for a practical solution. Other people wisely adopt the philosophical solution while searching for a practical solution. Will you exclusively seek practical solutions to your problems? Will you allow yourself to change your beliefs about grim reality until you can find a good practical solution to your dilemmas? The choice is yours. Your happiness will depend upon the choice you make.