REBT in a nutshell is about emotional responsibility. The idea is that you are responsible for your disturbed emotions, as opposed to other people or life conditions. This is not to say that other people do not give you reasons for getting upset. They do. Other people misbehave and life is often difficult.
The assumption in REBT though is that although other people’s misbehavior and life’s misfortune’s may cause certain negative emotions (e.g. sorrow, concern, displeasure, annoyance, disappointment, regret, remorse) your philosophy largely creates your more intense feelings of misery (anxiety, depression, anger and rage, embarrassment, shame, guilt, unhealthy jealous, and hurt). So REBT encourages you to take responsibility for your emotional upset while acknowledging that other people and life’s hardships may cause healthy negative emotions.
REBT also places a heavy emphasis on self, other, and life acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and other people does not mean that you or they are not responsible for misbehavior. It merely means that although responsible for misbehavior you or they are not blameworthy or condemnable. In REBT we see all humans as fallible and aim to teach people to only rate deeds, actions, and decisions rather than to rate or condemn people.
The philosophy of acceptance and tolerance which is applied to people is also applied to life. In REBT we argue that when bad things happen they should happen even if we dislike that they have happened. The idea is that all the conditions were in place for a bad event to occur so that it happened. We put down bad events without overgeneralizing and seeing all of life as bad.
As I see it REBT is a real world philosophy. People do bad things and there are bad aspects of life. However, even “bad” people sometimes do good things and all of life is not bad even though there certainly are crummy aspects of life.
REBT is a philosophical tool. The more you understand it and practice using it the more likely you will experience less misery and some happiness. You will be more productive as you increase your frustration tolerance. You will be more resilient in the face of difficult conditions or loses as you give up the demand that very bad things not happen. What makes REBT difficult to use is our human tendency to quickly go from thinking “I badly want certain conditions to exist or not to exist” to thinking “…and therefore these conditions absolutely must exist or not exist and I cannot stand it when they do or do not exist.” We easily make this jump. We have the capacity to think clean and straight but as fallible humans our thinking is error prone. Look for these non-sequiturs in your thinking the next time you are upset at life or another person. Once you see the illogical leap you have taken in your thinking try to fix your philosophy. So you might think “I badly want certain conditions to exist but they never have to exist for a doll like me. I can stand to tolerate less than ideal conditions which exist. Too bad this is life. I do not have to add to my healthy negative feelings of sorrow, disappointment etc. by demanding and commanding that these negative conditions not exist at the present time."
Acceptance for yourself, others, and life is a very hard thing to teach. However, I do believe I can stand this discomfort so I will continue to encourage you to adopt the philosophy of REBT which places a great emphasis on acceptance, frustration tolerance and emotional responsibility.