REBT's View of Emotional Health
REBT as a philosophy and approach to life has a point of view regarding what constitutes psychological health. REBT explicitly suggests a blueprint, which can be used in the striving towards emotional health, happiness and the achievement of personal goals. These guidelines include the following:
1. Self-interest - The emotionally healthy person puts himself first but others a close second (not a distant second) when making decisions.
2. Social interest - The emotionally healthy person considers the impact his behavior has on others. Because we live in a social world it is in his long term best interest to consider the feelings, goals, and rights of others while not holding himself responsible for managing the emotions of others. Instead the person strives to model emotional responsibility for others so that they too learn how to take care of themselves and to be responsible for and manage their own emotional reactions in a challenging world.
3. Self-direction - The emotionally healthy person takes into the consideration the advice and teaching of informed others but in the end makes her own decisions and is fully responsible for the consequences of these decisions)
4. High frustration tolerance / High discomfort tolerance - The emotionally healthy person has the capacity to tolerate frustration, discomfort, and inconvenience in order to achieve her long-term goals and maximize her overall happiness; the mentally healthy person accepts that work and practice is how skills are acquired and mastered even if the process is frustrating at times.
5. Flexibility - The emotionally healthy person is flexible in belief and behavior.
6. Acceptance of Uncertainty - The emotionally healthy person recognizes we live in a world of probabilities where absolute certainty and guarantees do not exist.
7. Commitment to creative, vitally absorbing pursuits - REBT maintains people are happiest and emotionally healthy when they self-select goals that interest them and then throw themselves into achieving these goals in order to derive meaning in life. This creative involvement stems in part from a healthy sense of curiosity, which one strives to maintain throughout her life.
8. Scientific thinking - Emotionally healthy people learn to think logically and use scientific thinking to test hypotheses as to what works in life and how life itself works. Scientific thought is a tool for problem solving.
9. Self-acceptance - Emotionally healthy people strive to unconditionally accept themselves while seeing themselves as highly fallible humans. As such the mentally healthy person is able to evaluate her behavior objectively without condemning or rating the "self" when such behavior falls short of his standards.
10. Other-acceptance - Emotionally healthy people strive to unconditionally accept other people while viewing all people as fallible humans. REBT acknowledges that that it is good to rate and value other people’s behaviors and hold them responsible for those behaviors but mentally healthy people avoid global judgment of the value of the person whose behavior is being evaluated. The healthy individuals see people as evolving, complex, and unable to be objectively rated as a person. In REBT we argue that all standards for rating people as people are arbitrary and so people cannot be legitimately rated. What people do can be legitimately rated in the context of the rater’s personal values.
11. Life-acceptance - Emotionally healthy people strive to avoid overgeneralizations about life itself. Life is viewed as having good times, neutral times, and difficult to exceedingly difficult times. The mentally healthy person avoids the notion that life should be easy and without difficulty and strives to enjoy life as fully as possible despite the inevitable hassles, sorrows, and “crosses” of the human condition.
12. Risk-taking - The emotionally healthy person accepts the uncertainty of life and takes prudent, calculated risks to maximize her pleasure in life and achieve self-selected goals.
13. Long-range hedonism - The emotionally healthy person sees life as an opportunity to enjoy one self and not prove one self. As such, this individual attempts to maximize the pleasure he experiences by living for both the present as well as the future. In order to live for the present and the future the mentally healthy individual exercises high frustration tolerance/high discomfort tolerance to achieve their self-selected hedonistic goals.
14. Nonutopianism/nonperfectionism - The emotionally healthy person accepts that utopias and perfection do not exist. He does not disturb himself over the imperfection he encounters and merely strives to make things better to maximize enjoyment. The psychologically healthy individual accepts that he will never achieve a state of perfection but strives to make improvements where possible.
15. Self-responsibility for own emotional disturbance - The emotionally healthy individual sees that although life may be difficult at times the implicit beliefs he holds about the challenges of life largely causes his emotional disturbance. As such, the individual strives to develop adaptive beliefs that enable him to function in a challenging, imperfect world full of fallible humans.
16. A Healthy Sense of Humor - The emotionally healthy person maintains a healthy sense of humor by not taking himself, others, the world, or life itself “too” seriously. The mentally healthy person has concerns but does not cross the line into over seriousness that is so often associated with emotional disturbance.
17. Semantic Precision - The emotionally healthy person strives to think in a semantically precise way. Instead of engaging in overgeneralized thinking such as “I always fail” the individual precisely acknowledges that he has failed in a particular endeavor but avoids a sweeping, sloppy description of reality. Likewise, other examples of semantic precision are thoughts and statements like “You have acted badly this time but you are not a bad person” and “life has many difficulties but it not always difficult.” Semantic precision in thought and language allows for more accurate internal representations of reality and greater emotional well-being. The mentally healthy person monitors the precision of his thinking and corrects any instances of sloppy, imprecise thinking in the face of adversity in order to re-establish healthier emotional and behavioral reactions.
REBT encourages people to adopt these guidelines as goals and strive to implement them on a daily basis in order to achieve emotional health and maximize happiness.
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Dryden, W. (2009). Rational Emotive Therapy: Distinctive Features. London and New York: Routledge.