Dr. Matweychuk Answers Your Questions On REBT

A Reader Writes and Asks:

I’ve been following you for months and attending your Saturday Rational Emotive Behavioral Conversation Hour and have learned a lot about REBT and have found it very helpful.  I have a question.

How would someone who practices REBT decide to end a relationship that did not involve elements of physical abuse or criminal activity?  It seems to me that REBT allows one to deal with virtually every problem through unconditional self and other acceptance. If you can do that, you can live with almost anyone regardless of how they behave.

I ask because I’m experiencing some marital issues.  Before learning about REBT from you, I would have said, “my wife continually does things that cause me emotional pain.”  To sum it up, now I know that my wife does things, and I cause myself emotional pain, but that begs the question – do you just suck it up and use REBT to avoid getting out of the relationship?

I hope this makes sense.  Thank you very much for making so much of your work available to the masses.

Answer From the REBT Perspective:

Although you may choose NOT to disturb yourself when your wife does things you do not like, it does not mean you absolutely must remain married to her. You can unconditionally accept her and you and decide to put yourself first and her a close second. REBT suggests that you do this. Who is better to look after your life than you? Therefore, you take responsibility for steering it. You can choose to break your marital vow and see that it is unfortunate you do not think it is worth keeping any longer, but not the end of the world. You can see that you have one life to live, and there is no absolutely correct way to live it. You have responsibility for managing your life as it is an opportunity to enjoy yourself, NOT prove yourself by keeping your marital vow. You will be responsible for some of the healthy pain she will feel if you choose to leave her and she wants to keep at it. She can feel a healthy sorrow that, from your view, the relationship has run its course. You can see that your decision does impact her, and so, therefore, you have some responsibility for her sorrow. With that said, this does not make you a bad person. You had better evaluate what is in your long-term best interest as there will be tradeoffs if you leave her. REBT teaches that there are no perfect solutions to life, no utopias, no ideal people. There are choices. You have a responsibility to make those choices. Also, acknowledge the impact of your choices on her and you and anyone else who may be involved. Do you maximize pleasure by leaving her or by staying? Has the relationship run its course? Are you truly not disturbing yourself when she does things you do not like, or are you giving lip service to this idea? I would not rush into the decision and work hard not to disturb yourself about her limitations, her misbehavior, and your lack of joy in the relationship. I would also apply REBT to other areas of your life so that you are not looking for too much to be reasonably expected from a relationship when other areas of your life are not as you want them to be (e.g., your career, friendships, etc.).Life is hard and such decisions as you are considering are hard to make. There are no right and wrong answers if you ask me. There are tradeoffs, and strive to accept yourself unconditionally and consider which path will be the calculated risk you wish to take. Will you have a more considerable regret on your death bed if you stay and choose to use REBT not to disturb yourself while remaining in the marriage or more regret if you leave and not disturb yourself about the tradeoffs of going? REBT teaches that there are no guarantee in life. We live in a world of probability, and everything has a risk. Life is an art. Live it with unconditional self-acceptance, unconditional other acceptance, and unconditional life acceptance.


First, undisturb yourself about your wife and the current relationship. Second, address the dissatisfaction with her if you can and third decide what to do about your relationship.

A Reader Asks:

I noticed I tend to get overly anxious and nervous when I have the opportunity to meet a woman I find attractive. The anxiety tends to increase proportionally with the level of attraction I feel for the said woman. This anxiety hurts me as it prevents me from approaching the woman out of fear. If I do muster the courage and engage, I am nervous, my mind goes blank, and I end up having an awkward and unnatural conversation where I feel self-conscious and come across as weird and unattractive. Ironically, I have no difficulty being charming, funny, and charismatic with women when I am less attracted to and frequently have success with those types of encounters. I know my friends, and likely many other young men, also struggle with this problem. Does REBT offer an elegant solution to this problem?

REBT’s Solution:

You have described a classic example of fear of rejection. Let’s do an REBT ABC analysis of the problem and help you see that fear of rejection is an option but not the only option you have. Note: If you are a woman, this problem may very well be yours in reverse. Women are now free to approach men and may hold themselves back due to fear, just as men do. So ladies, read on!
In REBT, we want to briefly distinguish between the situational Adversity and the critical inference embedded within the situational Adversity. Another way of saying this is to search for the Adversity within the Adversity. 
Situational Adversity (a brief description of the challenging situation) = I have an opportunity to meet and introduce myself to a woman who I find quite attractive.
Critical Inference (This is an inference, an assumption, a prediction you make, and one that is a distressing assumption) = I predict that my mind will go blank if I speak to her. I will come across as weird and unattractive to her.) 
Critical Inference = She will reject me given this awkward performance I predict I will produce.
Basic Attitude 1 = I must execute my attempt to meet her flawlessly. It would be awful if my mind were to go blank. I could not stand this awkward situation I will put myself in. A poor and awkward performance would make me a weirdo, loser, or diminished person.
Basic Attitude 2 = I must not get rejected. Rejection would be awful. I could not bear rejection from her. It would prove I am a loser.
C: Emotional and Behavioral Consequence = anxiety with the urge to not engage with her. 
Based on your description, it is unclear if you fear performing awkwardly or fear rejection because you have performed awkwardly. Therefore, I shall show you how to have healthy philosophical attitudes to both the possibility of a poor and awkward performance as you speak to this attractive woman and rejection from her even if you were to perform flawlessly.
Disputing Your Self-Defeating Attitudes:
In REBT, we challenge or dispute the rigid and extreme attitudes leading to your anxiety and urge to avoid introducing yourself to this beautiful woman. Let me now argue against both of these lines of thinking:
Basic Attitude 1: I must execute my attempt to meet her flawlessly. It would be awful if my mind were to go blank. I could not stand this awkward situation I will put myself in. A poor and awkward performance would make me a weirdo, loser, or diminished person.
What is the functional impairment which results from holding this attitude?

Answer: I will create anxiety by demanding I perform flawlessly and increase the chances of doing the very thing I wish to avoid, which is to look awkward. A result of this attitude is that I will avoid making any attempt to introduce myself and prevent the possibility of performing awkwardly.
What evidence do I have to support this attitude?
Answer: I do not have any evidence to support the idea that I have to perform flawlessly. I have proof I want to perform flawlessly, but that does not equal having to perform flawlessly. Furthermore, although it would be unfortunate and undesirable if my mind were to go blank during my conversation, that does not make it awful. Awful means it cannot be any worse, and having my mind go blank is far from the worse thing that could happen. For example, I could lose my urine while speaking to her, so having my mind go blank would be not welcomed and undesirable, not awful, and thinking it is the worse thing that could happen to me will only create anxiety. Going further still, having my mind go blank would be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. I doubt I will die of discomfort, so I could bear the awkward situation if my mind went blank while speaking to her. Finally, performing my introduction and the conversation awkwardly would make me a person who performed in a less than desirable way, in an awkward way. Still, it would not make me a weirdo, loser, or diminished person. People are people and cannot be legitimately rated by performance. People may perform poorly, do weird things, or lose, but none of these defines the whole person. People will invalidly and subjectively think of themselves as a weirdo, loser, or diminished person, but that is optional, not a valid state true to the facts.
Basic Attitude 2 = I must not get rejected. Rejection would be awful. I could not bear rejection from her. It would prove I am a loser.
What is the functional impact of having this attitude towards rejection?
Answer: If I think I must not get rejected, and I cannot be sure this will not occur, I make speaking to this woman a high-stakes encounter filled with anxiety. My demand not to get rejected will make me inclined to think of rejection in an extreme way as being awful, terrible, and unbearable. My stance towards possible rejection makes it very unlikely I will take the calculated risk of getting rejected.
What evidence do I have to hold this rigid and extreme attitude towards rejection?
Answer: My imperative “I must not get rejected” cannot be supported by evidence. I have been rejected and can again be rejected. This rigid and idealistic way of thinking is an indefensible position to hold. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the extreme idea that rejection would prove I am a loser. I am what I am, which is a person. To then define myself as a loser because this particular woman rejected me is arbitrary. All definitions of a person beyond being a person are subjective abstractions. 
The Philosophical Solution to Possible Poor Performance and Rejection
Instead of fear, you could feel concerned when I see an attractive woman who you would like to approach and attempt to get to know. You could choose to be concerned that you may not perform at your best and choose to accept that possibility and not demand this outcome not occur. If you held the following attitudes, you would feel concerned and push yourself to uncomfortably approach her. Those helpful attitudes would include:
1. I want to perform well when I introduce myself to her, but I do not have to perform flawlessly. If I have an awkward and unnatural conversation where I feel self-conscious and come across as weird and unattractive, that will be unfortunate, but far worse could happen to me. An awkward conversation where my mind goes blank would be uncomfortable but far from unbearable. I could bear these awkward moments, and it would be worth doing because I want to try to get to know her, and taking this calculated risk of introducing myself to her is the only way I may get what I want. If I play it safe, I am practically certain not to meet her and not get what I want. Therefore, the risk of an awkward conversation is worth it. I will commit to pushing myself to do this because I now see I would not have to think of myself as a weirdo, loser, or diminished person due to my poor performance. It would prove I am a fallible human, and like an athlete who misses a shot he has typically executed well, I would have spoken to her poorly, but doing so does not define me. I will rate my execution but see that it is invalid to have this one domain of my life represent the whole of me as a person.
2. I want to be accepted by her, but it is false to think I must not get rejected by her. If I get rejected, that would be undesirable and disappointing but not awful, terrible, or the end of the bloody world! It will be uncomfortable to experience her disinterest but not unbearable. I could tolerate this experience. It would be well worth doing because I significantly increase my chances of getting what I want by taking the calculated risk and introducing myself to her. Her rejection does not mean self-rejection. I would choose to accept myself even if she were to reject me. It is tough to know what she will do. By choosing to accept myself unconditionally, I will feel concerned, not anxious, which increases the chances of performing well and confidently. It may very well she could feel nervous that someone like me has decided to pay her attention. It is hard to know what makes one person feel interested in and attracted to another. Unconditional self-acceptance is very sexy because it leads to genuine confidence, not false confidence. 
Use of Rational Emotive Imagery to Prepare to Go Out of Your Comfort Zone
To get you ready to act and free you to approach beautiful women, I want you to rehearse for engaging with a beautiful woman by once a day doing an imagery exercise. Here are the steps:Imagine yourself having the opportunity to approach a beautiful woman.Get in touch with the anxiety and embarrassment that hold you back from starting a conversation with her.Without changing anything other than how you think, I want you to change your feelings so that you only feel concerned that you may perform poorly and may get rejected. Make yourself feel only concerned and practice the flexible and non-extreme attitudes I have written about above.Do this every day for thirty days and then act upon this rehearsal in real life when the opportunity is available to you. 
Final Steps: You can liberate yourself from your shame and anxiety and choose to feel concerned about how well you will perform and be disappointed if you get rejected, not shameful or embarrassed. You had better accept that you will need to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings you anticipate experiencing. I encourage you to lean into those feelings with unconditional self-acceptance. I want you to keep approaching attractive women instead of playing it safe. In so doing, you will see that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. You will develop psychological calluses to rejection. You will start to enjoy approaching fine-looking women you find attractive and experience the pleasant feelings we experience when we master our self-defeating fears. Remember the words of Plato, “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.”

Bottomline: Do what is awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult over and over again and you will see how you can build your discomfort tolerance and grow as a human. Strain and you will gain.

​If you would like to volunteer to discuss a problem like this one, please attend my Saturday Rational Emotive Behavioral Zoom Conversation hour 9 AM Eastern, 2 PM GMT, 2 PM UTC:
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A Reader Asks:

I have heard in your work with patients that you teach the importance of acceptance. What is the difference between acceptance and resignation in REBT?

REBT Answer:

It is true that in REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), we teach acceptance, and our definition does not include resignation. In my view, leading practitioner Dr. Windy Dryden provides the best definition which accurately represents the theory of REBT:
To accept something is to (1) acknowledge that it exists, (2) acknowledge that all the conditions are in place for it to exist (3) believe that while it is preferable for this reality not to exist, it does not follow that it must not exist, and (4) resolve to change the existing conditions if they can be changed and adjust constructively and move on if they can’t be changed.
As you can see, the definition includes resolve, not resignation, to change the existing undesirable conditions if they can be changed. An example of this would be to tolerate difficult work conditions until you can either encourage the employer to create better working conditions or to find a new job that has better working conditions.
REBT aims to help people not disturb themselves when a person encounters adversity. We teach people to adopt healthy attitudes that are flexible and realistic. For example, a person might hold an attitude “I must quickly and easily find a better job” and this attitude is likely to lead them to feel angry or depressed during the time they are looking for a job. If they held the attitude, “I wish I could find a better job quickly and easily, but I do not have to do so. Since I have bills to pay, I will tolerate this job. I will accept that finding a better job does not always happen easily and quickly, and although I do not like this, I can bear this” they would not experience emotional disturbance during the time they were searching for a better job. During this time they would not be miserable and could have some degree of happiness in other areas of their life. REBT’s realistic, flexible attitudes enable a person to accept an unfortunate reality with no emotional disturbance only for the time they have to do so. If REBT were encouraging resignation, we would certainly not encourage the individual to look for a better job. The acceptance we teach in REBT is a practical acceptance which is only required for as long as the adversity exists and is unavoidable. I teach people to change what they can change and accept what they cannot. Try it and see for yourself!

A Reader Writes and Asks:

I have read your website on depression and various other REBT therapy books by Dr. Albert Ellis. I have been feeling depressed and I have realized that I have conditional self-esteem. I was wondering maybe you could help me. I have this thought:
‘I am boring because I am not around with friends’. It looks like I have the belief that ‘Being around friends makes me interesting’ and its logically opposite thought ‘ Not being around friends make me boring’.
When I’m not with friends, I feel depressed and anxious most of the time. Can you please help me on how to dispute this self-downing belief?

Dr. Matweychuk’s answer based on REBT:

To dispute the attitude “I am boring” ask:
1.  Does this attitude help me function or does it hurt my functioning? Answer: It hurts my functioning because I create depression and anxiety which does not facilitate good functioning in life.

2.  Is the attitude “I am boring” true or false, consistent with the data of life or inconsistent with the data of life. Answer: It is false because I may act at times in a boring way as judge by some criteria I or others hold but I do not always act this way nor may always act this way in the future. The attitude “I am boring” means I am and will always be boring, boring is my essence, and it is implied that essence is less worthwhile than it could be.  
Now see that the mistake you are making, which is having profound unhealthy and unproductive emotional consequences for you, is to define the entity known as the “self”. You are using the verb to be and by using this pernicious verb form you are forced by it to overgeneralize about your “self,” your “essence,” or your “I-ness”. You would do better to specify the characteristics, traits, and skills you possess as well as the deeds you have done. Then take the next step and rate, evaluate and label those parts of you but NOT the whole of you. The whole of you cannot be VALIDLY rated but when you hold the attitude “I am boring” you are rating your essence, the whole of you, your “I-ness” and thereby creating your depression and anxiety through crooked, invalid reasoning. Perhaps at times some people may sometimes find the way of acting as “boring” but that does not mean you, the person, are and always will be “boring”. Your self or essence cannot be validly rated due to the fact that it is very complex which means it has virtually an infinite number of qualities, characteristics, and traits. Over the course of your life you will do many, many things and those things can be validly rated in the CONTEXT of your goals and values. Other people can validly rate your behavior in the context of their goals and values but their rating SUBJECTIVE rating system is not a valid rating system of your essence or worth as a person. The entity we conceptualize as the “self” is in a constant state of evolution from your birth to your death and cannot be given a valid rating so long as you are alive and doing and living. Your “self” cannot be validly scored and summed and placed on some sort of continuum of self or human worth. Yet when you hold the attitude “I am boring” you are putting your “self” on a continuum and it is in a lesser position on that continuum than when you think “I am interesting.” You are creating and then riding a very painful and unproductive emotional roller coaster. Given the way you invalidly reason when you are around friends you create good feelings and when you are not around friends you create depression and anxiety.
You wrongly seem to think your worth is defined by the presence of friends. This is an arbitrary way of defining your complex and ever evolving self. Someone could come along and say you have it all wrong and that you are very worthwhile because you are alone, you are without friends and surviving, you are tall or you are short. All definitions of the self, of a person, are arbitrary and therefore the self cannot get assigned a valid score or value.  
I recommend you acknowledge that you prefer friends and spending time in their presence. When you have too few friends or too much time away from friends this condition is bad and goes against your goals, values, preferences, and wishes. By rating the condition, you are making a rating but you are not rating yourself. You then will tend to unconditionally accept yourself and continue to dislike the state of having too few friends or not sufficient time with your friends. Now with your unconditional self-acceptance, you will feel the productive and healthy emotion of sorrow and displeasure. These feelings are the result of not getting what you want and will thereby motivate you to strive to solve the problem of developing more friendships so that you experience their presence more of the time and thereby experience what you want and the happy feelings that go along with getting what you want.
Make this your new rational philosophy: “I really, really like having friendships and spending a good deal of my time with friends but I do not absolutely have to have friends and spend a good deal of my time with friends. When friends are not present that is an inconvenient, bad, and an unfavorable condition but it does not diminish my value as a person. I can accept myself under these unfavorable conditions. The existence of these conditions in part shows I am a fallible human if they exist because of something I have done or something I fail to do. I can accept me, my personhood, my essence, my “I-ness” with or without friends. I will strive to make friendships and to do this I will strive to display traits and behaviors they may find agreeable so they thereby have an interest in spending time with me. When I successfully do this that is good and when I fail to do this and fail at goal that is bad. In either case, I am acceptable as a person. I can unconditionally accept myself.”
Rating only your traits, deeds, and actions but not your “self” takes a good deal of thought and disciplined reasoning. Read over my comments above many times until you understand this slippery concept of a complex and evolving self-entity that cannot be validly rated. Keep at this disciplined form of reasoning whereby you only rate your deeds, traits, etc. but not the self and you will then set the stage for acceptance of the self. You can do it but it takes work and practice!
Good luck!
Dr. Matweychuk

Note: This is for educational purposes only and is not psychotherapy. If you are in need of immediate psychological seek a local and qualified mental health clinician or go to the nearest hospital to seek immediate help. You can also call the National Suicide Helpline at 800-273-8255

A Reader Writes and Asks:

How Can REBT Help Me Not Quit on My Job Search? Finding a Job Can Be So Hard. Good luck!

Dr. Matweychuk’s answer based on REBT:
​Question: What can REBT offer a person who is involved in job hunting? Getting a job can be a hard and frustrating search. Sometimes I get down and dread searching and networking even though I know that these are good things to do. How can REBT help me?REBT Perspective on the problem: Job hunting is difficult and people often experience unhealthy negative emotions like anger, depression, anxiety, and shame. The first thing you preferably should do is see that these unhealthy negative emotions will undermine the grit you need to stay the course. Acknowledge that job hunting involves many uncomfortable activities most of which are not immediately rewarding. If you have an unhealthy attitude towards these tasks you will avoid doing them. Unfortunately, jobs tend not to come to you but you have to go to them. Job hunters will defeat and block themselves to the extent that they hold these irrational attitudes:

1. By now I should have found the job I am looking for.

2. It is unbearable to do these unrewarding tasks day in and day out and come up empty handed.

3. I have to find a job that makes me happy, with a comfortable commute, and compensates me financially what I think I should be compensated.

4. Because I do not have a job, I am a loser.

REBT can offer you considerable help by offering rational alternative attitudes to each of the above four self-defeating, rigid and extreme attitudes. Adoption of these rational attitudes will strengthen your degree of resilience when the going gets difficult and the search moves into consecutive months. It is important and realistic to acknowledge that while you are job hunting you want to feel healthy negative emotions. You want to feel concerned, disappointed, and remain in a state of unconditional self-acceptance. These are healthy negative emotions that will flow from rational attitudes, which do not change your feelings towards yourself, as you do those uncomfortable and unrewarding tasks that are a prerequisite for a job. You will NEVER be exceptionally happy while looking for a job but if you are concerned, disappointed and remain in a state of unconditional self-acceptance instead of depressed, angry, anxious, and ashamed you will steadily look for a job instead of avoiding the process. You will also tend not to put your life and happiness on hold while you are searching for the job you desire. REBT teaches people how to have some happiness even when their life is incomplete or not as they want it to be. This is an essential skill to learn in order to live the most fulfilling and happy life possible because once you get a job some new problem, challenge, or adversity is likely to take its place and the happiness you had when you achieved your goal of finding a job will be very short lived!

See that the above rigid and extreme attitudes are irrational because they are interfering with surviving the job hunting process and being as happy as possible while doing it. In general REBT theory starts with the assumption that your general goals are largely to be happy and to survive. Rational attitudes help you achieve these general goals AND all the sub-goals that define your happiness and help you to survive the difficult periods of life such as when searching for a good or better job. Here are the rational attitudes I want you to repeat strongly to yourself so that you cling to them at those moments when you begin to feel weak, tired, and emotionally miserable or anxious:

1. I really wish that by now I would have found the job I am looking for but that has NOT happened and demanding that it has happened by this point in the game will only cause me to feel anger and self-pity. No one knows how many submissions of their resume it will take in advance of their search but one thing I can be sure of is that as soon as I hit that unknown magic number an offer will be made. That is how it works. It would be lovely if the universe had a law that said everyone’s job search must occur in no more than 10 application submissions. Unfortunately, that law of the universe does not exist. Keep at the search for as long as necessary and you will succeed!

2. It is very unrewarding and therefore difficult to do these job search tasks day in and day out and come up empty handed but it is not unbearable. If it were unbearable I would no longer be alive and able to complain to myself about how hard the search has become. If I want to continue the search I had better convince myself that continuing to search is bearable and stopping the search is the kiss of death.

3. I want to find a job that makes me happy, is a close distance from my home, and pays what I would like it to pay but it does not have to happen that way. Life on earth generally means compromise and settling for something that is good enough at this time all things considered. I can demand the perfect job or I can be realistic and accept what I can find and commit myself to being happy despite not finding the ideal job.

4. Because I do not have a job, I have a problem. No matter how many other people think differently and judge my worth as a person, to conclude I am a loser is flat out invalid. Human worth is not validly measured by a job, your income, or any other standard. Some jobs are better than others. Some people are better candidates for some jobs as compared to other people. The person who gets the job is not a better person, does not have greater human worth, but does have the job. Good for them. To define myself as a loser because I do not have a job or the job I ideally want will only get in the way of someday having that job. I always maintain unconditional self-acceptance and then keep doing what will increase my chances of someday landing that dream job.
 Disclaimer: The response found in this column is for educational purposes only. This is not psychotherapy and you are not advised to act upon the educational information found above. This column attempts to show how one could analyze different problems using the philosophy and core concepts of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This is not the proper medium for you to receive treatment for a problem discussed in this column. If you need assistance seek a qualified mental health provider in your locale or go to a hospital to seek immediate assistance. If are experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255​ or call 911 in located in the United States.

A Reader Asks:

I suffer from low-esteem. How do I build up my self-esteem?

REBT Based Educational Advice:

Question: ​I have been told I suffer from low self-esteem. I have not lived up to my potential as a student and recognize that other students get much better grades. I tend to feel bad about how I am not living up to my potential but I lack the discipline that is required to get better grades. How might REBT help me with my self-esteem problem?​REBT Perspective on the problem: REBT would address your self-esteem problem by encouraging you to stop esteeming yourself on the basis of your grades and not living up to your potential. This is quite contrary to what nearly all other psychotherapists would teach you. Ellis argued that “self-esteem was the greatest sickness known to humankind because it was conditional.” When you esteem yourself and fail to live up to the condition you have arbitrarily set for esteeming yourself, you will experience disturbed emotions. You will then tend to see yourself as inadequate and feel shameful and depressed. You also may feel anxious when you try new endeavors unrelated to the area where you are not meeting the condition you have set for esteeming yourself.

Instead REBT teaches you that it would be best to replace conditional self-esteem with unconditional self-acceptance. This would enable you NOT to experience emotional disturbance when you do not live up to your potential in school because you are not devoting sufficient effort to developing your talents. You could accept yourself as a fallible human and then direct your ratings and evaluations to the effort you give your studies. When you do not give a good effort and your grades reflect this you could feel disappointed with regards to the effort you gave. Then you could use that healthy negative emotion of disappointment to address your problem in making a better effort next time.

REBT argues that humans cannot be validly rated as humans but when you use the concept of self-esteem you are attempting to do what is invalid and attempting to make a rating of yourself, your personhood, your essence. Why is it invalid to rate a human? Simply because as a human you possesses almost an infinite number of characteristics and do an uncountable number of deeds over the course of your lifetime. Therefore, the only valid way to rate you, the person, would be to do a thorough inventory of all these characteristics and behaviors. So if you wish to do this “valid” rating you would have to wait till the end of your lifetime simply because much behavior and human evolution lies ahead of you. You are a process and are so complex and in a state of development esteeming yourself is both invalid and very counterproductive. Such invalid ratings only lead to emotional disturbance which does not help you change the characteristic that underpins your behavioral problem of not giving your studies a good effort.

Now that I hopefully have shown you the merits of unconditional self-acceptance let me also address your problem of discipline and effort. It is likely that your problem here is with what REBT calls low discomfort tolerance or discomfort intolerance. Even when we have talent the effort required to develop that talent tends to feel a bit uncomfortable. We have to set aside time to study, then focus our concentration and avoid distractions, and then we have to reflect on the work at hand. You likely hold rigid and extreme attitudes that block you from giving a good effort and doing this on a consistent basis, which is called discipline. There are many attitudes that produce discomfort intolerance but here are a few to give you an idea of what some of them look like:

1. Life conditions must be easy, simple, and ideal and conditions are unbearable when they are not this way.

2. It is too hard to expend energy to master the material I have to study.

3. It is unbearable to turn off my phone and stop monitoring social media while I focus on my homework for three hours at a time.

REBT would teach you to attack these self-defeating rigid and extreme attitudes and expose how they are not helpful to achieving your goals, not true, and illogical. This process of exposing these characteristics of one’s attitudes is known as disputing of your irrational attitudes. REBT psychotherapists teach their patients how to spot and then dispute their irrational attitudes. Some people teach themselves how to do this by reading the numerous REBT books or listening to the audio or watching video I present on my website. In the end the process of disputing will help you create more useful rational attitudes that are flexible and non-extreme such as:

1. I want life conditions to be easy, simple, and ideal but unfortunately they do not have to be so. When they are not this way I will be uncomfortable but this is not unbearable. I can tolerate conditions that are difficult, complex and less than ideal. When a particular task is worth doing I will be more than willing to bear the discomfort involved in doing it so that I am able to reap rewards in the long run for my effort at doing the particular task. I am going to do this as I very much want to achieve my personal goals.

2. It is hard to expend energy to master the material I have to study but not too hard. If it were too hard I would perish in the struggle but surely I know that won’t happen! No one ever died from giving a good effort and expending energy in the process!

3. It is difficult and uncomfortable but not unbearable to turn off my phone and stop monitoring social media while I focus on my homework for three hours at a time. I can tolerate the struggle to focus my complete attention on my studies for three hours. The struggle of such focus is worth doing as I wish to develop my talents and get better grades. I am going to bear the discomfort that comes with turning off my phone and ceasing to monitor the social media stream while I focus on my homework for three hours at a time.

In summary REBT would encourage you to accept both yourself AND the discomfort involved in expending effort to develop your talents. Will this be easy for you to do? No it will not be easy simply because you are a human and well-practiced at rigid and extreme thinking. REBT theorizes that humans have an inborn tendency to rate both their characteristics and deeds and to then go beyond this helpful set of ratings and to rate their complex and ever evolving self. This rating of the self leads to esteeming and not esteeming the self. Secondly, REBT theorizes that humans often rigidly demand to remain comfortable and will seek to do so even though they may very well be aware that some degree of discomfort is necessary to achieve their personal goals. Then REBT points out that you have probably practiced the self-defeating attitudes for many years. What this all means is that you are capable of change and growth but you had better accept that you will have to work hard and repeatedly in order to change your longstanding and inborn ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. You can bear this struggle and from my personal perspective it is well worth it! Give it a try yourself.​​Disclaimer: The response found in this column is for educational purposes only. This is not psychotherapy and you are not advised to act upon the educational information found below. This column attempts to show how one could analyze different problems using the philosophy and core concepts of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This is not the proper medium for you to receive treatment for a problem discussed in this column. If you need assistance seek a qualified mental health provider in your locale or go to a hospital to seek immediate assistance. If are experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


The response found in this column is for educational purposes only. This is not psychotherapy and you are not advised to act upon the educational information found below. This column attempts to show how one could analyze different problems using the philosophy and core concepts of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This is not the proper medium for you to receive treatment for a problem discussed in this column. If you need assistance seek a qualified mental health provider in your locale or go to a hospital to seek immediate assistance. If are experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

A Reader Asks:

My mother is quite elderly and my brother and sister are very angry with each other. Both refuse to talk to each other. My problem is that I do not want to see our family fracture and do not want my mother to go to her grave knowing that her two of her three children do not speak to each other. Both of my siblings, whom I am on relatively good terms with, tell me they will have nothing to do with the other once Mom is gone. I find this a very sad state of affairs and want to help them get along again. Please show me how.

REBT Perspective on the problem: 

This is an all too common problem that sadly people seek help in solving. The first thing to do is to help yourself before you attempt to help anyone else involved whether that be your Mother, brother, or sister.
REBT teaches that we upset ourselves about what happens to us but also teaches you can choose between healthy and unhealthy negative emotions. If you are experiencing anxiety, anger, shame, or depression in response to what is going on here you are experiencing an unhealthy negative emotion. If you are experiencing concern, annoyance, disappointment or sadness you are experiencing healthy negative emotions. The unhealthy negative emotions will interfere with any effort you make to repair this rift in the family while the healthy negative emotions will help motivate you to creatively intervene to try to influence your fallible siblings. Furthermore, whether you are successful in repairing the relationship between your siblings your unhealthy negative emotion will make harder for you to experience well-being and some degree of happiness while your siblings are at war with each other. So from an REBT standpoint unhealthy negative emotion is self-defeating for many different reasons. Give them up! But how you ask? The answer lies with you striving to hold flexible and non-extreme attitudes about the rift that is occurring. These healthy attitudes would be “I wish my brother and sister would not anger themselves with each other but they do not have to be sane, tolerant, and flexible as I want them to be. They are both fallible humans and right now are acting as they are acting because that is their nature. Now I had better accept them warts and all and model tolerance for both of them and this is probably the best thing I can do to help this sad situation. I will not disturb myself about their anger towards each other and I will not disturb myself if my mother is sad about their anger towards each other. She has a right to be sad as I do because we want them to get along or at least tolerate each other and we are NOT getting that right now and may very well never get that. Too bad!”

This rational philosophy will help you feel sad and concerned two emotions which will serve to motivate you to attempt to influence your brother and your sister. When you take steps to speak to them about their anger for the other party see that the only person you can control is you. REBT teaches that you cannot control anyone else other than you. If you are lucky you may find a way to influence them somewhat but in the end humans will do what they want and not what you want. Accept this.

When you speak to them you may want to sneak in some teachings from REBT. First when you discuss their upset with the other party you may not want to try to persuade them to not see the other person as having not committed a transgression. Instead accept that their reality is “true” and ask them if they might not be better off condemning the sin committed rather than condemning the sinner. Ask them if their feelings towards the other are serving them well. Is their anger and resentment helping them or hurting them in any way? They may not be inclined to see their feelings as hurting them but anger is very self-defeating and you may want to gently point out to them how their anger is hurting them. Sadly, you may not get very far no matter how logical you argument is and how badly their anger is hurting them. Model unconditional other-acceptance and do not demand that they relinquish their anger. You can ask but people do not have to give you what you want and so you may very well have to live with your brother and sister fighting and sulking like cats and dogs. This is very sad but not the bloody end of the world. Keep control of your attitudes and reactions towards each of them and model to the day you die the unconditional-other acceptance REBT teaches.

As for your elderly mother strive to not disturb yourself over her reaction to the rift between your brother and sister. You can again sneak in some of the REBT philosophy by showing her that sadness, sorrow, disappointment, and concern are sane and healthy for her to feel while depression, shame, guilt, and anxiety are very unhealthy for her to feel. Encourage her to unconditionally accept both of her children while not being at all pleased with their behavior towards one another. If she feels guilty in some way encourage her to go forward unconditionally accepting herself but to put down any contribution she may have had to this problem. For example, did she do something similar in her relationships over the years? If so that is bad but she too is not a bad person. Finally, encourage her to have unconditional life-acceptance and see that these sorts of things have happened for thousands of years between siblings and are likely to continue to occur as long as fallible humans inhabit the planet. She can still have some happiness despite her disappointment that her children are needlessly disturbing themselves with each other. We all can try to have a positive influence on the situation but not disturb ourselves when we do not make as much headway as we would like to make.

Back to you and your problem. Remember to strive to have some happiness with each sibling even though you probably would derive more happiness if your siblings were part of one big happy family. Too bad we are all fallible humans who sometimes get stuck on anger.