What does it take to be happy?
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), was developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in 1955.
It has since flourished and spawned a variety of other cognitive-behavior therapies. REBT’s effectiveness, short-term nature, and low cost are major reasons for its popularity.
REBT utilizes something called the “ABC’s” to help show how events in our lives trigger certain behaviors. An ABC worksheet is used to keep track of such. Go here to see the ABC worksheet.
REBT’s comprehensive approach works best for individuals desiring a scientific, present-focused, and active treatment for coping with life’s difficulties, rather than one which is mystical, historical, and largely passive.
REBT is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is based on a few simple principles having profound implications:
You are responsible for your own emotions and actions, your harmful emotions and dysfunctional behaviors are the product of your irrational thinking, you can learn more realistic views and, with practice, make them a part of you.
You’ll experience a deeper acceptance of yourself and greater satisfactions in life by developing a reality-based perspective.
REBT distinguishes clearly between two very different types of difficulties: practical problems and emotional problems. Your flawed behavior, unfair treatment by others, and undesirable situations, represent practical problems. Regrettably, your human tendency is to upset yourself about these practical problems, thereby unnecessarily creating a second order of problems–emotional suffering.
Twelve Irrational Beliefs
- The idea that we MUST be loved by significant others for almost everything they do, instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on and on getting approval for practical purposes, and on being loved instead of loving.
- The notion that certain acts are awful or evil, and that the people who perform those acts should be severely damned, instead of the idea that certain acts are self-defeating or antisocial, and that people who do such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or neurotically, and would be better helped to change. For example, people’s poor behaviors do not make them rotten individuals.
- The idea that it is horrible when things don’t go the way we long for them to, instead of the idea that it’s too bad, that we’d be better to try to change or control bad conditions so that they become more satisfactory, and, if that isn’t possible, we had better temporarily accept and gracefully lump their existence.
- The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by outside people and events, instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view that we take of unfortunate conditions.
- The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and endlessly obsess about it, instead of the idea that one would better frankly face it and render it non-dangerous and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.
6. The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self-responsibilities, instead of the idea that the so-called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.
- The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over, instead of the idea that the world is full of improbability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this.
- The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction, instead of the idea that we tend to be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or when we are devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.
- The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help feeling disturbed about, instead of the idea that we have real control over our destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the “musturbatory” hypotheses which we often employ to create them.
What are the Rational Beliefs of REBT?
Like replacing bad habits with good ones, your irrational thoughts must be replaced with more rational ones. To counter each of Irrational Belief is a list of Rational Beliefs.
- It is not possible for everyone to love and approve of us; indeed, we cannot be assured that any one particular person will continue to like us. What one person likes another hates. When we try too hard to please everyone, we lose our identity, we are not self-directed, secure or interesting. It is better to cultivate our own values, social skills, and compatible friendships, rather than worry about pleasing everyone.
- No one can be perfect. We all have weaknesses and faults. Perfectionism creates anxiety and guarantees failure. Perfectionistic needs may motivate us but they may take away the joy of living and alienate people if we demand they be perfect too. We (and others) can only expect us to do what we can (as of this time) and learn in the process.
- No matter how evil an act, there are reasons for it. If we put ourselves in the other person’s situation and mental condition, we would see it from his/her point of view and understand. Even if the person were emotionally disturbed, it would be “understandable” (i.e. “lawful” from a deterministic point of view). Being tolerant of past behavior does not mean we will refuse to help the person change who has done wrong.
Likewise, our own mean behavior should be understood by ourselves and others. When people feel mistreated, they can discuss the wrong done to them and decide how to make it right. That would be better than blaming each other and becoming madder and madder so both become losers.
- The universe was not created for our pleasure. Children are commonly told, “You can’t have everything you want.” Many adults continue to have that “I want it all my way” attitude. The idea is silly, no matter who has it. There is nothing wrong, however, with saying, “I don’t like the way that situation worked out. I’m going to do something to change it.” If changes aren’t possible, accept it and forget it. An ancient idea is to accept whatever is.
5. As ancient philosopher Epictetus said, it is not external events but our views, our self-talk, our beliefs about those events that upset us. So, challenge your irrational ideas. You may be able to change external events in the future and you certainly can change your thinking. Remember no one can make you feel anyway; you are responsible for your own feelings.
- There is a great difference between dreadful ruminations about what awful things might happen and thinking how to prevent, minimize, or cope with real potential problems. The former is useless, depressing, exhausting, and may even be self-fulfilling. The latter is wise and reassuring. Keep in mind that many of our fears never come true. Desirable outcomes are due to the laws of behavior, not due to our useless “worry.” Unwanted outcomes are also lawful, and not because we didn’t “worry.”
- As with procrastination, avoidance of unpleasant tasks, and denial of problems or responsibilities frequently yields immediate relief but, later on, results in serious problems. The lifestyle that makes us most proud is not having an easy life but facing and solving tough problems.
- People are dependent on others, e.g. for food, work, etc., but no one needs to be dependent on one specific person. In fact, it is foolish to become so dependent that the loss of one special person would leave you helpless and devastated.
- You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and change yourself (and maybe even the circumstances). You can teach an old dog new tricks. Self-help is for everyone every moment.
- It is nice to be concerned, sympathetic, and helpful. It is not helpful and may be harmful to become overly distraught and highly worried about other people’s problems. They are responsible, if they are able adults, for their feelings, for their wrong-doing, and for finding their own solutions.
Often there is little you can do but be empathic. Avoid insisting on rescuing people who haven’t asked you for help.
- A helpless, hopeless “I-can’t-change” attitude is not in keeping with modern-day self-help and therapeutic methods. There are many ways to change unwanted feelings. On the other hand, there is merit in “being able to flow with your feelings” in certain circumstances.
Being unable to feel or express certain emotions is a serious handicap but correctable. Being dominated by one’s emotions–a slave to your emotions–is also a serious but correctable problem. As long as our emotions are sometimes destructive and irrational, it is crazy to unthinkingly “follow our feelings.”
- Perfection is NOT the goal. There is no one perfect solution but there may be several good alternatives. Try one, see what happens (observe the laws at work), and try again if your first idea doesn’t work. Perfectionism causes problems, including taking too much time, becoming too complicated, causing undue anxiety, and lowering our self-esteem.
Nine Happiness-Producing Rational Beliefs
- Don’t blame others for making you unhappy. Take responsibility for making yourself happy.
- Give yourself permission to make yourself happy – even if in so doing, others make themselves unhappy.
- Make time for yourself to do things which bring you pleasure and enjoyment in the short-term.
- Do things for others and your community without expecting anything back in return.
- Sacrifice short-term pleasures and put up with short-term discomforts in order to achieve longer-term gains.
- Accept the fallibility of others and yourself.
- Don’t take things personally.
- Take a chance even when you might fail at things at work or in your personal relationships.
- Don’t become overly-concerned with what people think about you and what you are doing.