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 (CBT). REBT's effectiveness, short-term nature, and low cost are major reasons for its popularity.
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 based on a few simple principles which have 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. REBT addresses the latter by helping you:
Take responsibility for your distress. The first lesson in healthy emoting and relating was stated by the Roman philosopher Epictetus more than 2000 years ago: only you can upset yourself about events--the events themselves, no matter how undesirable, can never upset you.
Recognize that neither another person, nor an adverse circumstance, can ever disturb you--only you can. No one else can get into your gut and churn it up. Others can cause you physical pain--by hitting you over the head with a baseball bat, for example--or can block your goals. But you create your own emotional suffering, or self-defeating behavioral patterns, about what others do or say.
Identify your "musts." Once you admit that you distort your own emotions and actions, then determine precisely how. The culprit usually lies in one of the three core "musts:"
- "Must" #1 (a demand on yourself): "I MUST do well and get approval, or else I'm worthless." This demand causes anxiety, depression, and lack of assertiveness.
- "Must" #2 (a demand on others): "You MUST treat me reasonably, considerately, and lovingly, or else you're no good." This "must" leads to resentment, hostility, and violence.
- "Must" #3 (a demand on situations): "Life MUST be fair, easy, and hassle-free, or else it's awful." This thinking is associated with hopelessness, procrastination, and addictions.
Ascertain what you're demanding of yourself, of your significant others, or of your circumstances. Not until you have discovered the "must" can you then go on effectively to reduce your distress.
Dispute your "musts." The only way you can ever remain disturbed about adversity is by vigorously and persistently agreeing with one of these three "musts." Thus, once you've bared them, then relentlessly confront and question your demands.
Begin by asking yourself: "What's the evidence for my 'must?' " "How is it true?" "Where's it etched in stone?" And then by seeing: "There's no evidence." "My 'must' is entirely false." "It's not carved indelibly anywhere." Make your view "must"-free, and then your emotions will heal.
- Reinforce your preferences. Conclude, therefore:
- Preference #1: "I strongly PREFER to do well and get approval, but even if I fail, I will accept myself fully."
- Preference #2: "I strongly PREFER that you treat me reasonably, kindly, and lovingly, but since I don't run the universe, and it's a part of your human nature to err, I, then, cannot control you."
- Preference #3: "I strongly PREFER that life be fair, easy, and hassle-free, and it's very frustrating that it isn't, but I can bear frustration and still considerably enjoy life."
Assuming that you take the above suggestions to heart and thereby greatly reduce your anxiety, hostility, depression, and addictions, what remains? Will you exist robot-like, devoid of human feeling and motivation? Hardly! Without your turmoil, you'll more easily experience love, involvement, and joy. And without your addictions, you'll be freer to engage in the gratifying experiences of spontaneity, commitment, and self-actualization.
As you can see, REBT will appeal to you if you relish quickly taking control of your own life, rather than remaining dependent upon a therapist for years. By giving you tools for identifying and overcoming the true source of your difficulties, it will prepare you to act in many ways as your own therapist. And by helping you to reinforce realistic, self-benefitting beliefs, it will enable you to eliminate present emotional and behavioral problems, and to avoid future ones.