life, Light

Compliment, Coffee & Counseling


A few weeks ago I had a dream – actually it was probably the mother-of-a-child-working-on-her-masters-in-counseling-degree’s worst nightmare:  I dreamed that my daughter read a book for one of her classes and discovered that I had done every parenting thing wrong.

So imagine my delight yesterday when my daughter and I returned home after walking our dogs and she said, “You have really healthy REBT.”

“Oh, wow, thanks!,” I replied.   “What’s REBT again?”

“Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy”  (When she said it we both knew it doesn’t make sense to say one has healthy REBT, but you know what she meant.)

“You can tell me about it over coffee,” I said.

While she sipped her vanilla latte and I sipped my chai tea latte, she explained:  Emotionally healthy people have unconditional acceptance of themselves, of others and of life. She gave me some examples.

I asked her what the unhealthy flip side looks like.

She said people who aren’t emotionally healthy become easily rattled.  They must have a problem free life.  If they don’t they think, “This is terrible, I can’t stand it,” and they become anxious.

When we returned home from the coffee shop, she left for class and I googled Rational, Emotive, Behavior Therapy because it has been over 30 years since I was in school and I needed a refresher.   Plus I’m always curious about everything.

So here’s REBT in a nutshell:

According to Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, how we react to situations is not determined by the situation itself, but by our belief about the situation.  He developed a simple ABC format to explain:

A. Something happens.
B. You have a belief about the situation.
C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

A does not cause C, B causes C.

When people react with anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, rage, passive-aggression, acts of violence, self-pity or procrastination it is not because something bad happened, it is because they have one or more of the following faulty beliefs:

1.  I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.

2.  Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.

3.  I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.

The more rigid and demanding the belief, the unhealthier the reaction.

When I was growing up, I noticed a pattern with one of my sisters.  She would make a new friend, put her on a pedestal, talk about her in glowing terms for a week or so, admiring everything she said and did.  Then, when the friend did any little thing that was not in accordance with how my sister believed a perfect person should act, she became angry, upset, rattled, and the friend was suddenly horrible, worthless, cast aside.  NEVER to be forgiven.  She was definitely operating out of faulty belief #2.

I know a woman who can’t quite come to Jesus.  She has toyed with the idea, but she just won’t admit that she needs a Savior.  She has way too much pride for that.  Too much intelligence for that, she has said.

But I think the truth is that she has had too much childhood abuse for that.  I don’t know exactly what she endured.  Perhaps it was not all that much compared to some, but to her it was enough to prepay any sin she would ever commit in her life.  And she has committed plenty of sins.

But she won’t admit it, she won’t say she’s sorry for anything because she seems to believe that the abuse she suffered has earned her a pass.

God owes her.

I think she might be operating out of faulty belief #3.  God, life must be fair, must make sense, must be kind to her.  If it isn’t, then she can behave however she wants.  Doesn’t matter who she hurts.  She just can’t accept that life is unfair – especially to her.

A few lines from a Keith Green song sum up faulty belief #1 pretty well:

“My son, my son why are you striving?
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you.
I did it all while I was dying.
Rest in your faith my peace will come to you.”

The goal of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is to transform faulty beliefs into unconditional acceptance:

Unconditional self-acceptance:

1. I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
2. There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
3. Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional other-acceptance:

1. Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
2. There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
3. The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional life-acceptance:

1. Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
2. There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to.
3. Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always bearable.

Perhaps my unconditional self-acceptance is the reason I have trouble wallowing in the self-condemnation I wrote about yesterday.  And probably tomorrow.

And to give credit where credit is due, here’s where I got my info:


7 thoughts on “Compliment, Coffee & Counseling

  1. This is excellent. I’ll bet I’ve told every client I’ve evere seen that it’s what you believe to be true that motivates your emotions and your behavior. It’s not what someone else does: It’s what you believe about what someone else does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This demonstrates a good frame of mind. The patient/client acknowledges that life isn’t fair (Job, Ecclesiastes). That he doesn’t expect it to be (Philippians 4). That he will still hold on for the happy ending, the coming through. This conclusion can either be based in a secular disposition of optimism or in a Biblical discovery that God is love (1 John epistle, Psalm 23). It is a matter of grace that hard knocks or conundrums will bring an individual from the former position to the latter. (Doug)

    Story: Two twins were expecting great presents for their eighth birthday. Instead they awoke to find each of their bedrooms filled with manure. The first broke down despondently. The second started digging with his beach shovel. “I know there’s a pony in there somewhere!” 🙂


    • Thank you Doug. I like the way you paired Scripture with the principles. And the very fact that you did tells me that it is not a choice between a secular disposition or a Biblical discovery. “Secular” denotes things that have no religious or spiritual or Biblical basis and clearly this “disposition of optimism” does.

      I know that some Christians consider anything that doesn’t have God’s name or Christian jargon blatantly plastered all over it secular but I don’t. I see God in everything that is excellent, noble, good, kind, praiseworthy, true.

      “The heavens declare the glory of God;
      the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
      Day after day they pour forth speech;
      night after night they reveal knowledge.
      They have no speech, they use no words;
      no sound is heard from them.
      Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
      their words to the ends of the world.”

      God’s name is subtly and invisibly plastered on every good and true thing.


  3. a.g.: With regard to the unapproved comments you are sending, I will just say that you can stop. You are not going to get through to me as long as you are making accusations. You say you are speaking on behalf of God/the Holy Spirit, but I know His voice when I hear it, and what you are saying is not it. When I hear accusations, I hear the voice of the enemy. Because he is the accuser. When I see my words being twisted, I see the enemy because confusion is one of his tactics. God is love, a.g., and He speaks with lovingkindness – even when He is correcting me and pointing out the error in my thinking. He is good at it. You are not. He isn’t vulgar and He doesn’t swear, which is how I know that those are not His words in your mouth. You will not get through to me as long as you use the tactics of the enemy. So take a kinder, gentler, more respectful and more honest approach or just give up.


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