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:
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.
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.
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: