W Dryden – REBT emotional problems

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The eight emotional problems are underpinned by irrational beliefs

RECBT theory argues that each of the eight emotional problems stems from two irrational beliefs: a rigid belief and three extreme beliefs that are derived from the rigid belief. Thus, an irrational belief is characterised by being rigid or being extreme. It has three other characteristics:

it is false
it is illogical

it has largely unconstructive consequences (e.g. in the face of an adversity it leads to an emotional problem).

Let me consider rigid and extreme beliefs separately.

Rigid beliefs

Perhaps the most basic characteristic of human beings is that we have desires. We want certain things to happen and other things not to happen, but when we turn these desires into rigidities when we don’t get what we want, or get what we don’t want, then we experience one or more of the emotional problems described in this book. Here are a few examples of rigid beliefs:

I must do well on the forthcoming test.
You must respect my boundaries.
The world must not give me too much hassle.

As these examples show you can hold rigid beliefs about yourself, others and life conditions.

Three extreme beliefs

According to RECBT theory, rigid beliefs are paramount in explaining the existence of the emotional problems and three extreme beliefs tend to be derived from these rigid beliefs. These are

awfulising beliefs
discomfort intolerance beliefs depreciation beliefs.

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6 Dealing with emotional problems: a client’s guide

Awfulising beliefs

An awfulising belief stems from the rigid belief that things must not be as bad as they are. An awfulising belief is extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

Nothing could be worse.
The event in question is worse than 100 per cent bad. No good could possibly come from this bad event.

In the following examples of awfulising beliefs, the rigid beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I must do well on the forthcoming test) . . . and it would be awful if I don’t.
(You must respect my boundaries) . . . and it’s the end of the world when you don’t. (The world must not give me too much hassle) . . . and it’s terrible when it does.

Discomfort intolerance beliefs

A discomfort intolerance belief stems from a rigid belief that things must not be as frustrating or uncomfortable as they are. A discomfort intoler- ance belief is extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

I will die or disintegrate if the frustration or discomfort continues to exist.

I will lose the capacity to experience happiness if the frustration or discomfort continues to exist.

In the following examples of discomfort intolerance beliefs, the rigid beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I must do well on the forthcoming test) . . . and I could not bear it if I don’t. (You must respect my boundaries) . . . and it’s intolerable if you don’t.
(The world must not give me too much hassle) . . . and I can’t stand it if it does.

Depreciation beliefs

A depreciation belief stems from the rigid belief that you, others or things must be as you want them to be and is extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

A person (self or other) can legitimately be given a single global rating that de®nes their essence and the worth of a person is dependent upon conditions that change (e.g. my worth goes up when I do well and goes down when I don’t do well).

The world can legitimately be given a single rating that de®nes its essential nature and that the value of the world varies according to what happens within it (e.g. the value of the world goes up when something fair occurs and goes down when something unfair happens).

A person can be rated on the basis of one of his or her aspects and the world can be rated on the basis of one of its aspects.

In the following examples of depreciation beliefs, the rigid beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I must do well on the forthcoming test) . . . and I am a failure if I don’t. (You must respect my boundaries) . . . and you are bad if you don’t.

(The world must not give me too much hassle) . . . and if it does, the world is a rotten place.

The healthy alternatives to the eight emotional problems are underpinned by rational beliefs

RECBT theory argues that each of the eight healthy alternatives to the emotional problems stems from two rational beliefs: a ̄exible belief and three non-extreme beliefs that are derived from the ̄exible belief. Thus, a rational belief is characterised by being ̄exible or being non-extreme. It has three other characteristics:

it is true
it is logical

it has largely constructive consequences (e.g. in the face of an adversity it leads to a healthy negative emotion).

Let me consider ̄exible and non-extreme beliefs separately.

Flexible beliefs

As I pointed out earlier in this chapter, it is a basic characteristic of human beings that we have desires. We want certain things to happen and other things not to happen. When we keep these desires ̄exible and when we don’t get what we want, or get what we don’t want, we experience one or

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8 Dealing with emotional problems: a client’s guide

more of the healthy negative emotions outlined earlier. Here are a few examples of ̄exible beliefs:

I would like to do well on the forthcoming test, but I don’t have to do so.
I want you to respect my boundaries, but unfortunately you don’t have to do so.

I would prefer it if the world did not give me too much hassle, but the world does not have to be the way I want it to be.

As these examples show, you can hold ̄exible beliefs about yourself, others and life conditions. You will note from these examples that ̄exible beliefs have two components:

an `asserted preference’ component (e.g. `I would like to do well on the forthcoming test . . .’)

a `negated rigid’ component (e.g. `. . . but I don’t have to do so’).

Three non-extreme beliefs

According to RECBT theory, ̄exible beliefs are paramount in explaining the existence of healthy negative emotions and three non-extreme beliefs tend to be derived from these ̄exible beliefs. These are

non-awfulising beliefs discomfort tolerance beliefs acceptance beliefs.

Non-awfulising beliefs

A non-awfulising belief stems from the ̄exible belief that you would like things not to be as bad as they are, but that doesn’t mean that they must not be as bad. This belief is non-extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

Things could always be worse.
The event in question is less than 100 per cent bad. Good could come from this bad event.

In the following examples of non-awfulising beliefs, the ̄exible beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I would like to do well on the forthcoming test, but I don’t have to do so) . . . and if I don’t do well, it would be bad, but not awful.

(I want you to respect my boundaries, but unfortunately you don’t have to do so) . . . It’s disadvantageous to me if you don’t, but not the end of the world.

(I would prefer it if the world did not give me too much hassle, but the world does not have to be the way I want it to be) . . . It’s bad when it’s not, but not terrible.

You will note from these examples that non-awfulising beliefs have two components:

an `asserted badness’ component (e.g. `If I don’t do well on the forthcoming test, it would be bad . . .’)

a `negated awfulising’ component (e.g . . . `but it wouldn’t be awful’).

Discomfort tolerance beliefs

A discomfort tolerance belief stems from the ̄exible belief that it is undesirable when things are as frustrating or uncomfortable as they are, but unfortunately things don’t have to be different. A discomfort tolerance belief is non-extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

I will struggle if the frustration or discomfort continues to exist, but I will neither die nor disintegrate.

I will not lose the capacity to experience happiness if the frustration or discomfort continues to exist, although this capacity will be temporarily diminished.

The frustration or discomfort is worth tolerating.

In the following examples of discomfort tolerance beliefs, the ̄exible beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I would like to do well on the forthcoming test, but I don’t have to do so) . . . It will be a struggle for me if I don’t do well, but I could bear it and it would be worth bearing.

(I want you to respect my boundaries, but unfortunately you don’t have to do so) . . . It’s hard for me to bear it if you don’t respect my boundaries, but I can tolerate it and it is in my interests to do so.

(I would prefer it if the world did not give me too much hassle, but the world does not have to be the way I want it to be) . . . When the world is not the way I want, it is dif®cult me to tolerate it, but I can stand it and it’s worthwhile for me to do so.

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10 Dealing with emotional problems: a client’s guide

You will note from these examples that discomfort tolerance beliefs have three components:

an asserted struggle component (e.g. `It will be a struggle for me if I don’t do well on the forthcoming test . . .’)

a negated unbearability component (e.g. `. . . but I could bear it . . .’) a worth it component (e.g. `. . . and it would be worth bearing’).

Unconditional acceptance beliefs

An unconditional acceptance belief stems from a ̄exible belief that it is preferable, but not necessary, that you, others or things are the way you want them to be and is non-extreme in the sense that you believe at the time one or more of the following:

A person cannot legitimately be given a single global rating that de®nes their essence, and their worth, as far as they have it, is not dependent upon conditions that change (e.g. my worth stays the same whether or not I do well).

The world cannot legitimately be given a single rating that de®nes its essential nature and that the value of the world does not vary according to what happens within it (e.g. the value of the world stays the same whether fairness exists at any given time or not).

It makes sense to rate discrete aspects of a person and of the world, but it does not make sense to rate a person or the world on the basis of these discrete aspects.

In the following examples of unconditional acceptance beliefs, the ̄exible beliefs are listed in parentheses:

(I would like to do well on the forthcoming test, but I don’t have to do so) . . . If I don’t do well, it’s bad, but I am not a failure. I am an unrateable, fallible human being capable of doing well and doing poorly on tests.

(I want you to respect my boundaries, but unfortunately you don’t have to do so) . . . If you don’t, you are not a bad person; rather you are an ordinary human being capable of doing good, bad and neutral things.

(I would prefer it if the world did not give me too much hassle, but the world does not have to be the way I want it to be) . . . When the world does give me more hassle than I want, it is not a rotten place; rather it is a complex mixture of good, bad and neutral aspects.

You will note from these examples that unconditional acceptance beliefs have three components:

an aspect evaluation component (e.g. `If I don’t do well, it’s bad . . .’) a negated depreciation component (e.g. `. . . but I am not a failure’)

an asserted acceptance component (e.g. `. . . I am an unrateable, fallible human being capable of doing well and doing poorly on tests’).

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