Rational Emotive Therapy And What It Says About Your Irrational Beliefs

Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) It is a form of therapy that is part of cognitive-behavioral therapies and its main author is Albert Ellis, who proposed the model during the second half of the 20th century.

The early beginning of this approach began with the development of an entire philosophical system and a set of self-instructions that the author himself, curiously, would end up applying to himself in order to solve his own emotional problems, highlighting his social anxiety.

But this contribution to the history of psychology is more than a simple therapeutic tool. It also tells us a lot about how that part of us that is based on irrational beliefs works

Basic functioning of Rational Emotive Therapy

The term irrational used in RET can easily be confused. From this model, we act rationally when we feel appropriately and we act functionally according to our goals

Irrational beliefs, therefore, refer to those cognitive phenomena that mediate our emotions and our behavior and that distance us from our goals.

Explained very succinctly, The rational-emotive therapist would be in charge of detecting the patient’s irrational beliefs that are causing emotional suffering and keeping you away from well-being. Through skills training, dialogue, and task prescription, the therapist attempts to reformulate these irrational beliefs and replace them with rational beliefs.

These rational beliefs are defined in RET as those that help the person:

  1. To present or choose for oneself certain values, purposes, goals and ideals that contribute to happiness.
  2. To use effective, flexible, scientific and logical-empirical ways to achieve these values ​​and goals and to avoid contradictory or counterproductive results.

Convenient and inconvenient feelings

From the RET, a difference is made between convenient feelings and inconvenient feelings.

A convenient feeling can be positive (love, happiness, pleasure, curiosity) or it can be negative (pain, regret, discomfort, frustration, displeasure). Regardless of whether they are positive or negative, convenient feelings help us minimize or eliminate the blockages or frustrations that occur when for some reason we do not see our desires and preferences fulfilled.

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On the other hand, inconvenient feelings, in addition to not helping us see these desires and preferences fulfilled, generate additional suffering Negative inconvenient feelings (depression, anxiety, inadequacy, despair, worthlessness) tend to make circumstances worse. Positive inconvenient feelings (grandiose, hostility, and paranoia) produce a fleeting sense of well-being that soon produces unfortunate results and greater frustrations.

Desirable feelings tend to generate desirable behaviors, and inconvenient feelings tend to generate inconvenient behaviors. Some intensify one’s own development and coexistence, others are counterproductive and socially harmful.

Irrational Beliefs, Inconvenient Feelings, and Inconvenient Behaviors They are three interactive elements that generate a dangerous vicious circle.

The ABC of irrational thinking

To understand the role that irrational beliefs play, it is useful to become familiar with the ABC scheme. In this scheme there are three elements:

A. Events

B. Beliefs

C. Consequences

The A refers to Triggering Events. These are nothing more than the circumstances we encounter in life when we pursue our goals. They are the things that happen to us.

These events, these things that happen to us, give rise to a series of consequences.

In the ABC scheme, C is Consequences. These consequences are of three types:

According to this scheme we could deduce that A (what happens to us in life) explains our reactions C (Consequences), or what is the same: events explain why we act the way we do, why we feel that way and why we think that way. However, this is not exact, since an element is missing in the scheme, this element is B: Beliefs. This element is what mediates between what happens to us and how we react. In other words: “There is nothing good or nothing bad, but thoughts that make it so.” Shakespeare.

If in B of the scheme we have Rational Beliefs, the Consequences that derive from the Events will be adjusted, adapted, in other words: healthy. If, on the contrary, we have Irrational Beliefs, the Consequences that derive from the Events will be mismatched, maladjusted, they will cause us unproductive suffering and will contribute to the creation and maintenance of psychological symptoms.

An example of irrationality

Juan loses his job. Juan believes that he needs his work to be happy. Juan falls into a deep depression.

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Event: Loss of employment. Thought: “I need this job to be happy.” Consequences:

Pedro loses his job. Pedro wishes he had not lost his job, but he assumes it is better to be flexible and look for another option. Pedro look for other alternatives

Event: Loss of employment. Thought: “I liked my job, I would prefer to keep it but it is not essential.” Consequences:

  • Behavioral: look for work, continue with your life adjusting to the new situation.
  • Emotional: some moments of decline and others of emotional improvement.
  • Cognitive: “it’s a shame they fired me, I’ll look for something else, what if I start a company?”

The same thing has happened to Juan and Pedro but the interpretation they have made of the situation is very different and this interpretation gives rise to very different results.

Main Irrational Beliefs

In his first formulation, Albert Ellis summarized in 11 Irrational Beliefs the main thoughts that lead us to discomfort:

1. Irrational search for affection

It is an extreme need for the adult human being, the loved one and approved by each significant person in your environment.

We all want to be loved and approved of, but this is not always possible, sometimes even with respect to our own family.

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2. Radical self-reliance

To consider myself a valid person, I must be very competent, self-sufficient and capable of achieving anything I set my mind to

Having virtues and skills that we are proud of is healthy, but supporting something as important as self-worth on these foundations is dangerous.

3. Resentment

People who do not act as they “should” are vile, evil and infamous and They should be punished for their evil

People do things the best they know or can, those who commit acts that we consider unjust do so out of ignorance, because they are immersed in emotional states that they cannot control, because they are confused, etc. Everyone can correct themselves.

4. Dramatization of the problems

It is terrible and catastrophic that things don’t work out the way you would like

Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, “If life gives you lemons, make yourself lemonade.”

5. We cannot control our lives

Human misfortune and discomfort are caused by external circumstances, and people have no ability to control their emotions.

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It is not the events that make us suffer but the interpretation we make of them. We can learn to identify and control our emotions.

6. Obsessions

If something is or could be dangerous, I must feel terribly uneasy about it and I must constantly think about the possibility of it happening.

Constantly preventing danger is not only unsustainable for the body and mind but is also useless, since there are things that are beyond our control. You have to learn to tolerate uncertainty.

7. Avoiding problems is the best

It is easier to avoid life’s responsibilities and difficulties than to face them.

Denying or hiding problems does not make them disappear, this may relieve us for a while but then the problem will continue to be present and may have worsened.

8. You have to be under someone’s protection

I must depend on others and I need someone stronger to trust

Asking for help when one is not able to do something for oneself is legitimate and wise; human beings are social animals and we help each other. However, one must not fall into constant and absolute dependence, one must learn to develop one’s abilities and autonomy.

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9. Wounds do not close

What happened to me in the past will always continue to affect me

Analyzing the past helps us understand the present and avoid repeating problems in the future. Living constantly trapped in the past makes us lose the only moment in which we can truly exist: the present moment.

10. Other people’s problems are ours

We should feel very concerned about the problems and disturbances of others.

Empathy, compassion, caring for our fellow human beings… is something laudable and human, however we don’t help if we let ourselves be dragged for the miseries of others. We do not help those who are suffering nor do we help ourselves.

11. Extreme perfectionism

There is a perfect solution for every problem and if we don’t find it it would be catastrophic.

Sometimes there are many ways to solve a problem: 3+3 = 6, the same as 5+1=6 or the same as 8-2=6. There is often no perfect solution Because when one problem is solved, other new problems appear.

The good thing about being more rational

In summary, the central idea of ​​RET is that Thought plays a crucial role in human suffering, regardless of the circumstances. Adopting a more rational thinking style prevents us from discomfort and helps us achieve our life goals.

Irrational Beliefs can be summarized as demands that one has towards oneself, towards others or towards the world. Let’s learn to change our demands for preferences for a healthier life.