by Albert Ellis, Ph.D.

  courtesy New Jersey Psychologists of psychology of new jersey Courtesy of  nj psychologist with Psychology of New Jersey and Michael S. Abrams, Ph.D.

                       Dr. Mike Abrams a psychologist in nj with psychology for psychology for new jersey

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a comprehensive approach to psychological treatment that
deals not only with the emotional and behavioral aspects of human disturbance, but places a great deal of
stress on its thinking component. Human beings are exceptionally complex, and there neither seems to be
any simple way in which they become "emotionally disturbed," nor is there a single way in which they can
be helped to be less-defeating. Their psychological problems arise from their misperceptions and
mistaken cognitions about what they perceive; from their emotional underreactions or overreactions to
normal and unusual stimuli; and from their habitually dysfunctional behavior patterns, which enable them
to keep repeating nonadjustive responses even when they "know" that they are behaving poorly.

Philosophical Conditioning

REBT is based on the assumption that what we label our "emotional" reactions are largely caused by our
conscious and unconscious evaluations, interpretations, and philosophies. Thus, we feel anxious or
depressed because we strongly convince ourselves that it is terrible when we fail at something or that we
can't stand the pain of being rejected. We feel hostile because we vigorously believe that people who
behave unfairly to us absolutely should not act the way they indubitably do, and that it is utterly
insufferable when they frustrate us.

Like stoicism, a school of philosophy which existed some two thousand years ago. Rational emotive
behavior therapy holds that there are virtually no good reasons why human beings have to make
themselves very neurotic, no matter what kind of negative stimuli impinge on them. It gives them full
leeway to feel strong negative emotions, such as sorrow, regret, displeasure, annoyance, rebellion, and
determination to change social conditions. It believes, however, that when they experience certain
self-defeating and unhealthy emotions (such as panic, depression, worthlessness, or rage), they are
usually adding an unrealistic and illogical hypothesis to their empirically-based view that their own acts or
those of others are reprehensible or inefficient and that something would better be done about changing

Rational emotive behavior therapists -- often within the first session or two of seeing a client -- can almost
always put their finger on a few central irrational philosophies of life which this client is vehemently
believing. They can show clients how these ideas inevitably lead to emotional problems and hence to
presenting clinical symptoms, can demonstrate exactly how they forthrightly question and challenge these
ideas, and can often induce them to work to uproot them and to replace them with scientifically testable
hypotheses about themselves and the world which are not likely to get them into future neurotic

12 Irrational Ideas That Cause and Sustain Neurosis

Rational therapy holds that certain core irrational ideas, which have been clinically observed, are at the
root of most neurotic disturbance. They are:

   1.The idea that it is a dire necessity for adults to be loved by significant others for almost
     everything they do -- instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on winning
     approval for practical purposes, and on loving rather than on being loved.

   2.The idea that certain acts are awful or wicked, and that people who perform such acts
     should be severely damned -- instead of the idea that certain acts are self-defeating or antisocial,
     and that people who perform such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or neurotically, and
     would be better helped to change. People's poor behaviors do not make them rotten

   3.The idea that it is horrible when things are not the way we like them to be -- instead of the
     idea that it is too bad, that we would better try to change or control bad conditions so that they
     become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, we had better temporarily accept and
     gracefully lump their exis tence.

   4.The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by outside
     people and events -- instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view that we take
     of unfortunate conditions.

   5.The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset
     and endlessly obsess about it -- instead of the idea that one would better frankly face it and
     render it non-dangerous and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.

   6.The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self-responsibilities --
     instead of the idea that the so-called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.

   7.The idea that we absolutely need something other or stronger or greater than ourself on
     which to rely -- instead of the idea that it is better to take the risks of thinking and acting less
     depen dently.

   8.The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible
     respects -- instead of the idea that we would better do rather than always need to do well and
     accept ourself as a quite imperfect creature, who has general human limitations and specific

   9.The idea that because something once strongly affected our life, it should indefinitely affect
     it -- instead of the idea that we can learn from our past experiences but not be overly-attached to
     or prejudiced by them.

  10.The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over things -- instead of the idea that
     the world is full of probability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this.

  11.The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction -- instead of the idea
     that we tend to be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or when we are
     devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.

  12.The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help
     feeling disturbed about things -- instead of the idea that we have real control over our
     destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the musturbatory hypotheses which we
     often employ to create them.

Main Differences from Other Schools

   1.  De-emphasis of early childhood. While REBT accepts the fact that neurotic states are
     sometimes originally learned or aggravated by early teaching or irrational beliefs by one's family
     and by society, it holds that these early-acquired irrationalities are not automatically sustained over
     the years by themselves.

     Instead, they are very actively and creatively re-instilled by the individuals themselves. In many
     cases the therapist spends very little time on the clients' parents or family upbringing; and yet helps
     them to bring about significant changes in their disturbed patterns of living. The therapist
     demonstrates that no matter what the clients' basic irrational philosophy of life, nor when and how
     they acquired it, they are presently disturbed because they still believe this self-defeating world-
     and self-view. If they will observe exactly what they are irrationally thinking in the present, and will
     challenge and question these self-statements they will usually improve significantly.

   2.  Emphasis on deep philosophical change and scientific thinking. Because of its belief that
     human neurotic disturbance is largely ideologically or philosophically based, REBT strives for a
     thorough-going philosophic reorientation of a people's outlook on life, rather than for a mere
     removal of any of their mental or psychosomatic symptoms. It teaches the clients, for example, that
     human adults do not need to be accepted or loved, even though it is highly desirable that they be.
     REBT encourages individuals to be healthily sad or regretful when they are rejected, frustrated, or
     deprived. But it tries to teach them how to overcome feelings of intense hurt, self-deprecation, and
     depression. As in science, clients are shown how to question the dubious hypotheses that they
     construct about themselves and others. If they believe (as alas, millions of us do), that they are
     worthless because they perform certain acts badly, they are not merely taught to ask, "What is
     really bad about my acts?" and "Where is the evidence that they are wrong or unethical?" More
     importantly, they are shown how to ask themselves, "Granted that my acts may be mistaken, why
     am I a totally bad person for performing them? Where is the evidence that I must always be right
     in order to consider myself worthy? Assuming that it is preferable for me to act well rather than
     badly, why do I have to do what is preferable?"

     Similarly, when people perceive (let us suppose, correctly) the erroneous and unjust acts of others,
     and become enraged at these others, they are shown how to stop and ask themselves, "Why is my
     hypothesis that the people who committed these errors and injustices are no damned good a true
     hypothesis? Granted that it would be better if they acted more competently or fairly, why should
     they have to do what would be better?" REBT teaches that to be human is to be fallible, and that
     if we are to get on in life with minimal upset and discomfort, we would better accept this reality and
     then unanxiously work hard to become a little less fallible.

   3.  Use of psychological homework. REBT agrees with most Freudian, neo-Freudian, Adlerian,
     and Jungian schools that acquiring insight, especially so-called emotional insight, into the source of
     their neurosis is a most important part of people's corrective teaching. It distinguishes sharply,
     however, between so-called intellectual and emotional insight, and operationally defines emotional
     insight as individuals' knowing or seeing the cause of their problems and working, in a determined
     and energetic manner, to apply this knowledge to the solution of these problems. The rational
     emotive behavior therapist helps clients to acknowledge that there is usually no other way for him
     to get better but by their continually observing, questioning, and challenging their own
     belief-systems, and by their working and practicing to change their own irrational beliefs by verbal
     and behavioral counter-propagandizing activity. In REBT, actual homework assignments are
     frequently agreed upon in individual and group therapy. Assignments may include dating a person
     whom the client is afraid to ask for a date; looking for a new job; experimentally returning to live
     with a husband with whom one has previously continually quarrelled; etc. The therapist quite
     actively tries to encourage clients to undertake such assignments as an integral part of the
     therapeutic process.

The REBT practitioner is able to give clients unconditional rather than conditional positive regard because
the REBT philosophy holds that no humans are to be damned for anything, no matter how execrable their
acts may be. Because of the therapist's unconditional acceptance of them as a human, and actively
teaching clients how to fully accept themselves, clients are able to express their feelings more openly and
to stop rating themselves even when they acknowledge the inefficiency or immorality of some of their

In many highly important ways, then, rational emotive behavior therapy utilizes expressive-experimental
methods and behavioral techniques. It is not, however, primarily interested in helping people ventilate
emotion and feel better, but in showing them how they can truly get better, and lead to happier,
non-self-defeating, self-actualized lives.


  The ABC’s of feelings & behaviours

  American psychologist Albert Ellis, the originator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy
  (REBT), was one of the first to systematically show how beliefs determine the way human beings
  feel and behave. Dr. Ellis developed the 'ABC’ model to demonstrate this.

  'A’ refers to whatever started things off: a circumstance, event or experience - or just thinking
  about something which has happened. This triggers off thoughts ('B’), which in turn create a
  reaction - feelings and behaviours - ('C’).

  To see this in operation, let’s meet Alan. A young man who had always tended to doubt himself,
  Alan imagined that other people did not like him, and that they were only friendly because they
  pitied him. One day, a friend passed him in the street without returning his greeting - to which
  Alan reacted negatively. Here is the event, Alan’s beliefs, and his reaction, put into the ABC

       A. What started things off:

            Friend passed me in the street without speaking to me.

       B. Beliefs about A.:

         1.He’s ignoring me. He doesn’t like me.
         2.I could end up without friends for ever.
         3.That would be terrible.
         4.For me to be happy and feel worthwhile, people must like me.
         5.I’m unacceptable as a friend - so I must be worthless as a person.

       C. Reaction:

            Feelings: worthless, depressed.
            Behaviours: avoiding people generally.

  Now, someone who thought differently about the same event would react in another way:

       A. What started things off:

            Friend passed me in the street without speaking to me.

       B. Beliefs about A.:

         1.He didn’t ignore me deliberately. He may not have seen me.
         2.He might have something on his mind.
         3.I’d like to help if I can.

       C. Reaction:

       Feelings: Concerned.
       Behaviours: Went to visit friend, to see how he is.

  These examples show how different ways of viewing the same event can lead to different
  reactions. The same principle operates in reverse: when people react alike, it is because they are
  thinking in similar ways.

  The rules we live by

  What we tell ourselves in specific situations depends on the rules we hold. Everyone has a set of
  general 'rules’. Some will be rational, others will be self-defeating or irrational. Each person’s set
  is different.

  Mostly subconscious, these rules determine how we react to life. When an event triggers off a
  train of thought, what we consciously think depends on the general rules we subconsciously
  apply to the event.

  Let us say that you hold the general rule: 'To be worthwhile, I must succeed at everything I do.’
  You happen to fail an examination; an event which, coupled with the underlying rule, leads you to
  the conclusion: 'I’m not worthwhile.’

  Underlying rules are generalisations: one rule can apply to many situations. If you believe, for
  example: 'I can’t stand discomfort and pain and must avoid them at all costs,’ you might apply this
  to the dentist, to work, to relationships, and to life in general.

  Why be concerned about your rules? While most will be valid and helpful, some will be
  self-defeating. Faulty rules will lead to faulty conclusions. Take the rule: 'If I am to feel OK about
  myself, others must like and approve of me.’ Let us say that your boss tells you off. You may
  (rightly) think: 'He is angry with me’ - but you may wrongly conclude: 'This proves I’m a failure.’
  And changing the situation (for instance, getting your boss to like you) would still leave the
  underlying rule untouched. It would then be there to bother you whenever some future event
  triggered it off.

  Most self-defeating rules are a variation of one or other of the '12 Self-defeating Beliefs’ listed
  at the end of this article. Take a look at this list now. Which ones do you identify with? Which are
  the ones that guide your reactions?

  What are self-defeating beliefs?

  To describe a belief as self-defeating, or irrational, is to say that:

       It distorts reality (it’s a misinterpretation of what’s happening); or it involves some illogical
       ways of evaluating yourself, others, and the world around you: awfulising,
       can’t-stand-it-itis, demanding and people-rating;
       It blocks you from achieving your goals and purposes;
       It creates extreme emotions which persist, and which distress and immobilise; and
       It leads to behaviours that harm yourself, others, and your life in general.

  Four ways to screw yourself up

  There are four typical ways of thinking that will make you feel bad or behave in dysfunctional

    1.Awfulising: using words like 'awful’, 'terrible’, 'horrible’, 'catastrophic’ to describe
       something - e.g. 'It would be terrible if …’, 'It’s the worst thing that could happen’, 'That
       would be the end of the world’.
    2.Cant-stand-it-itis: viewing an event or experience as unbearable - e.g. 'I can’t stand it’,
       'It’s absolutely unbearable’, I’ll die if I get rejected’.
    3.Demanding: using 'shoulds’ (moralising) or 'musts’ (musturbating) - e.g. 'I should not
       have done that, 'I must not fail’, 'I need to be loved’, 'I have to have a drink’.
    4.People-rating: labelling or rating your total self (or someone else’s) - e.g. 'I’m stupid
       /hopeless /useless /worthless.’

  Rational thinking

  Rational thinking presents a vivid contrast to its illogical opposite:

       It is based on reality - it emphasises seeing things as they really are, keeping their badness
       in perspective, tolerating frustration and discomfort, preferring rather than demanding, and
       It helps you achieve your goals and purposes;
       It creates emotions you can handle; and
       It helps you behave in ways which promote your aims and survival.

  We are not talking about so-called 'positive thinking’. Rational thinking is realistic thinking. It is
  concerned with facts - the real world - rather than subjective opinion or wishful thinking.

  Realistic thinking leads to realistic emotions. Negative feelings aren’t always bad for you. Neither
  are all positive feelings beneficial. Feeling happy when someone you love has died, for example,
  may hinder you from grieving properly. Or to be unconcerned in the face of real danger could put
  your survival at risk. Realistic thinking avoids exaggeration of both kinds - negative and positive.

             From Self-defeat to Rational Living


12 Self-defeating Beliefs  

12 Rational Beliefs

1.  I need love and approval from those    
       significant to me - and I must avoid
       disapproval from any source.

1. Love and approval are good things to
     have, and I'll seek them when I can. But
     they are not necessities - I can survive
    (even though uncomfortably)    
      without them.

2.  To be worthwhile as a person I must
       achieve, succeed at what ever I do, and
       make no mistakes.

2.   I'll always seek to achieve as much as I
     can - but unfailing success and
     ompetence is unrealistic. Better I just
     accept myself as a person, separate to my

3.  People should always do the right thing.
     When they behave obnoxiously, unfairly 
     or selfishly, they must be blamed and 

3.   It's unfortunate that people sometimes do
      bad things. But humans are not yet 
     perfect - and upsetting myself won't 
     change that reality.

4.  Things must be the way I want them to 
     be - otherwise life will be intolerable.

4.  There is no law which says that things 
     have to be the way I want. It's 
    disappointing, but I can stand it - 
     especially if I avoid catastrophising.

5.  My unhappiness is caused by things 
     outside my control - so there is little I can 
     do to feel any better.

5.  Many external factors are outside my
     control. But it is my thoughts (not the
     externals) which cause my feelings. And I
     can learn to control my thoughts.

6.  I must worry about things that could be
       dangerous, unpleasant or frightening -
       otherwise they might happen.

6.  Worrying about things that might go 
     wrong won't stop them happening. It will, 
    though, ensure I get upset and disturbed 
     right now!

7.    I can be happier by avoiding life's
       difficulties, unpleasantness, and

7.  Avoiding problems is only easier in the
     short term - putting things off can make
     them worse later on. It also gives me more
     time to worry about them!

8.   Everyone needs to depend on someone
       stronger than themselves.

8.  Relying on someone else can lead to
     dependent behaviour. It is OK to seek
     help - as long as I learn to trust myself and
     my own judgement.

9.  Events in my past are the cause of my
     problems - and they continue to influence
     my feelings and behaviours now.

9.  The past can't influence me now. My
      current beliefs cause my reactions. I may
      have learned these beliefs in the past,    
      but can choose to analyse and change 
      them in the present.

10. I should become upset when other people
       have problems and feel unhappy when
       they're sad.

10. I can't change other people's problems 
     and bad feelings by getting myself upset.

11. I should not have to feel discomfort and 
      pain - I can't stand them and must avoid 
      them at all costs.

11.  Why should I in particular not feel
       discomfort and pain? I don't like them, 
       but I can stand it. Also, my life would be 
       very restricted if I always avoided 

12.  Every problem should have an ideal
       solution, and it is intolerable when one 
       can't be found.

12. Problems usually have many possible
      solutions. It is better to stop waiting for 
      the perfect one and get on with the best
      available. I can live with less than the 

sponsored by Dr. Mike Abrams and Dr. Lidia copyrigh Mike Abrams, PhDAbrams of Psychology of New Jerseycopyright Mike Abrams, PhD