We approach our life situations and take a decision based on certain core values and beliefs that we have developed based on our past experiences. Our belief systems play an important role in formulating our career goals, our relationship patterns and govern our perceptions and actions. Our beliefs begin developing from our childhood experiences, observations of other’s life, cultural and societal norms.
Various psychological concerns have their roots in unhealthy patterns of thinking and irrational belief systems and this has been the basis of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy(REBT)
Albert Ellis, a renowned psychologist and founder of REBT identified a number of dysfunctional beliefs that people commonly hold in their day to day lives.
Here are irrational beliefs that Ellis described:
- It is necessary to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in our life
- One absolutely must be competent, adequate and achieving in all important respects or else one is a failure.
- People must act in a fair manner all the time otherwise they are bad people. They are their bad acts.
- It is awful and terrible when things are not the way one would very much like them to be.
- Emotional disturbance is mainly caused by external events and we have little or no ability to increase or decrease our irrational/faulty feelings and behaviors.
- If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, then one should be constantly and excessively concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of it occurring.
- One’s past history is an all-important determiner of one’s present behavior and because we were affected by it, it has to have an effect on us even now.
- It is easier to avoid or run away from many life difficulties and responsibilities rather than to be self-disciplined.
So How do we identify if a belief is irrational?
2. inflexibility/rigidity – Things SHOULD or MUST happen my way
3. Awfulizing / catastrophizing – dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events or situations.
4. Low frustration tolerance- I cannot stand or bear this
5. All-or-nothing thinking- Thinking in extremes. Example- I have to score well in exams or I am a complete failure
6. Personalizing- Every situation or experience is a reflection on me. Example- My relationship ended. Something must be wrong in me. I must be unworthy of love
7. Emotional reasoning- I feel therefore it is. I feel unattractive, I must be ugly.
8. Distorts reality
10. Prevents us from reaching your goals.
11. Leads to unhealthy emotions.
12. Causes self-defeating behavior
HOW TO DEVELOP RATIONAL BELIEFS
Rational beliefs have the following characteristics:
- Preferences rather than demands – I would prefer if things happened in a certain way BUT not all factors are under my control
- Helpful, useful — in terms of someone’s long term goals and values
Ten Major Rational Beliefs
1. I don’t necessarily need love and approval to survive. It is most desirable to concentrate on self-acceptances and on loving instead of on being loved.
2. It is more advisable to accept myself as an important human being with limitations and fallibilities. It is often better to do that than to do well.
3. People often behave stupidly and unfairly, it would be better if they were helped to change their ways, rather than punishing or condemning them severely.
4. While it is undesirable to fail to get what I want, it is seldom awful and intolerable.
5. Because I contribute to my own emotional upsets, I can change them by thinking more rationally.
6. Worrying will not make things disappear, I will do my best to deal with potentially stressful events and when this proves impossible, I will accept the inevitable.
7. In the long run, the long and undisciplined way is less rewarding than is the longer range approach to pleasure and enjoyment.
8. Continual rethinking of my old assumptions and reworking of my past can reduce the negative influences from my childhood and adolescence.
9. Whether I like it or not, reality exists and I should learn to accept its existence before I start changing it.
Example of a common irrational belief and its impact:
A (Activating event) – My boyfriend replies to my texts after hours. He is always busy with work
B (Beliefs) – He doesn’t take me as a priority. He doesn’t love me. This relationship is not important to him. This is not the way to act with your partner. I can’t stand it ( I have to have what I want when I want it)
C (Consequences) – Anger. Abuse, Fights
Formulating Rational Beliefs
D (Disputes) – in this step, we question or challenge our irrational beliefs:
Where is the evidence that he is ALWAYS busy at work?
Where is it written that if a partner doesn’t reply soon then it reflects on his love?
Why is it so awful?
Why isn’t just a “hassle not a horror?”
Where is the evidence that this how a relationship has to function?
E – then they move on to figure out more EFFECTIVE thoughts, feelings and behaviors
I don’t like it, but I can stand it.
I can keep myself occupied while he is busy rather than obsessing over these thoughts
I really do not like people to take me for granted or dismiss me, I will talk to him later when I have calmed down. But I will remember that not everything is in my control
I will try to feel annoyed and determined (to strengthen the relationship) rather than enraged.
I will go exercise or paint tonight because I always think better after I do that.