"Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
What is R.E.B.T? Our focus is on R.E.B.T. - The original, short term, Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy.
R.E.B.T. was developed by Albert Ellis over 45 years ago to be a more effective, short term, alternative to psychodynamic psychotherapy.
It is based on the work of the Greek philosopher Epictitus who maintained that it is NOT the facts that disturb us but rather our thoughts about those facts. This point of view is also reflected by Shakespear's Hamlet who says, "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." Readers of the old testament will also be familiar with the concept as it appears in Proverbs - "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
This boils down to a central concept that maintains that we are in charge of our own emotions. Nothing, and no one can MAKE us think, act or feel unless we "give them permission to."
Take the example of someone who has just lost a job. That event is certainly undesireable, probably unfortunate, and possibly unpleasent. How do people who lose jobs act, think or feel. Some people might respond to this question by saying,"Losing the job MAKES me feel anxious." However, not everyone who loses a job will invariably feel anxious. Some might feel anger, or depression, or even relief. Why? Each person feels different emotions because each person thinks about job loss in a different way.
Contrary to popular opinion you CAN help the way you think. REBT and other cognitve therapists, help their clients by helping them learn the tools to think more effectively about their world, themselves and others. When a person straightens out his/her crooked thinking not only do they think more effectively, but they also act and feel more effectively as well. In this way their clients not only feel better but also learn to get better.
Feeling Better vs Getting Better Most people who become psychologists, or who enter ANY of the helping professions for that matter, do so in order to "help people". But, help people to do what?
Let's look at another example. Suppose someone is feeling anxiety about how well they did after speaking up at a town meeting or PTA event? She is anxious about the results of her poor performance. She is scared that if she said something dumb that it might mean that she is a "dumb" person and therefore untrustworthy to have, or state, an opinion. These beliefs and emotions are so disturbing that she is beginning to feel overwhelmed or immobilized by them and is now fearful about going to the next meeting.
We can help her "feel" better by pointing out to her that people in the audience probably did NOT think that she said something dumb. She could interview audience members to discover the truth of the matter. She might "feel better" as a result of this assignment. She also might "feel better" is she realizes that other people also said some pretty dumb things at the meeting. However, if this is the only help provided she probably will not get better, since she is still disturbable.
REBT practitioners help their clients GET Better by helping them become undisturbable (or less disturbable) in the face of unpleasent, unwanted, or unfortunate life experiences. It is relatively easy to be happy and high functioning when things are going well, the real problem is staying realtively happy and high functioning when things are going poorly.
Nobody wants to say dumb things... but, unfortunately, human beings frequently say, and do, many dumb things. By helping her recognize, and fully internalize, that even if she said a dumb thing she would never become a dumb person we help her develop a set of tools to help her not only feel better, but get better.