“Tis the season to be merry” – and polish up your REBT skills!!


The festive season is fast approaching and with it comes the inevitable negotiations with family and friends on who should spend the big day with whom. This is a time when practising your REBT skills will help you to get through those challenging situations the prospect of which may appear currently unbearable or too difficult to tolerate. In REBT terms, situations to which you have Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT).

LFT is a term coined by Albert Ellis the founding father of REBT. Ellis maintained that many of us go through life holding irrational absolutist beliefs that people SHOULD, MUST, and OUGHT to behave as we demand they SHOULD, and that if these demands are not fulfilled, we also irrationally conclude that we would simply find it unbearable, or believe that we wouldn’t be able to tolerate it. We therefore become emotionally disturbed at the prospect – hence the term Low Frustration Tolerance. Yet in reality in the face of such adversity we still survive and do not spontaneously combust.

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Ellis further maintained that if instead of holding absolutist irrational demands we hold flexible preferences or desires about such situations, we are then able to accept that in the event of our preferences or desires not being met, we are able to develop High Frustration Tolerance. We can rationally accept that we are able to bear such situations but with difficulty, and in accepting this fact we become much less emotionally disturbed and able to take constructive action.

So, returning to the upcoming festivities: Let’s suppose your very overbearing highly critical mother or father-in-law is coming to Christmas lunch and you irrationally tell yourself “She/He absolutely MUST not criticise my cooking and “I can’t bear it when she/he criticises my cooking, I can’t stand it, its intolerable”, your unhealthy emotional reaction to this belief is likely to be one of anxiety and dread. Considering the thinking patterns associated with anxiety – that of having more task irrelevant thoughts and therefore inability to concentrate, together with the behavioural tendency of tranquilising your feelings – you are in fact very likely to mess up the recipe, burn the turkey and end up taking to the sherry in the kitchen. Giving ample ammunition to your mother or father in-law!

Whereas if you approach this event holding your healthy preference and High Frustration Tolerance belief of “I would prefer that she/he doesn’t criticise my cooking, but I accept that she/he might, and if she/he does It will be difficult but not unbearable”. You will feel healthily concerned about this event and experience the healthy thinking patterns and behavioural tendencies of concern. You will be able to prepare the meal, concentrate on the recipe, not hit the sherry bottle and may just get through Christmas lunch still speaking!

PS: Please feel free to replace, mother/father in law any other critical adult and have high frustration tolerance for all, including our sense of humour.

To all the uncritical mothers/fathers in-law and to all our readers

‘Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year’

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