The austere times we are now living through may go some way towards explaining the revival of Stoic philosophy with its emphasis on self-control and self-determination. There have been a number of books and articles published in recent times citing the Stoic approach to living and in particular its influence on CBT. Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is one of the main schools of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It was developed by Albert Ellis, one of the most respected psychologists of our time.
Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; the philosophy holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand the universal reason. For the Stoics, ‘reason’ meant not only using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature. Living according to reason and virtue, they held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe, in recognition of the common reason and essential value of all people.
Stoicism had a profound influence on Albert Ellis. Ellis frequently referred to the famous Epictetus quote:
“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.”
The Stoic principles of reason and logic are a cornerstone of his therapeutic approach, and by using them we can discover and dispute the irrational beliefs that create our faulty thinking, symptoms and behaviours. Ellis’s A-B-C model puts this process into action, where A is the ‘activating event’, which links to C (the ‘consequences’ – emotional, behavioural, symptomatic), via B which is the belief which has been ‘triggered’ by A.
Along with the Stoics, Ellis held that we can choose how we view the events in our lives, and the choices we make will determine whether or not we become disturbed by them. Common themes between the two are also seen in the ideas of tolerating discomfort while acting in accordance with one’s (healthy) beliefs. Ellis often used humour as a very effective way to help people realise the extent of their illogical thinking. A favourite tactic was blowing up someone’s anxiety to comical proportions so they could see the absurdity of their faulty thinking.
At the CCBT we hold fast to these ideas as REBT underpins our training and workshops. REBT is the humanistic and existential school of CBT. It provides a universal approach to psychological health based on changing dogmatic beliefs into their healthy versions.