As you would expect from a school of CBT that calls itself Rational Emotional Behavioural Therapy, rationality and realism are at the core of REBT’s philosophy.
Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, said ‘If something is irrational, that means it won’t work. It’s usually unrealistic.’
One of the main jobs of REBT is to help clients identify their irrational, unhealthy beliefs. These unhealthy beliefs usually begin with variation on one of three main themes: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.
However, anyone choosing to look at these statements above with a rational and realistic viewpoint will quickly see there is absolutely no reason why these demands ‘must’ be met. You may want to do well, but you don’t have to. You’d like people to treat you well, but experience tells us they won’t always, and we’d all prefer life to be easy, but for nearly everyone, it certainly isn’t.
Let’s say someone crashes into the back of your beloved car. No matter how much you demand that this event shouldn’t have happened, that everyone must drive carefully and your ability to drive about as normal must not be disrupted, that fact of the matter is, your break lights are broken and your bumper is hanging off. Refusing to accept the reality of the situation will not get you through your MOT.
Whilst that may be a silly example, a more common one during therapy might be ‘My partner must be honest with me at all times.’ But what if we know for a fact that sometimes they aren’t? Refusing to accept the reality won’t change anything. It will only lead to disturbance, hurt, jealousy or anger.
Accepting reality is not the same as condoning it
It is at this point it’s useful to remember that accepting something does not necessarily mean condoning it. We can accept that hunger and war exist around the world without thinking these are good things. In fact, by accepting them as real, we can choose to do something about them.
And our client can come to accept that their partner is not always honest, without condoning or agreeing with this behaviour. By accepting the reality of the situation, they can now choose to change how they think and behave in order to affect real change in how they feel as well as in their relationship. They may not enjoy this new reality, but at least now they can accept it and do something about it.
Accepting the reality of life, rather than how you might be demanding it to be, is a turning point for REBT clients, and something a therapist will spend a lot of time working on. And although we called this blog post ‘like it or not’, in the end, most people agree that rationally accepting reality is the first step to liking everything a whole lot more.
If you’d like to train with CCBT to become an REBT counsellor, find out all about our pathway to accreditation here.