Tame the BEAST with REBT

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (or REBT, they type of CBT we practice here at CCBT), believes that it is not the event we experience that disturbs us, but the belief we hold about it.

This is often explained in the simple ‘ABC model’ below:

A is for Activating Event. This is this thing that happens, and it can be an external event, a thought or memory, or something in the future. Pretty much anything, in fact.

B is for Belief. This is what we tell ourselves about the event. These beliefs can be rational, flexible, consistent with reality, logical and helpful, in which case are either not disturbed or experience healthy negative emotions such as annoyance or sadness. If our beliefs are irrational, rigid, inconsistent with reality, illogical and unhelpful, we experience unhealthy negative emotions such as anger or depression.

C is for Consequences. These are the things we experience or do, provoked by our beliefs at ‘B’. Again, these Consequences can be healthy and helpful, or not, depending on what we are telling ourselves.

Beliefs provoke the BEAST

There are several types of Consequences we look for in REBT, and an easy way to remember them is with the acronym BEAST. And it is by checking in on the BEAST regularly that we can identify and tackle any irrational or unhelpful thinking that may be creeping in…

B is for Behaviours. These are things we do. Are we lashing out? Giving in to self-destructive habits? Or behaving calmly and helpfully? One biscuit, or the whole packet?

E is for Emotions. What are we feeling? Is it healthy concern about a situation, or unhealthy anxiety, for example. Are we able to experience and yet control our emotions, or are they getting the better of us?

A is for Action Tendencies. These are what we feel like doing (whether we do then or not) and are a good indicator of what our beliefs are telling us. Even if you didn’t shout aggressively at the person who jumped the queue and bop them on the nose, but just stewed quietly, if that’s what you really felt like doing, it’s a good indicator you were irrationally angry in the moment.

S is for Symptoms. These are the physical things we experience, such as blushing, shaky hands, tightness in the chest etc. Healthy rational beliefs often result in the absence of symptoms, or at least more pleasant, manageable ones (like feeling excited butterflies, rather than frightened tremors).

T is for Thoughts, or cognitive consequences if you want to be fancy. The things we think and tell ourselves, such as ‘that person is negatively judging me’, or ‘I’m a complete failure because I didn’t get the job’, or ‘I’m sure my partner wasn’t deliberately rude, they might just be stressed about something’.

As you can see, the BEAST can be friendly and helpful, or mean and tricksy. Basically, is the BEAST leading us towards our various life goals, or pulling us away? Learning to keep a watchful eye on it is a great way to keep us on the path to wellbeing and healthy, rational behaviour.

REBT can tame the BEAST

And if we notice the BEAST is getting a bit wild and out of control? That can be the thing that brings us to therapy in the first place (often it is our emotions and behaviours we notice and want to change). In that case, you and your REBT therapist will work through the ABCDE process, where we identify the ABCs above, then question them with Disputation, then integrate the new Emotional insights into our everyday lives (an elegant but not always easy journey).

And if you have already undertaken REBT? Often a client at the end of therapy will ask about possible relapses and what to look out for. I always advise them to check in on the BEAST and look out for the old, unhealthy behaviours, emotions, action tendencies, symptoms and thoughts that brought them to therapy originally. REBT teaches us to be mindful of all these things and gives us the skills and confidence to change them.

Then it is a case of applying everything they have learned: replace demands with preferences, illogical thoughts with logical ones, and unhelpful behaviours with helpful ones. Do all these things and our emotions will change too.

Just as a neglected, untrained pet might chew the couch, pull at the lead and cause chaos wherever it goes, one that is given time and helpful instruction will improve your quality of life immensely. And so it is with the BEAST we have with us at all times. It’s not unusual for it to stray from the rational path from time to time, but REBT gives us the know-how and resilience to always bring it to heel successfully.

Nick Jones
REBT / CBT Therapist

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