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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Spring cleaning for your mind: cultivate healthy goals with REBT

Spring has (almost) sprung! After a long winter, the sun is finally shining brighter, days are getting longer, and nature is bursting with new life. It’s a natural time to feel optimism and motivation for positive change.

Just like we might declutter our homes during spring cleaning, we can also benefit from a ‘spring clean’ of our minds. This metaphorical cleaning involves revisiting our goals and cultivating a mindset that fosters growth.

REBT: A Framework for Rational Optimism

Here’s where Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) can help. REBT is a form of therapy that emphasizes the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It teaches us to take responsibility for our emotions in a way that’s both empowering and realistic.

Its core philosophies are that of emotional responsibility – we are largely responsible for how we feel – and that disturbed emotions are provoked by irrational and unhelpful beliefs. It is by challenging these beliefs and identifying their rational and helpful alternative beliefs that we move to emotional wellbeing.

How can we apply REBT principles to our spring goal refresh? Here are a few tips:

  • Challenge unhelpful beliefs: The winter blues might have left you feeling discouraged about your goals. REBT helps you identify and challenge negative self-talk like ‘Starting towards my goals will be uncomfortable and difficult, and that would be unbearable’. Rather, REBT encourages us to focus on why we want to make the change in the first place, and to understand that even though something is difficult, it is not actually unbearable.

  • Focus on actionable behaviours: Instead of dwelling on the past (‘I should have started this sooner’), shift your focus to a more realistic and rational belief like ‘I would have preferred to have begun sooner, but there’s no rule that says I must have, today is still a good time to start, and even if it is uncomfortable, I can tolerate that’. Then you are more able to think of steps you can take today. What small, achievable things can you do to move closer to your goals? By focusing on the smallest thing, and then the next, we are able to build up to behaviours that are challenging but never overwhelming, keeping us on track and motivated.

  • Celebrate progress, not perfection: Think once more of the changes currently taking place outside in nature. Growth takes time. Flowers bloom at their own pace. Acknowledge and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. This will keep you motivated and cultivate a more realistic sense of achievement. Who says everything has to be perfect? Is there an actual law of nature? Of course there isn’t. We may prefer things to go well, but we can learn to accept that they won’t always. This may be uncomfortable, but definitely tolerable, and certainly in our interests for us to do so. Read up on why progress can sometimes feel slow or difficult, but is always worth the effort here.

By applying these REBT principles, you can revisit your goals with a sense of rational optimism – things might not always be easy, but with determination they can be achieved.

Remember, setbacks are inevitable, but they don’t have to define you. Just like a gardener tends to their plants, you can nurture your goals with self-compassion and a commitment to growth.

So, this spring, don’t just tidy your house or garden. Do your best to clear away unhelpful thoughts and cultivate beliefs that allow you to bloom just like the season.

Nick Jones
REBT/CBT Therapist

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New Year’s Evolution: embracing REBT for lasting change

The New Year often brings with it a wave of enthusiasm for personal transformation, as we set ourselves ambitious goals and resolutions. However, many of these aspirations fall by the wayside, leaving us feeling disheartened and unfulfilled. Why is it so difficult to sustain change, even when we’re filled with motivation at the beginning of a new year?

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the school of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy developed by Albert Ellis, offers a powerful framework for understanding and addressing the challenges of achieving long-lasting change. REBT identifies the irrational beliefs that often underlie our self-defeating thoughts and behaviours, and provides tools for challenging and modifying these beliefs.

The irrational belief trap

Many New Year’s resolutions are built on irrational, and ultimately unhealthy beliefs. Irrational beliefs are often rigid, illogical, unrealistic and unhelpful. These elements can show up in our New Year’s resolutions in various ways:

  • Rigidly demanding perfection and success: Expecting to achieve flawlessness in a short period is unrealistic and sets us up for failure. Telling ourselves we absolutely MUST go to the gym four times a week is a sure-fire way to stress ourselves out about it when it sometimes slips to only three!
  • Illogically believing things have to happen a certain way: Just because you want a new, better paid job, does not mean you are going to find one.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations: If you’ve always struggled with languages, is it realistic to expect you will easily learn German this year?
  • Our demands ultimately become unhelpful: If you encounter challenges like the ones above when your rigid demands are not met, you are far more likely to experience anger, frustration, lack of motivation and ultimately to give up on your resolutions.

Embracing rational thinking

REBT encourages us to replace these irrational beliefs with rational ones. A rational belief is flexible in its preferences, is sensible and logical, is consistent with reality and is ultimately much more helpful in achieving our goals:

  • A flexible preference of simply going to the gym more often than before is going to be much more easily adhered to, and not as frustrating when not, than a domineering demand.
  • Sensibly and logically understanding that the goals you want do not have to happen just because you want them to will give you a more balanced and philosophically accurate outlook.
  • Setting realistic goals, such as focusing on gradual, achievable progress rather than overnight transformations is key, especially when it comes to learning German! If you struggled in the past, you may well do so now, but realistic expectations can help keep us on track.
  • Flexible, logical and realistic thinking is always going to be more helpful. We can either choose to accept how things will really be, and tackle them head on with determination and self-compassion, or irrationally demand things be as we would like them to be, then get upset when they’re not.

REBT: not just for January

Instead of aiming for unrealistic overhauls, REBT encourages us to go on a journey of continuous evolution. It helps us to focus on developing and maintaining healthy thinking and behaviours, making gradual progress, and learning from and accepting our setbacks without recrimination. This approach fosters resilience, self-acceptance, and a sustainable path towards personal growth.

In fact, REBT can be so helpful in achieving our goals, why wait for January 1st to begin?

Nick Jones

REBT/CBT therapist

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