Science and Sensibility

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13 Tips to Make Self-Help Therapy Work for You

How to clear your mind of needless troubles

Since the start of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), millions have taught themselves to use REBT. These numbers are partially attributable to the ease and convenience and availability of the methods.  The basic theory is simple: When confronted with adversity, we often experience unhelpful emotions because we subscribe to irrational beliefs. We can divest ourselves of unhealthy emotions by challenging and replacing our irrational beliefs with rational, beliefs that tie to appropriate emotions and responsible actions. Will Ross

Will Ross is the author of A Guide to Shameless Happiness.  He is the webmaster and co-founder of the self-help REBT Network website.  He is a long-term self-help advocate and self-help teacher. Will manages the website that Dr. Albert Ellis sanctioned. Here is Will’s article:

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When Albert Ellis launched REBT he simultaneously published self-help books to show readers how they could help themselves. He and his colleagues have created hundreds of self-help books, DVDs, and other self-help materials. The topics range from controlling anxiety to solving sex and relationship problems.

I learned about REBT about 25 years ago while working as the manager of a transport company in Australia. It was a stressful job and I wanted to learn effective ways of reducing my stress. I experimented with a variety of methods. At a point of discouragement, I taught myself REBT. I was amazed by how effective it was. I decided to learn all I could about it and eventually began teaching it to others.

In the process of using REBT and teaching it to others I've distilled the following 13 key points. Whether you are new to REBT, or have been using it for a while, you may find that you can effectively put them to work for you.

1. Start now and then practice every day

  • Think of problem you'd like to work on.
  • It can be a major problem or a trivial one.
  • Think about what you'd like to achieve with REBT.

2. Study your problem

  • Split the problem into two parts: The practical part & the emotional/behavioral part.
  • Focus on the feelings and actions you'd like to change.
  • Don't try to solve the practical problem until you've fixed your emotions.
  • Look for unhelpful feelings and actions.
  • Don't try to change helpful feelings (even if they're unpleasant).

3. Study your feelings and actions

  • What is the name of your unhelpful emotion (e.g., anxiety, anger, depression, etc.)?
  • Ask yourself how you feel about the practical problem.
  • If your problem is behavioral (e.g., procrastination) look for the feeling that prompts the behavior.
  • Make a list of the benefits of changing your unhelpful feelings.

4. Study the practical problem

  • Think of a typical or recent example of the problem.
  • What do you think might happen as a result of the problem?
  • Temporarily assume that the worst will happen (or has happened).
  • Describe the practical problem in fewer than 25 words.
  • Be precise (e.g., instead of "My boss is a jerk," say, "My boss made me work unpaid overtime today.").
  • Focus on one practical problem at a time.
  • Can the practical problem be solved?
  • If it can be solved or changed, brainstorm ways to change it.
  • If it can't be changed, focus on learning to accept it.
  • Look for long-term solutions.
  • Don't try to feel good about situations you don't like.

5. Study secondary emotional problems

  • Do you feel bad about feeling bad (e.g., embarrassed about feeling angry)?
  • Does the secondary emotion interfere with your efforts to overcome the first unhelpful feeling?
  • If so, focus on changing the secondary emotion before you tackle the primary emotion.
  • Make a list of reasons for working on the secondary problem first.
  • Look for unhelpful feelings about helpful feelings (e.g., feeling anxious about feeling sad).
  • Especially look for shame (it's a very common secondary emotion).

6. Remember: You feel the way you think

  • If 1,000 people had your practical problem, would they all feel the same way you feel?
  • Why not?
  • Use the ABC model
  • A = your practical problem.
  • B = your evaluative beliefs.
  • C = your emotional & behavioral reaction to A + B.

7. Look for and study your irrational beliefs

  • What are you telling yourself about A to make yourself upset at C?
  • What was going through your mind at A?
  • What do you think should happen (or shouldn't have happened)?
  • What kind of a person do you think you (or others) are because of your practical problem?
  • Look for exaggerated evaluations (e.g., awful, terrible, etc.).
  • Look for "I can't stand it" evaluations.
  • Look for one or more of the three basic musts: I must, you must, and life must be as I expect. Demands that veer from reality are sources of much human misery.

8. Make sure you've identified the relevant irrational beliefs

  • Do the beliefs you've identified lead to the feelings you're experiencing?
  • How would you feel if you changed the beliefs?

9. Dispute your irrational beliefs

  • Remember: It's okay to want the situation to be different.
  • Compare and contrast your irrational beliefs with their rational counterparts.
  • Focus on "I must" versus "I want" etc.
  • Focus on "it's awful" versus "it's bad but not awful" etc.
  • Focus on "I can't stand it" versus "I can stand it" etc.
  • Which is true? Why?
  • Which makes more sense? Why?
  • Which is more helpful? Why?

10. Create and reinforce a new rational belief

  • Remember the three parts of a rational belief:
  • 1. State what you want (or don't want).
  • 2. State that you don't need to have what you want.
  • 3. Join the two statements with a "but".
  • E.g., "I want to succeed but I don't need to succeed."
  • Force yourself to actually believe the new, rational belief.
  • New Beliefs have to be repeated regularly to "feel" them.
  • Old Beliefs have to be disputed regularly to stop "feeling" them.

11. Put your new rational beliefs into practice

  • Look for ways to put your new rational beliefs into practice to reinforce them.
  • Compare your new beliefs with the old ones regularly.
  • Decide what time of the day you'll set aside for disputing your old, irrational beliefs.
  • Have a plan for overcoming any obstacles to daily disputing.

12. Keep records

  • Keep a diary of your disputing habits.
  • Record whether you faced up to your problems or looked to avoid them.
  • Record what you did to change B.
  • Remember that not doing homework doesn't make you a bad person, it only delays your progress.

13. Make your new rational beliefs permanent

  • Look for similar problems and apply your new rational beliefs to those situations.
  • Look for changes in the frequency, intensity, and/or duration of your unhelpful feelings.
  • Remind yourself regularly that your progress is up to you.

This blog is one in a series to celebrate the 100th and 101st year anniversaries of Albert Ellis’ birth.  Albert Ellis Revisited (Carlson & Knaus 2013) is the Albert Ellis Tribute Book Series centennial year book.  Each of the book’s contributors wrote a commentary for one of a select collection of 20 articles that Albert Ellis wrote for professionals. The book uniquely includes contributions by all four former postgraduate directors of training in REBT. The publisher, Routledge, offers a 20% discount for those who want to buy the book. Control click on this link: Albert Ellis Revisited.  Type the code Ellis for the discount.  The book qualifies for free shipping and handling.

Bill Knaus’ royalties from this book go directly to the Denan Project [Click on the Denan Project to see where Bill’s royalties are going]).

 If you have trouble with anxiety click on the anxiety blog in this series: Three Core Anxieties and How to Calm Them

If you have anxiety over sex, see the sex blog in this series: Ten Commandments to Stop Quick Ejaculation

If you suffer from guilt, click on Escape the Guilt Trap

 © Will Ross

 

Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

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