- Preferences tend to be healthy and adaptive, while demands are maladaptive and lead to emotional problems.
- Preferences reflect an individual's unique personality and can contribute to a sense of well-being.
- Psychopathological demands reflect distorted or dysfunctional thinking patterns that impair an individual's emotional and mental health.
It's essential for a practitioner of REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to distinguish between strong preferences and absolute demands. Preferences and psychopathological demands are two distinct types of beliefs affecting a person's emotional well-being. I prefer I want, I wish, and I desire express preferences and are motivating, whereas I must, I should, or I have to are demands and cause emotional disturbance. For example, if you want to be employed, you strongly prefer to do well at the job interview. If you have a demand, this means you tell yourself you absolutely must do well at the interview.
Where do demands come from? A demand starts as a wish, preference, or desire, such as, "I prefer to do well in life and get approval." Yet, as humans, we tend to escalate our preferences into demands. We tell ourselves, "Because I prefer to do well and get approval, therefore I must. It's a dire necessity." A demand involves thinking in terms of absolutes. It's like having a preference for the nth degree.
Preferences refer to your likes and dislikes and your personal choices and have the potential to give you joy and satisfaction. For example, you may prefer spending time outdoors, listening to music, or reading a good book. These preferences positively influence your emotions when outdoors and negatively when you're stuck indoors.
Psychopathological demands consist of those beliefs or thought patterns that create an emotional disturbance. These include ideas such as "I must do perfectly well and get approval, and if I fail, this means I'm not good enough and unworthy of love" or "I must be perfect." They create anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and addictions.
A key difference between preferences and psychopathological demands is preferences tend to be healthy and adaptive, while demands are maladaptive and lead to emotional problems. Preferences reflect an individual's unique personality and can contribute to a sense of well-being. In contrast, psychopathological demands reflect distorted or dysfunctional thinking patterns that impair an individual's emotional and mental health.
Another difference is preferences tend to be flexible and subject to change as circumstances change, while psychopathological demands are rigid and resistant to change. Preferences can evolve over time as individuals gain new experiences and new perspectives, while demands are likely to persist even when irrational or harmful. Strong preferences, as opposed to demands, lead to constructive problem-solving. Creative experimentation with possible solutions. Assertiveness and determination. Intense appropriate emotions, including sorrow, regret, disappointment, frustration, dislike, annoyance, determination, passion, hopefulness, flexible thinking and acting, unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance, enjoying life somewhat in the face of failure, criticism, and loss.
A must results in global evaluations such as I'm no good, you're no good, my life is no good and also disturbed emotions including anxiety, depression, and anger.
You probably have a demand if you're experiencing any of these symptoms: fixed, rigid behavior; compulsive striving or withdrawing and giving up; emotional disturbance including anxiety, guilt, hurt, anger, dwelling, ruminating, and obsessing; depression, hopelessness, resentment, anger, or hostility; procrastination; addictions; perfectionism; and demanding guarantees.
The Difference Between Preferences and Demands
- Demands are created when you turn preferences into absolutes.
- Preferring and demanding have important consequences for your emotions.
Overall, preferences have evidence to support them, but demands do not.