Friday, 12 November 2010

Musturbating Ed and Cool Al!

Edwin had had an unsuccessful recess. He had been involved in an altercation with two others regarding a basketball game. The two other kids were playing one on one and had enough players. Edwin didn’t react too well when he was told he couldn’t join in.

Albert on the other hand had approached the two basketballers earlier and asked the same question as Edwin. When told he couldn’t join in he watched the game a while and then moved on.

When asked why he did what he did, Edwin protested that the two boys made him angry and it was their fault that he kicked the ball away because they didn’t let him join in.

According to Dr. Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance Edwin believes that A, someone or something, makes him do and feel as he does. He is yet to understand the relationship B (what he believes) has with C (how he feels and behaves).

According to Edwin’s view of the world he is not responsible for his feelings and actions (they made me angry) and feels justified in what he did (kicked the ball away). He came to the attention of the supervising teacher and was reprimanded accordingly. What is his rule for living? What are his core beliefs about himself, others and the world in general?

Albert responded in a different way to the same scenario. Did he lose his temper and kick the ball away? No. He accepted that he couldn’t join in and moved on to other things. There were no reprimands as Albert’s actions were not hurtful to others as he dealt with the situation appropriately.

Edwin is known to react in challenging situations. He is quick to anger and blames others, things events for how he feels. The world and all its inhabitants are at fault - never he! Edwin would like all the hassles, people he doesn’t like, things he is responsible for to be removed from his life so he can be happy. Woe is he as the world conspires against him, rendering him a hapless victim of circumstance. How did this happen? (Refer to previous posts).

Edwin’s Lament

Anger holds sway
When I don’t get my way
And I despair
It’s just not fair!

Albert on the other hand rarely acts without forethought. He is generally calm and will healthily feel annoyed and disappointed when things don’t go his way. He doesn’t stew over things and tends to get on with others and seems to be happy in his own skin. He is doing well at school, meeting challenges with reasonable optimism and doesn’t take failure too much to heart. Others respect him and he has a circle of good friends.

Albert’s View

I may not always get my way
And that’s quite ok
No need to despair
Sometimes life’s not fair!

What are the rules that underpin the actions (behavioural choices) and emotions of these two young people? The situation is the same but the outcomes are different. How so?

Edwin and Albert have different views on life, different rules for living. Edwin finds himself battling to cope a lot of the time and Albert seems to navigate the tough times in a more reasonable manner.

Edwin’s rule:

‘I must get what I want. When I don’t, it’s so awful that I can’t stand it.’

His unrealistic expectations of himself, others and the world contrive against him. “IT”, (the world, things and others) are not driving his actions and emotions, he is! He thinks those kids should absolutely allow him to join in the game. They don’t and therefore it’s their fault he feels so bad and acts aggressively.

Albert’s rule:

‘I prefer to get my way but I don’t absolutely have to. I can handle difficult situations. I can stand it.’

Albert therefore is inclined to annoyance and disappointment (healthy negative emotions) rather than rage and extreme sadness (unhealthy negative emotions). He believes those kids don’t have to let him join in. He doesn’t turn a small problem into a catastrophe; it’s an inconvenience but not the end of the world.

Implications for teaching practice

• Teach students about the think feel do connection.
• Talk about ‘rules for living’ as discussed above – why is one helpful and the other not?
• Challenge the rationality of these rules – why is one rational and the other not?
• Remind students that when they act and feel in a way that causes self and/or other harm (e.g. petulant Edwin had to sit out because he disrupted the basketball game) an irrational rule is at work.
• Reinforce those behaviours in children that suggest preference thinking- the student who accepts that she can’t go on the computer as scheduled for instance.
• Talk about helpful and unhelpful personal rules in day-to-day interactions. Decide which rule is helpful e.g. ‘I must be chosen to be the library monitor.’ Or ‘I’d like to be library monitor, but there are others who would like to be also.’ What are the consequences for each (behaviorally and emotionally) if neither gets their wish?
• Remind students that their worth is not determined by how well or badly they do or how others view them (approval/disapproval).
• Pose questions for students to ponder such as: How does ‘it’ make you angry? What is ‘it’? Why does ‘it’ not make others angry?

Rational Emotive Behaviour Education will give schools the capacity to support students to manage their potentially destructive behaviours and emotions. It will reinforce those attitudes and beliefs that are self/other helpful (rational).