Friday, 17 December 2010


Seamus is a competitive person who likes to win. He regards himself as an intelligent person who is ‘the best’ student in the class. He settles for nothing less than an ‘A’ in his work and has grand plans for his future education and career. He derides other student’s efforts and will declare to them that he is the ‘smartest in the class.’ He is known for the odd put down, telling others how ‘retarded’ they are.

His peers tolerate his conceit and suffer his company in playground activities. He doesn’t appear to be aware that others may not be comfortable around him at times as he continues to declare his superiority over all others.

The above is problematic for himself, his peers and the school community as Seamus has a severe anger management problem. He is moody at the best of times and becomes enraged too readily. Why?

According to REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy) he may have constructed a set of core beliefs (rules) that determine how he responds emotionally and behaviourally in certain situations. His rules are:

‘I must absolutely achieve my goals (or I am a failure).’
‘I must prove to everyone how competent I am.’
‘It is awful when others do better than me.’
‘I absolutely must have the approval of significant others.’

These rules are debilitating as Seamus strives for perfection and the approval of others. He is highly anxious about how he is perceived (‘the smartest’) by others and is badly aggrieved when he doesn’t get the attention he believes he must have.

How then can this student be supported in the school setting?

1. Introduce all students to Dr. Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance – feelings, thinking and actions are all interconnected.
2. Teach that there are helpful rules and unhelpful rules that we have constructed over time, which determine the behavioural choices we make.
3. Teach words that represent the broad spectrum of emotions that we feel and explain that extreme unhealthy negative emotions are linked to irrational thinking (the unhelpful rules we construct) and that healthy negative emotions e.g. annoyed are linked to rational thinking (the helpful rules we construct). Use the Emotional Thermometer to illustrate this.
4. Teach students about the Catastrophe Scale to help them put into perspective the ‘badness’ of situations they encounter. Is losing a pencil as bad as breaking a leg for instance?
5. Invite children to discuss and suggest why a ‘must’ belief is self-defeating and a ‘preference’ rule is self-helpful.

As a class examine and deconstruct the validity or otherwise of ‘must’ statements and ‘preference’ statements. The following is an example of how this can be done.
- A year 6/7 class is introduced to the ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance and the emotional thermometer and catastrophe scale. Students talk about extreme unhealthy negative emotions like depressed, anxious, enraged and healthy negative emotions like disappointed, upset, and concerned. They talk about the kinds of thinking/beliefs that underpin such feelings and associated actions.
- Talk about feelings of rage and depression and their association with the core belief that ‘I must absolutely always achieve my goals and when I don’t it is a catastrophe and so awful I can’t stand it. I am a failure.’
- Students discuss why this ‘core rule’ is self -defeating (makes extreme negative feelings and poor behavioural choices).
- They then suggest reasons why this is so i.e. they challenge the veracity of this belief in the light of the evidence.
- They are invited to talk about helpful thinking e.g. ‘I would prefer to do well but it is hardly so awful that I can’t stand it and I am always worthwhile.’ They then explore why this is a rational belief and why the evidence supports this view.

Previous blogs have explored other important teaching items like Unconditional Self Acceptance, which helps the individual manage difficult situations like failure and rejection in a healthy way.

Seamus’ tendency to experience rage in situations where he does not achieve to his lofty standards and to harshly criticise those ‘lesser mortals’ who don’t measure up to his superior capabilities is cause for concern. This can be addressed as a whole school by introducing Rational Emotive Behaviour Education as follows:

1. All teachers and support staff are trained in Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy).
2. All staff is trained in the application of REBE through Giulio’s tried and tested SIX ESSENTIAL STEPS TO EMOTIONAL and BEHAVIOURAL WELL BEING.

If you are interested to find out more about Rational Emotive Behaviour Education contact Giulio on 0412668815 or by email

‘As a highly skilled exponent of Rational Emotive Behaviour Education, Giulio has repeatedly demonstrated the value of his work in helping school children to cope more effectively with interpersonal conflicts, including bullying and harassment. His work is well supported by research that he and I have undertaken with Australian schoolchildren and presented together at national conferences.’
Dr. Ken Rigby, Adjunct Professor, University of South Australia

No comments:

Post a Comment