Friday, 8 January 2016

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy - schools are copping on!

Have you heard a child, colleague (yourself!) use expressions such as she made me angry, if only the weather were better, I can’t stand it when things don’t go my way? These kind of self-talk statements indicate an underlying belief system which precipitates feelings and behaviours that are not self-helpful and may also be harmful to others. For those of us who believe that the way we feel and behave is dictated by factors external to ourselves this will challenge that view and hopefully provide some food for thought!

A long time ago (100 AD) a person called Epictetus developed his philosophy about life. The legacy of his wisdom sits at the core of personal development programs for students, teachers and parents being implemented in school communities across the land. His message across the ages to us is this,

“We are troubled not by things, but by the view we take of them.”

Epictetus was one of many wise folk, collectively called the stoic philosophers. Their advice and good counsel have not fallen on deaf ears however. Early last century a young 16 year old began a life long journey of learning about and personal application of “stoic philosophy’ in his life. He has since incorporated this into his now famous and planet wide approach to psychotherapy called Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. I am of course talking about the eminent psychotherapist Dr. Albert Ellis, considered to be the grandfather of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. He formulated his ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance and began applying it in practice in 1955.
Albert Ellis
Our biological inheritance and our early learning combine and influence the formulation of our core beliefs (our assumptions, rules for living, our values). REBT asserts that when we think, we feel and behave; when we feel there is a thought and behaviour linked to that feeling and so on. It follows then that if what we believe (think) drives our feelings and behaviours then we have the potential to control (self-regulate) how we feel and behave! If this is so we can choose to feel and act self-helpfully, so, as Ellis says, we can achieve the goals we set ourselves. We do this by having (cultivating, learning) a ‘mindset’, (automatic habits of thinking) which helps us to live a satisfactory and rewarding life.

The ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance

A = Activating event i.e. what happened
B = Beliefs i.e. my constructed ‘thinking rules’
C = Consequences of A and B i.e. how I feel and behave

Beware of the following automatic thought categories! If you believe these to be true, you will act and behave self-defeatingly!

  1.     Awfulising: using words like 'awful’, 'terrible’, 'horrible’,'catastrophic’ to describe something - e.g. 'It would be terrible if …’, 'It’s the worst thing that could happen’, 'That would be the end of the world’.
       2.  Cant-stand-it-itis: viewing an event or experience as unbearable e.g. 'I can’t stand it’, 'It’s absolutely unbearable’, I’ll die if I get rejected’.
       3.  Demanding: using 'shoulds’ (moralising) or 'musts’ (musturbating) e.g. 'You should not have done that, 'I must not fail’, 'I need to be loved’, 'I have to have a drink’.
       4. People-rating: labelling or rating your total self (or someone else’s) e.g. 'I’m/you’re stupid /hopeless /useless /worthless.’

Some of us are more resilient than others; we seem to cope better with the slings and arrows that come our way. Others are predisposed to feeling (and therefore acting) in ways that are self-defeating. REBT offers us the tools with which to boost the ‘psychological immune system’ of the individual as a protective mechanism against unhealthy negative emotions. Jonas Salk talked about the possibility of psychologically immunising young people. Ellis, Seligman and others would argue that this is possible through programs based on sound psycho therapeutic principles.
This is what a growing number of schools are doing through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education in South Australia.

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