Monday, 19 February 2018

More Resilient & Less Self Disturbable Students

I had the pleasure of working with a group of educators at a high school in the northern suburbs of Adelaide recently. The school has set up a well being hub where students can go for support if needed particularly of a social/emotional/behavioural kind.


The 'Hub'staff is sourcing ideas to support their students and one staff member who attended several of my workshops last year considered that REBT would value add to the 'Hub'mission to help students better manage themselves in day to day life especially when things go awry.


Craigmore High School
It is always a challenge when presenting to 'hit the spot' as it were so that people become engaged and interested in the message. Is this stuff useful to my practice as a teacher/counsellor? Will it benefit my students? What will be my strategy, the hook used to get everyone 'in?'


To start we looked at the philosophical underpinnings of the ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance. One significant influence on Albert Ellis' REBT was the work of the StoicsEPICTETUS in 100 AD declared:


'People are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.' 


People agreed that these sentiments resonated with them and that indeed it would be folly to believe that events were the sole cause of emotions experienced. Yes it was clear that people had some responsibility for their own emotional and behavioural foibles by dint of the views, entrenched habits of thinking that they possess. But they also readily admitted that they often reacted to events in an unhelpful and self defeating way. In other words they tended to attribute their emotional and behavioural discomfort to a thing or event.


So presence of mind or mindfulness is called upon in times of emotional stress. This entails checking in on what it is we might be telling ourselves about a situation. It may be bad but is it the worst thing that can happen? Can you handle the discomfort and see yourself through this impasse? Does our sense of self worth remain in tact?


People acknowledged that though we might understand the idea of mindfulness and mental health self care it was harder to constantly 'walk the talk'as they would default to old habits when their mental health guard was down. This we agreed needed constant attention as habits are hard to break. The hook of 'if this relates to our well being how important would it be for our students' had done the trick? Constructivism tells us that:


'... meaning (or truth) cannot be described simply as 'objective'; that is, knowledge does not exist independently from knowers but is socially and historically constructed. http://www.decs.sa.gov.au

What habits of thinking have our students constructed and are they by and large useful, rational ones? Can they negotiate a world of change and challenge? Is their idea of 'self' robust and healthy and hard to breach? What meanings have they made of their experience; what is their truth?


These are questions that the students themselves can learn to explore. Do they know that knowledge is co constructed in the contexts in which they are socialised? What are these constructions and are they beneficial or dead weights that drag them down sometimes to despair? Can they learn to unlearn these habits of thought and build new more helpful ones?



Anais Nin reminds us that there are as many truths as their are people whose meanings will be the engine which drives them towards their goals and desires to be happy and successful. There are those whose realities are based on rational assessments of themselves, others and the world and then there are those whose irrational beliefs contrive to stymie and hinder their progress.


“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”  Anais Nin


REBT and the ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance is a powerful tool with which to acquaint young people with their thinking nature. Is school bad? Some would say yes and others would say no. Am I dumb and hopeless? Yes if you believe you are because as Shakespeare's Hamlet is known to have said.

'Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so!'



It all comes down to how we view(assess)ourselves, others and our world because when all is said and done the world is neither for us or against us; as Albert Ellis said 'it doesn't give a shit!' It's how we respond to events and others that is key and if we have a healthy rational perspective on the world we are in better shape to forge ahead. As Dr. Ellis said:


"REBT consequently specialises in showing people what their own basic theories about themselves and the world are and how these hypotheses often lead to destructive feelings and actions, how they can be forcefully falsified and replaced with more workable philosophies.”


It's time to teach this to children of all ages, as Albert Ellis reminds us:


'I think the future of psychotherapy and psychology is in the school system. We need to teach every child how to rarely seriously disturb himself or herself and how to overcome disturbance when it occurs.'

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