Getting rational, properly emotional and thinking and behaving healthily
One of the central principles of both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioural Cognitive Therapy (REBCT) is that our beliefs and thoughts influence our behaviour which then results in emotional consequences.
The goal of both CBT and REBT is to replace unhelpful beliefs and thoughts with ones that lead to more positive ways of behaving.
They both describe how biological tendencies (e.g. to benefit from the taste of sugar in tea), become learned goals/values (e.g. to always put sugar in tea) which then leads on to a fundamental building block (or construct) about life (e.g. “I must have sugar in tea to be happy”!)
That is a gentle explanation, an almost pleasant example, of how the mind and body are linked with thoughts, behaviours, emotions and physical sensations (sometimes called our neurobiology) and how we adopt learned behaviour.
This natural learning system can sometimes become a negative cycle such that it can also encode unhealthy responses to past negative experiences in our neurobiology. These patterns can become so well learned they become automatic behaviours. We then apply them in present day to important life events (termed critical incidents). It can be so automatic that clients often say “I can’t believe I just did that ... again!”
REBCT demonstrates how behaviours can be driven by irrational unhelpful beliefs, leading to negative consequences and unnecessary dysfunctional upset, like excessive anxiety and distress.
For example “If I don’t get sugar in my tea, I will get a headache, be cross, angry and lose my temper” - and then they resolve never to let that happen to themselves ... again! It can feel like they are in conflict, because it does not, on the face of it make sense.
The organising idea behind REBCT recognises that humans have two basic tendencies that can cause conflict. The first is a tendency to think irrationally and the second is to work towards changing that way of thinking. It sometimes feels maddening to want both!
RECBT builds on that and introduces the concepts of:
- Ego disturbance - whereby the individual may focus on negative views they hold about themselves which causes them stress and upset.
- Discomfort disturbance - whereby the person is unable to tolerate being frustrated by something, someone or their overwhelming feelings.
The purpose of the therapy is to help the client spot and deconstruct those destructive patterns, so that they can manage to develop more healthy rational beliefs, giving more flexible and empowering responses.
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