Think Yourself Happy

Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) was founded in 1955 by an American psychologist, Albert Ellis. It is one form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

It has had a few mentions already in the pages of Astral Projects… so here is its own page!

The cornerstone of REBT is stated by the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus: “People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.”

Shakespeare, many centuries later, rephrased this thought in Hamlet: “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Core Irrational Beliefs

* Demandingness or Absolutism – inflexible, dogmatic, extreme beliefs signaled by words such as should, must, have to, and need to (e.g., “I should not be in pain” or “I should be able to do what I used to do”). This is not the kind of should as in “I should go to the store and get some milk,” but rather a should with a capital “S”, a demand.

* Demand for Love and Approval from nearly everyone one finds important

* Demand for Success or Achievement in things one finds important

* Demand for Comfort or nearly no frustration or discomfort.

When someone holds one of these irrational beliefs, they also tend to hold one or a combination of the following irrational beliefs:-

* Awfulization – refers to 100% disasterizing beliefs signaled by such words as disaster, horrible or awful, and catastrophe.

* Low Frustration Tolerance – beliefs signaled by words such as intolerable, can’t stand it, and too hard.

* Global-Rating – beliefs in which you condemn or blame your entire selfhood or someone else’s basic value in some important way. Global rating is signaled by such words as loser, worthless, useless, idiot, stupid.

The Three Basic Musts

Although we all express ourselves differently, according to Albert Ellis and REBT, the beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs.

Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as The Three Basic Musts:-

1. I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.

2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.

3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.

The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt.

The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence.

The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination.

It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem. Less demanding, more flexible beliefs lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviours.

Some funny terms such as “musturbation” (rubbing yourself the wrong way) were coined from this system.


A = What the person is most upset about.

B = irrational beliefs, evaluating the activating event in a rigid and extreme way.

C = emotional and behavioural consequences. These disturbed feelings and counterproductive behaviours are largely determined by the person’s irrational beliefs about the event.

D = disputing. This involves challenging or questioning the irrational beliefs at B that largely produce the person’s emotional and behavioural reactions at C.

The goal of REBT is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the person’s irrational beliefs.

For example, the therapist might ask, “Why must you win everyone’s approval?” “Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?” “Just because you want something, why must you have it?”

Disputing is the D of the ABC model. When the person tries to answer the therapist’s questions, s/he sees that there is no reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he wants.

E = a new and effective rational outlook.


Situation = “I am presenting a workshop next week.”

A = “The possibility that my mind will go blank when I’m asked questions and I’ll look stupid in the eyes of the audience.”

B = “My mind must not go blank when I’m asked questions because, if it does, this will prove to the audience that I’m stupid.”

C = anxiety and overpreparation.

D = “I certainly hope that my mind will not go blank but I cannot guarantee that it won’t or demand that it must not. If it does go blank, this will be due to my nervousness, not because I’m stupid even if the audience think otherwise.”

E = the person now accepts, not fears, the hazards of giving presentations, does not judge himself on the basis of these presentations but only judges his performance which he wants to improve.

That’s just some basics, but this model can be applied in all sorts of situations. Don’t let your ways of thinking make you sad or a musturbator- at least get that beautiful mind of yours working on your behalf, not against you!


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