ABC of REBT

Updated: May 14

REBT – “Gee! What happened to you?”


Human – “I got punched and kicked.”


REBT “Oh my! How did that happen?”


Human – “I went outside and shouted at some drunks.” – C


REBT – “That’ll do it. Why on earth did you do that?”


Human – “They walked past my house, making noise, woke me up!” – A


REBT – “What did you say to them?”


Human – “I SHOUTED! at them, you MUST! not wake me up! You SHOULDN’T do that! How DARE! you! It isn’t FAIR! You SHOULD! be considerate! – B


REBT – “How were you feeling?”


Human – “I felt ANGRY, I felt UPSET, I felt FURIOUS, I felt PERSONALLY ATTACKED, I felt LESS THAN!” – C


REBT – “Oh dear. When you look at that DEMAND! you made of those people, that you have regarding this situation, that unhelpful Belief, it is no small wonder you felt that way.”


Human – “OK. It is reasonable though, isn’t it?”


REBT – “You tell me. Let’s run a question or two over it.”

What evidence might I have that drunk people are considerate?” - D

Human – “Gee, none really. Drunk people tend to be in a world of their own.”


Just because I think and say that they MUSTN’T behave this way, how does it then follow that they won’t?” - D

Human – “It doesn’t. I can’t control another person, let alone a group. It’s work to manage myself, for that matter.”


Where might it be written in the universe that drunk people behave in a relationship-building way?” – D

Human – “Yeah right! It isn’t written anywhere I suppose. Matter of fact the opposite is more the ‘rule of thumb.’”


How might my feeling, generated by my Belief, be working for me? In particular, how might it be keeping me safe sober and alive?” – D

Human – “Very funny. I was punched a number of times and when I fell down they kicked me.”


Human – “Haven’t I got THE RIGHT to a peaceful sleep?”


REBT – “What is probably helpful for me to do, is to move a little away from a DEMAND!, that can’t possibly be fulfilled, toward a preference. I would prefer that people didn’t wake me up. I would prefer that people who are drunk are considerate. I would prefer that I get what I want. In order to have the 'right' to a peaceful sleep, I might HAVE TO! control all those people and the world.”


Human – “OK. I see what you are saying – and what I said in answer to those questions. I certainly have a RIGHT TO ASK that I have a peaceful sleep, as I give myself that right. I might have responded in a more reasonable way.”


Human – “Something like, ‘I would prefer they hadn’t woken me up. Drunken people often tend to be noisy, I would rather they weren’t, and it's no big deal – I can stand it. It is very common that drunk people make some noise on their way home and are inconsiderate. I CHOOSE TO stay calm about this, and I CHOOSE TO stop even noticing it because it is not a problem for me. When this happens I might say "Ah, the drunk people who pass in the night" and go back to sleep. Eventually I might stay asleep.’” – E


REBT – “That sounds like a pretty effective belief to have. How might you feel now?”


Human – “I feel a huge weight lifted off me. I feel much happier and at peace.”


Human – “As I CHOOSE TO give myself the right to ask for a peaceful sleep, I might still approach the bar and ask them to request that people be quiet. I might approach the council to ask them about a curfew or noise limit. I might go meet a neighbour to see if they have a concern. I might not put out a long letter about it – I’ll wait until I chat to them. I won’t be a doormat, however I see the power in a preference and lessening a severe emotional response of mine.”


REBT – “OK. The purpose of our chat wasn’t to make me a doormat. It was to lessen an unhelpful emotional response of mine and an unhelpful action of mine, and allow me to operate more effectively in my world.”


A. (Activating situation) Drunks walking past outside, making some noise.

B. (unhelpful Belief I have about A – “They SHOULDN'T make any noise”

C. (Consequence of having that belief about A) - “I Feel angry, etc.” – might be noticed before B is uncovered.

D. (Dispute the unhelpful Belief in B) – “WHY shouldn't they make any noise?”

E. (Effective new thinking) – “Drunk people do tend to make noise, it's what they're good at - it’s like a natural talent for them. I will CHOOSE to be OK about this and accept it.”


Although it might well be:

C. “I Feel Angry, Upset, Demotivated, Low.”

A. “What just happened or what might I be thinking?”

B. “What unhelpful Belief or DEMAND might I be having?”

D. “How might I “interview” this unhelpful Belief for the “job” of being in my head?”

E. “What might be more accepting, preference based, Effective HELPFUL thinking?”


Whenever I ‘feel a bit upset’ it might be useful to see if an ABC might be done on the situation, or thought, that seems to precede my upset.



01 - ABC - A Quick Look
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01 - ABC - a crash course - BuiLD
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Download PDF • 560KB

01 - ABC Disputations - BuiLD
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Download PDF • 757KB

01 - ABC Worksheet - BuiLD
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Download PDF • 525KB

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