Refuting irrational thinking

Albert Ellis “rational emotive behavior therapy”, 1997. Emotions are only partially related to actual events. Between the event and emotion is realistic or unrealistic self-talk. The self-talk produces emotions. A. Event. B. Self-talk. C. Emotion. Emotion can go back into self-talk and feed a loop. Unrealistic self-talk leads to depression, anxiety, helplessness, anger, etc.

Irrational beliefs:

1. Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.

2. Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something happens once you expect it to happen over and over again. Or you generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. a. You know what is going to happen in the future because it has happened before b. All people in that religion, ethnicity, or race are liars, etc.

3. Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. a. You have to be perfect or you're a failure. There is no middle ground. b. Certain people are evil and should be punished c. Anger is bad and destructive

4. Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.

5. Catastrophizing: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start the “what if's”. What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? a. You should fear anything that is unknown, uncertain, potentially dangerous b. If others knew the real you they would reject you c. If you don’t go to great lengths to please others, they will abandon or reject you

6. Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling towards you.

7. Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. a. People who disagree with you are rejecting you b. Your coworker frowned so they must dislike you

8. Control Fallacies: If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you. a. External events cause most human misery- people react as events trigger their emotions b. The past has a lot to do with determining the future c. You have no control over what you experience or feel d. Others are responsible for your pain e. You are responsible for everyone else’s pain

9. Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what's fair but other people won't agree with you.

10. Heaven's Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn't come.

11. Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.

12. Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true automatically. a. If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and boring. b. It is necessary for an adult to have love and approval from others to survive.

13. Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes of happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

14. Fallacy of Shame: Your worth depends on having and being “enough” and you feel shamed when you don’t have enough. a. Your worth depends on how much you achieve and produce. b. You are not beautiful, perfect, strong, or successful enough. You continually compare yourself to others. c. When you do something wrong it means you are a bad person.

Irrational thinking is the assumption that things are done to you (external locus of control) and that you are powerless. Catastrophizing & absolutism (over generalization) are common forms of irrational self-talk.

Refuting Irrational Ideas

1. Write down the objective facts of the event (no conjectures or impressions or judgments)

2. Write down the self-talk. Notice which are irrational

3. Focus on your emotional response. Make a clear label such as “angry”, “afraid”, “felt worthless”

4. Dispute and change the irrational self-talk.

  1. Select irrational idea. Simplify it into the smallest terms possible.
  2. Is there any rational support for this idea? Is this real or true? Trace the cause and effect.
  3. What evidence exists for the falseness of this idea?
  4. What is the worst that can happen? (if true, if false)
  5. What is the best that can happen? (if true, if false)
  6. Stating the truth- pain and problems are universal, life is not fair, it is up to me to find solution -there is no magic wand, avoiding it is dangerous, I am not alone, problems don’t mean misery, solution exists, I can do this, I can accept this, I am accepted, people do like me, I am free, God loves me, I am forgiven, I have purpose. i. “I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. I will let it pass over me and through me, and when it has passed, I will look and I will see only the truth.”
  7. Change behavior, make decision, explore possibilities, etc. based upon the truth rather than the lie.

Questions to ask to help identify irrational beliefs

1. What am I telling myself about this situation?

2. Where did I acquire this belief?

3. What if it is true?What would it mean to me?

4. What if is false? What would that mean?

5. How do I behave in line with this belief? Negative behaviors? (Avoidance, escapism, perfectionism, isolationism) Or healthy behaviors?

Rules to promote rational thinking: evaluate your thinking on these statements.

1. The event doesn’t do anything to me, my self-talk does- we feel the way we think.

2. It is the way it is. Conditions exist for this to occur or to be. To say things should be different is to throw out causality.

3. All humans are fallible.

4. It takes two to have conflict.

5. The best strategy is to make decisions that change behavior now.

Rational Emotive Imagery 1971 Dr. Maxie Maultsby.

1. Imagine an event that is stressful and accompanied by negative emotions.

2. As you imagine, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable.

3. After experiencing the stressful emotion, push yourself to change it to a healthier negative emotion (anxiety and rage are turned to concern, disappointment, or regret).

4. Examine how you changed the negative emotion. What happened inside your head that altered your original emotion? What was the self-talk?

5. Substitute a new adaptive belief that produces more bearable emotions.