The cornerstone of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is the ABC form. A stands for activating event, B stands for irrational beliefs and C stands for consequences.
There is also a D for Rational beliefs and an E for new consequences. A trite example of how this works would read as follows.
Imagine in the Activating event column that you are in your kitchen, getting ready to go out to meet a friend. You look out of the window and it’s raining. Most people will then go directly to column C and feel down, because they have to stay in and postpone the meeting. Yet as stated earlier, external stimuli cannot cause us to feel something inside of us. So how do we feel down? Let’s look at what happened in the B column.
You told yourself that you would get wet and because you once got wet before and contracted the flu you would stay in. It is that belief that leads to you feeling down and your reaction to the memory of it. All you succeed in creating is another detrimental memory!
An REBT therapist would dispute this belief, because it is dysfunctional to you and restricts your life. The therapist and the client would discuss the ramifications of getting wet and the way memory has scared you now. In other words because you got wet before and contracted flu, does not mean you will contract it again. Your demand, that it must not happen again, scares you and keeps you indoors.
Whilst disputing this belief you would be asked to come up with a more practical beneficial alternative thought. Such as, I will take an umbrella. On realising that it will keep you dry, the meeting with your friend goes ahead and hopefully, a good time is had by all.
In this example the therapist would check that you are not avoiding meeting people because of any perceived inadequacy and that you did not demand that you had to meet your friend in case you let him down and felt guilty. REBT is a therapy that puts you back in your own driving seat and allows you to make decisions that work for you.
Rational beliefs lead to, at worst disappointment, sadness, regret, and annoyance. Irrational beliefs lead to anxiety, depression, anger and unhappiness.
If I really m-u-s-t-e-r-b-a-t-e-d that I would have to have a million pounds, the tag on part would be and if not it’s all my fault. I would anxiously run around my room looking for the money only to become depressed when I failed to find it. A self created perception of failure falsely depresses me. If I preferred to get a million pounds and if not I’m still an ok person, I would be disappointed for five minutes, then move on with my life.
In the irrational belief, it is that gun that is metaphorically levelled at your head that creates the “what ifs”, and we have read what Sir Winston Churchill said about the word if.
When you feel bad you think badly and the imagination creates all sorts of flashing, frightening images. So much so that we can end up believing them. The consequences move into the activating event column and ultimately reinforce the belief that there really is something wrong with us. Over time it is like an invisible smoke screen that stops us changing the irrational belief. This is what can be so confusing for client and therapist alike. Understanding of this process goes someway to reduce this cycle
An extract from my book: Breaking The Vicious Circle Of Psychological misery