List of REBT’s 12 Rational Beliefs
Like replacing bad habits with good ones, your irrational thoughts must be replaced with more rational ones. To counter each of Irritional Belief is a list of Rational Beliefs.
1. It is not possible for everyone to love and approve of us; indeed, we can not be assured that any one particular person will continue to like us. What one person likes another hates. When we try too hard to please everyone, we lose our identity, we are not self-directed, secure or interesting. It is better to cultivate our own values, social skills, and compatible friendships, rather than worry about pleasing everyone.
2. No one can be perfect. We all have weaknesses and faults. Perfectionism creates anxiety and guarantees failure. Perfectionistic needs may motivate us but they may take away the joy of living and alienate people if we demand they be perfect too. We (and others) can only expect us to do what we can (as of this time) and learn in the process.
3. No matter how evil an act, there are reasons for it. If we put ourselves in the other person’s situation and mental condition, we would see it from his/her point of view and understand. Even if the person were emotionally disturbed, it would be “understandable” (i.e. “lawful” from a deterministic point of view). Being tolerant of past behavior does not mean we will refuse to help the person change who has done wrong.
Likewise, our own mean behavior should be understood by ourselves and others. When people feel mistreated, they can discuss the wrong done to them and decide how to make it right. That would be better than blaming each other and becoming madder and madder so both become losers.
4. The universe was not created for our pleasure. Children are commonly told, “You can’t have everything you want.” Many adults continue to have that “I want it all my way” attitude. The idea is silly, no matter who has it. There is nothing wrong, however, with saying, “I don’t like the way that situation worked out. I’m going to do something to change it.” If changes aren’t possible, accept it and forget it. An ancient idea is to accept whatever is.
5. As ancient philosopher Epictetus said, it is not external events but our views, our self-talk, our beliefs about those events that upset us. So, challenge your irrational ideas. You may be able to change external events in the future and you certainly can change your thinking. Remember no one can make you feel anyway; you are responsible for your own feelings.
6. There is a great difference between dreadful ruminations about what awful things might happen and thinking how to prevent, minimize, or cope with real potential problems. The former is useless, depressing, exhausting, and may even be self-fulfilling. The latter is wise and reassuring. Keep in mind that many of our fears never come true. Desirable outcomes are due to the laws of behavior, not due to our useless “worry.” Unwanted outcomes are also lawful, and not because we didn’t “worry.”
7. As with procrastination, avoidance of unpleasant tasks, and denial of problems or responsibilities frequently yields immediate relief but, later on, results in serious problems. The lifestyle that makes us most proud is not having an easy life but facing and solving tough problems.
8. People are dependent on others, e.g. for food, work, etc., but no one needs to be dependent on one specific person. In fact, it is foolish to become so dependent that the loss of one special person would leave you helpless and devastated.
9. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and change yourself (and maybe even the circumstances). You can teach an old dog new tricks. Self-help is for everyone every moment.
10. It is niceto be concerned, sympathetic, and helpful. It is not helpful and may be harmful to become overly distraught and highly worried about other people’s problems. They are responsible, if they are able adults, for their feelings, for their wrong-doing, and for finding their own solutions.
Often there is little you can do but be empathic. Avoid insisting on rescuing people who haven’t asked you for help.
11. A helpless, hopeless “I-can’t-change” attitude is not in keeping with modern-day self-help and therapeutic methods. There are many ways to change unwanted feelings. On the other hand, there is merit in “being able to flow with your feelings” in certain circumstances.
Being unable to feel or express certain emotions is a serious handicap but correctable. Being dominated by one’s emotions–a slave to your emotions–is also a serious but correctable problem. As long as our emotions are sometimes destructive and irrational, it is crazy to unthinkingly “follow our feelings.”
12. Perfection is NOT the goal. There is no one perfect solution but there may be several good alternatives. Try one, see what happens (observe the laws at work), and try again if your first idea doesn’t work. Perfectionism causes problems, including taking too much time, becoming too complicated, causing undue anxiety, and lowering our self-esteem.