Rational Emotional Therapy (RET) It is a form of therapy that is framed within cognitive-condcutual therapies and has like main author to Albert Ellis, that proposed the model during second half of century XX.
The early start of this approach began with the development of a whole philosophical system and a set of self-instructions that the author himself, oddly enough, would eventually apply himself in order to solve his own emotional problems, highlighting his social anxiety.
But this contribution to the history of psychology is more than a simple therapeutic tool. It also tells us a lot about how does that part of us that is based on irrational beliefs work.
Basic Operation of Rational Emotional Therapy
The irrational term used in RET can easily be confused. From this model, we act rationally when we feel appropriate and we function functionally according to our objectives.
Irrational beliefs therefore refer to these cognitive phenomena which intervene in our emotions and our behaviors and which distance us from our objectives.
Explained very succinctly, the rational-emotional therapist would be responsible for detecting the patient’s irrational beliefs which generate emotional suffering for him and keep him away from well-being. By training in certain skills, by dialoguing and by prescribing tasks, the therapist seeks to reformulate these irrational beliefs and replace them with rational beliefs.
These rational beliefs are defined in the RET as those that help the person:
- Present or choose for yourself certain values, goals, objectives and ideals that contribute to happiness.
- Use efficient, flexible, scientific and logical-empirical means to achieve these values and objectives and to avoid contradictory or counterproductive results.
Practical and inconvenient feelings
RET is differentiated between convenient feelings and awkward feelings
A practical feeling can be positive (Love, happiness, pleasure, curiosity) or it can be negative (pain, grief, discomfort, frustration, annoyance). Whether positive or negative, practical feelings help us minimize or eliminate blockages or frustrations that arise when, for some reason, we do not see our desires and preferences being met.
On the other hand, uncomfortable feelings, in addition to not helping us see these desires and preferences come true, they generate additional suffering. Negative uncomfortable feelings (depression, anxiety, inadequacy, hopelessness, uselessness) tend to make circumstances worse. Positive uncomfortable feelings (bombast, hostility, and paranoia) produce a fleeting sense of well-being that quickly translates into unhappy results and greater frustration.
Practical feelings tend to generate inappropriate behaviors and bothersome feelings tend to generate inappropriate behaviors. Some intensify its own development and coexistence, others are counterproductive and socially harmful.
Irrational beliefs, uncomfortable feelings and uncomfortable behaviors these are three interactive elements that generate a dangerous vicious circle.
The ABCs of irrational thinking
To understand the role irrational beliefs play, it helps to become familiar with the ABC scheme. There are three elements in this diagram:
B. Beliefs (beliefs)
Referred to trigger events. These are just the circumstances that we encounter in life when pursuing our goals. These are the things that happen to us.
These events, these things that happen to us, have a series of consequences.
In diagram ABC, the Cs are the consequences. These consequences are of three types:
According to this diagram, we could deduce that A (what happens to us in life) explains our reactions C (Consequences), or what is the same: events explain why we act the way we doWhy we feel this and why we think this way. However, this is not correct, as one item is needed in the diagram, that item is B: Beliefs. This element is what lies between what happens to us and how we react. In other words, “There is nothing good or nothing bad but thoughts that do it that way.” Shakespeare.
If in the B of the diagram we have rational beliefs, the consequences which derive from the events will be adjusted, adapted, in other words: healthy. If, on the other hand, we have irrational beliefs, the consequences that flow from the events will be inadequate, inadequate, they will cause us unproductive suffering and will contribute to the creation and maintenance of psychological symptoms.
An example of irrationality
Joan loses her job. Joan believes that she needs her job to be happy. Joan falls into a deep depression.
Event: job loss. Thought: “I need this occupation to be happy.” consequences:
- Behavioral: locked in at home, isolated, not looking for work.
- Emotional: deep sadness.
- Cognitive: “I’m useless, I won’t get anything, I won’t go back”
Peter loses his job. Peter wishes he hadn’t lost his job, but he assumes that it is better to be flexible and look for another option. Dad look for other alternatives.
Event: job loss. Thought: “I liked my driving, I prefer to keep it but it is not essential.” consequences:
- Behavioral: looking for a job, continuing your life by adapting to the new situation.
- Emotional: some moments of decomposition and others of mental improvement.
- Cognitive: “Too bad they fired me, I’ll go look for something else, what if you add a business?”
The same thing happened to Juan and Pedro but their interpretation of the situation is very different and this interpretation leads to very different results.
Main irrational beliefs
In his first formulation Albert Ellis synthesized in 11 Irrational Beliefs the main thoughts that induce us to unease:
1. Irrational search for affection
It is an extreme need, for the adult human being, the loved one and approved by every important person in their environment.
We all want to be loved and approved, but that’s not always possible, sometimes even when it comes to our own family.
2. Radical self-sufficiency
To consider myself as a valid person, I must be very competent, autonomous and able to accomplish anything I intend to do.
Having virtues and skills that we are proud of is healthy, but maintaining something as important as self-esteem on those foundations is dangerous.
People who do not act as they “should” are vile, evil and infamous and they should be punished for their wickedness.
People do things the best they know or can, those who do things that we consider unfair do it out of ignorance, because they are immersed in emotional states that they cannot control, because they walk confused, etc. Anyone can correct themselves.
4. Dramatization of problems
It’s terrible and catastrophic that things are not working out the way we would like.
Sometimes things don’t come out like a steal, “If life gives you lemons, make yourself lemonade.”
5. We cannot control our lives
Human misery and discomfort are caused by external circumstances and people do not have the ability to control their emotions.
It is not the events that make us suffer, but the interpretation we make of them. We can learn to identify and control our emotions.
If something is or may be dangerous, I must be feeling terribly anxious about this and I have to constantly think about the possibility of that happening.
Constantly preventing danger is not only unbearable for the body and mind, but it is also unnecessary because there are things that are beyond our control. You must learn to tolerate uncertainty.
7. It is better to avoid problems
It is easier to avoid the responsibilities and difficulties of life than it is to face them.
Denying or hiding the problems does not make them go away, it may relieve us for a while, but then the problem will still be present and may have gotten worse.
8. You must be under someone’s protection
I have to depend on others and i need someone stronger to trust.
Asking for help when we are not able to do something for ourselves is a legitimate and wise thing, human beings are social animals and we help each other. However, we must not fall into constant and absolute dependence, we must learn to develop our capacities and autonomy.
9. The wounds do not heal
What happened to me in the past will always affect me.
Analyzing the past helps us understand the present and avoid repeating problems in the future. Living constantly trapped in the past causes us to miss the only time we can truly exist: the present moment.
10. The problems of others are ours
We must be very concerned about the problems and disturbances of others.
Empathy, compassion, concern for our fellow human beings … is something commendable and human, however we don’t help if we let ourselves be carried away for the miseries of others. We do not help those who are in pain or do not help ourselves.
11. Extreme perfectionism
There is a perfect solution to every problem and if we can’t find it it would be catastrophic.
Sometimes there are many ways to solve a problem: 3 + 3 = 6, the same as 5 + 1 = 6, or the same as 8-2 = 6. Often there is no perfect solution because when solving a problem, other new problems appear.
The best to be more rational
In short, the central idea of RET is that thought plays a crucial role in human suffering, Whatever the circumstances. Adopting a more rational style of thinking saves us the discomfort and helps us achieve our vital goals.
Irrational beliefs can be summed up as demands that one has on oneself, on others or on the world. We learn to change our preference demands for healthier living.
- Ellis, A and Grieger, R .. (1990). Manual of Rational Emotional Therapy. Bilbao: Editorial Descalrée de Brouwer, SA