“Listen closely to yourself and dispute the thoughts that don’t serve you—even if those thoughts are true…. For example, you might think, ‘Writing a novel is hard. Selling a novel is hard.’ Yes, both thoughts are true, but they don’t serve you. The only thought that serves you is, I’m off to write a novel!” (emphasis mine)
We are used to practicing REBT to help us dispute and change our irrational belief systems. The paragraph above jumped out at me because I think we forget sometimes that the beliefs that keep us chained to our addictive behaviors, can actually be true, as in the example above. Of the three main tests that we apply to our beliefs, only one of them has to do with the belief being true or false. To review the tests, they are:
If the belief fails any one of these tests, we should dispute it. In the example above, the writer should dispute the beliefs because they conflict with the goal of finishing a novel. I think that oftentimes we concentrate upon the first test, the “truth” test, and forget that even “true” beliefs can fail to pass one or both of the last two tests. Remember that the goal of the REBT process is to help us deal with life’s problems without resorting to our self-defeating addictive behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors are driven by our belief that the problems we’re facing are insurmountable, when the truth is they are not. Yes, it is hard to write a novel, and it’s also hard to change our behaviors, but that’s no reason to stop trying and give up.
A few years ago, when I decided to quit smoking following a major heart attack, one of the techniques that made it easier was seeing myself as a nonsmoker. I visualized a person with fresh breath, no little holes in his shirt, no nicotine stains on his fingers, and no pack of smokes in his pocket. A person who could answer the phone, read the paper in the morning, have a cup of coffee, deal with stress, and socialize, all without having a cigarette constantly burning nearby. Not just any person either, it had to be myself in a new role.
To some extent, I used the same technique years before when I quit drinking, but not as consciously as I did with smoking. With drinking, I had to first convince myself that there even was a life without alcohol before I could see myself in it. Once I decided there was, I could imagine myself in all sorts of situations, even attending my daughter’s wedding, without a drink.Continue reading
One of the ways we perpetuate our self-defeating behaviors is to convince ourselves that change may be possible for some people, but not for us. We are who we are, and that’s just the way it is. To make matters worse, we tell ourselves that even if we did somehow manage to change, we wouldn’t be able to sustain it because there were certain things we simply could not do without artificially altering our reality, or engaging in our habits.
Just a few moments of disparaging self-talk can make the change process seem to us like a towering mountain we can’t climb, and even if we could climb it we would surely die somewhere on the other side. Perhaps we have no personal examples of self-change we can recall to give us the confidence that we can climb the mountain and survive. The fact is that we do have examples, many of them, but to bring them into focus we have to look at ourselves a little more deeply than we are used to.
Who are you? If I asked you that question, there are many ways you might answer it. You might tell me a little about your background, your work history, your relationships, or your worldview. You might show me a picture, or tell me about your political leanings. You might even delve into your using history as a way of defining yourself. Even if you could tell me everything you know about “you” in a few moments, I submit that you still wouldn’t be answering the question—not really.Continue reading
In this excerpt, from Chapter 10 of Powerless No Longer, I am going to describe some of the more common self-defeating beliefs, along with the ways we can dispute them.
You may notice two things as you are going through the list. These irrational beliefs are not new, they are variations on the same theme as others we have explored, and most of them effect our self-esteem. The messages we send to ourselves are far worse than any we receive from the outside world. These are in no particular order.
“I should always feel happy, confident, and in control of my emotions, I should never feel angry, anxious, inadequate, jealous, or vulnerable.”
First, notice the absolutes, “should always,” and “should never.” Anytime we start thinking in absolutes we are asking for trouble. Emotional upsets are difficult enough to resolve without beating ourselves over being in that position in the first place. Whatever they are, our feelings are indeed valid, and a result of our current belief system, healthy or not. Being upset for being upset makes no logical sense, and keeps us from looking at the underlying belief that caused the upset.Continue reading