Decreasing Emotional Distress by using Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)

Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) was founded and developed by Dr.  Albert Ellis. I attended his three days workshop and got training in RET, in Florida.

RET, according to Dr. Ellis, is a practical, action oriented approach to help us cope with problems and enhance personal growth. RET primarily focuses on the currently held beliefs, attitudes, painful emotions and maladaptive behaviors that can impact our well being. It offers us effective techniques to identify our set of beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and personal rules that frequently cause emotional distress and turmoil. Furthermore, RET provides various methods to help us reformulate our irrational beliefs into more effective, objective, and helpful ones by implementing the powerful RET technique called, “disputing”

According to Dr. Ellis, RET improves interpersonal skills, helps us develop a new approach to living, which increases our effectiveness and happiness in the personal, social, and work domains.  Additionally, it improves our health, makes our community and environment healthier and increases personal awareness.

RET holds that activating events (A’s) in our lives cause emotional and behavioral consequences (C’s) largely because they are acted upon by our belief (B’s) about activating events.

For example, the activating event could be a critical remark by the boss which would result in frustration, anger and being upset on the part of the employee.  Dr. Ellis contends that the frustration and anger are actually caused by the person’s irrational belief, such as “I must be liked by and accepted by everyone.” He thinks that if one can uproot and shake this belief then he/she can cope better with the activating event.

The ABC model of RET hypothesizes that irrational beliefs or dysfunctional attitudes that constitute our self-disturbing beliefs have the following two distinctive features:

  1. The underlying beliefs  have at their core powerful demands and commands, usually expressed as musts, should, ought  to’s, and got to’s  such as, “ I must be liked by everyone.”
  2. They are also colored by self imposed demands. For example, “If I am not liked by everyone….., it is awful  (100 % bad)….I can’t stand it…., I am a worthless person, No one will like me in the future.


The above ABC model is followed by D- the disputing of irrational beliefs (IB’s)- when they feel and act in self defeating way, until they arrive at  Effective Emotional Response,  a set of more rational beliefs ( RB’s)

In the ABCDE model:

A:  Stands for Activating event or Activating Experience, often an undesirable life experience that obstructs the achievement of your goals and desires.

B: Stands for Belief system about your experience

C: Stands for Consequences- feelings and behaviors that result from the way you think. “It is awful”,” I can’t stand it”, “I am a jerk because someone rejected me”.

D: Stands for Disputation, You debate against yourself defeating Beliefs until you create a set of rational beliefs (RB’s)

E: Stands for an Effective new belief that results from rational Disputing.

The process of Disputing irrational beliefs is very crucial to making a positive change. This can be achieved in the following three ways:

1. First method of uprooting and shaking  our irrational and dysfunctional beliefs is Questioning ( Cognitive way) For Example, “Where is the evidence that I must be approved and accepted by everyone, however much I’d like to do so?” Dr. Ellis contends that it is important to distinguish between two kinds of ‘should’: the demanding should and the desirable should. You may want to say it is desirable to be liked by everyone but it is not necessary that I should be liked by everyone and it is not the end of the world if I am disapproved by few people. It is important to eliminate the demanding ‘should’ and replace it with a desirable ‘should’. This will facilitate a better perspective of the situation and the person will be able to cope with the situation more effectively.

2. Another way of disputing irrational beliefs is the Emotive method. Dr Ellis feels that by questioning our irrational beliefs, we tend to decrease the intensity of our anger, frustration, and turmoil.

3. The third way of disputing and uprooting irrational beliefs is the Behavioral way.  For example, people who avoid socializing,  force themselves to socialize while simultaneously convincing themselves that it is not awful, but only inconvenient to get rejected. When we awfulize the situation with a demanding must or should, we end up feeling more frustrated and when we begin to muster courage to face and confront the situation, and allow ourselves to accept minor setbacks without getting overly frustrated, we tend to acquire the capacity to face the situation and take the challenge more effectively.

Disputing beliefs with the emotive and behavioral methods also explain the term REBT adopted by Dr. Ellis. He felt RET institute was using the behavioral approach all along without realizing the behavioral component to their approach. The term REBT appears to be more comprehensive and accurate according to Dr. Ellis because it also incorporates behavioral techniques like desensitization, visualization etc.

Dr Ellis has used REBT in treating chemical dependency. He used Behavioral techniques such as visualization, reframing, knowledge of semantic principles, rational emotive imagery, shame attacking exercises, reverse role play and humor. He also recommended these techniques for relapse prevention.

In summary, RET is a very effective tool in changing our self limiting beliefs. It helps us decrease the intensity and frequency of emotional distress caused by our self limiting belief systems.
Hypnosis can also help challenge mistaken beliefs. Positive suggestions related to the person’s belief system are offered under hypnotic trance and they begin to alter beliefs of the person. This produces a change in the person’s behaviors.
Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.

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