Confront those unhelpful beliefs

In a previous post, I explained the ABC’s of therapy. Today I wish to expand and teach you the ABCDE, specifically demonstrating the value of cognitive disputation to confront unhelpful beliefs.

Unhelpful beliefs

Firstly, let’s unpack how irrational beliefs contribute to the consequences. There are four main types of irrational (unhelpful) beliefs:

Demandingness: A rule about how the world should be

Catastrophizing: A prediction about how awful it would be if the rule was broken

Frustration intolerance: A belief about your inability to cope with it if the rule was broken

Global rating of self, others, or the world: Rating a unit as a whole based on a singular incident

I am sure you can imagine that a person who believes that

He (boss) should be fair and if he is not that is so awful I can’t stand it! If he is unfair, he is obviously a hateful bully

will experience feelings of anger, resentment, etc.

Cognitive disputation

Fortunately, therapy does not just point out your irrational beliefs, but provides you with tools to challenge these habitual thoughts. This is called disputation (D). An effective disputation would try to modify your beliefs to become more rational, as seen in the table below.

Category B (irrational belief) D (disputation: modified belief)
Demandingness He should be fair It would be nice if he was fair, but he doesn’t have to be
Catastrophizing If he isn’t fair that would be awful It is bad when he is unfair, but it is not the worst thing ever
Frustration intolerance I can not stand it when he is unfair I don’t like it when he is unfair, but I can stand it
Global rating He is a hateful bully Just because he is a fallible human being, doesn’t make him a hateful bully in all domains of his life

Is it magic?

To evaluate how well the new, revised beliefs are working for you, we will collect data on E (evaluate new outcome). The ABCDE of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy is not magic. It is highly unlikely that you will move from depression or panic to content happiness (with angels singing in the background). More likely that you will move from anxiety to concern, depression to sadness, anger to annoyance, guilt and shame to regret, hurt to disappointment.

Try it at home

Try it for yourself using this log sheet. Do feel free to contact me and arrange a session if you get stuck!