Even though Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s story isn’t historically accurate, I enjoy Zack Snyder’s depiction of the tale by way of film in 300. It’s one of those movies from which my friends and I would quote scenes back in 2007.
Given that the current blog entry is my 300th post, I see it fitting to reflect upon a couple scenes in 300 which I think apply to my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). In the fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, Spartans face off against Persians.
In one scene, a Persian emissary warns the Spartans:
No, not slaves. Your women will be slaves. Your sons, your daughters, your elders will be slaves, but not you. No. By noon this day, you will be dead men. A thousand nations of the Persian Empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun.
To this, a Spartan, Stelios, replies, “Then we will fight in the shade.” During a later battle scene, the Spartans face a barrage of thousands of arrows heading their way.
When bracing for protection behind their shields as arrows rain down upon them, one Spartan begins laughing. When questioned about his behavior, the Spartan explains, “Well, you had to say it. ‘Fight in the shade!”
The reason these shade references stand out to me when thinking about my blog is because I understand the futility of attempts at stop self-disturbing thoughts and beliefs altogether. At times, it seems as though an onslaught of negativistic cognitive content can create a storm of piercing mental arrows.
Moreover, it isn’t uncommon for people to tell me they irrationally believe that somehow they can achieve a state of mind in which they will forever thereafter remain free from unwelcome thoughts and beliefs. To my knowledge, not even Albert Ellis, originator of REBT, expressed such a thing.
Now, it may be worth stating that we aren’t necessarily in control of our thoughts. Don’t believe me? As you read this sentence, don’t think of a zebra. Now, what did you just think of?
In order to not think of a black and white striped horse-like animal, you first needed to think of what it was you weren’t supposed to think about. Ergo, you thought of a zebra.
If you don’t appreciate that thought exercise, try a separate one. Stop reading this post for five minutes. Remove as many distractions as you can and sit in silence, quieting your mind.
Think of complete nothingness—no images, sounds, suggestions, or otherwise. Presuming you actually attempted the second exercise and were unsuccessful at stopping the process of thinking altogether, I posit that you aren’t in full control of your thoughts.
It isn’t uncommon for unkind, unwelcome, or unpleasant thoughts to enter the mind. “You’re stupid,” you may think or, “No one likes you.” These are merely thoughts.
You can think these things without any emotional consequence—like deciding which toothpaste brand you prefer, which I’m guessing doesn’t stir your emotions—because thoughts cloud the mind all the time. It’s when we form beliefs based on thoughts that things become troublesome.
I view a belief as trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something that a person accepts as true or which exists. Noteworthy, beliefs don’t require evidential proof in order to occur within our minds.
For instance, you may believe, “People must respect me, or else suffer my wrath!” This is similar to the message from the Persian emissary, directed at the Spartans. Obey, or else!
Inevitably, when others disobey your rigid belief, you disturb yourself into an angry mood, experience an unpleasant bodily sensation (e.g., a clinched jaw), and exhibit vengeful behavior (e.g., shooting arrows at them). From an REBT perspective, this isn’t an action-consequence connection at work.
People disrespecting you (Action) cannot cause your reaction (Consequence). To demonstrate this point, consider that somewhere at this very moment someone is talking poorly about you. Are you mad?
Perhaps you assume that this imaginary person shouldn’t disrespect you. You may truly believe that others must respect you. In fact, you maintain that people ought to never be rude towards you—whether in your presence of not.
This is an example of the B-C connection, because it’s your belief about people which results in a reaction. No matter how many slings and arrows are hurled your way, it’s what you Believe about the action that causes your consequence.
Though you may not be able to control your random thoughts, you can do something about your beliefs. You can dispute the irrational things you tell yourself so that you may achieve a preferred consequence of whatever it is you tell yourself.
Suppose that instead of lying to yourself by believing others must respect you, which isn’t a helpful prescription regarding how others are to behave, you instead voice a healthier belief in the form of a description. What would that look like?
You may say, “While I’d prefer not to be disrespected by others, people aren’t obligated to do as I wish.” Which belief would better serve your interests and goals—demanding respect or wishing others would be more considerate?
Rather than upsetting yourself by the thoughts and beliefs raining down upon you within your mind, you could simply laugh off these unwelcome personal attacks like the Spartans did when under fire from the Persians in 300.
As this is my 300th post, I’ve learned to anticipate criticism concerning the message expressed herein. “Deric, it isn’t easy or comfortable,” is something I hear most often when promoting the use of REBT.
Indeed, the battle taking place within your mind isn’t without difficulty or discomfort. Arrows falling in cloud-like patterns isn’t a pleasant experience. To this, I encourage you to fight in the shade!
What are the alternative options; do nothing and suffer the consequences of your self-disturbing beliefs? Do more of the same and upset yourself to the point of psychological and physiological destruction?
Personally, I’d rather fight in the shade than succumb to my own barrage of thoughts and beliefs. If you’d like to know more about how to take a stand against insurmountable odds which takes place within your mind, I may be able to help. HA-OOH!
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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