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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

'Bout That Action

 

I recall years ago when having a discussion with a client about activism, the individual expressed surprise when I didn’t validate this person’s self-disturbing should, must, or ought-type narratives. Summary of the psychotherapeutic conversation is approximated as follows:

 

Me: It appears as though your activistic endeavors incorporate demandingness with which you self-disturb into a depressive state when others don’t behave as you rigidly command them to. Hearing this observation, what do you think about it?

 

Client: Well, if I and others don’t stand up by speaking truth to power, nothing will ever change.

 

Me: Interesting. Two things stand out to me about what you just said. I’ll address each sequentially. One, what makes you so convinced that what you believe represents truth?

 

Client: It is the truth! Systemic oppression, structural racism, and historic disenfranchisement of women, people of color, LGBTQ-plus, and other marginalized folks is a real thing. It can’t be the truth that supporting these systems of oppression is a good thing. What I represent is the truth and it takes action to stand up to these systems of power.

 

Me: Okay, more on that in a bit. Two, how is such behavior serving your interests and goals when the people who comprise these systems inevitably push back against your activism, and your belief about their behavior causes unpleasant consequences to a degree by which you’re now sitting here before me?

 

Client: Isn’t that what mental health is about, treating people so that we can keep going in the struggle against oppression? I mean, it’s not solely for people with schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, right?

 

Me: There are varying opinions about the practice of mental, emotional, and behavioral health care. Well-being isn’t a monolithic concept, there is no objective standard according to which all practitioners approach wellness, and I’m less concerned with these divergent opinions towards helping people feel better than I am with helping you get better.

 

That stated there are two irrational beliefs which stand out to me, given your responses to my questions. First, you appear to assume that you and those with whom you agree have a monopoly on truth. I suspect you do not. Second, you ostensibly believe that your personal health is worth the sacrifice to a cause for which I’m not fully convinced is concerned with you as a person. Yet, here you sit with physiological and psychological injury due to your self-disturbing beliefs. For goodness sakes, you’re losing hair and present with gastrointestinal [GI] issues while reporting symptoms of both anxiety and depression. What makes you think that lighting yourself on fire to keep others warm is in your best interest?

 

Client: I thought you were a social worker. You don’t get it? Isn’t social work about standing up for what’s right, taking an activist stance against oppression? Yes, I’m struggling. However, what I do is in service to the greater struggle. How can you sit there, as a social worker, and not be prepared to act?

 

Me: To adequately answer your question, I’m going to demystify REBT [Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy] and be utterly transparent with you by employing what is known in social work practice as “professional use of self”—use of my background, when it may serve a client, in order to increase your capacity for self-advocacy.

 

First, the ABC model of REBT maintains that when an Action occurs and you use an unhelpful Belief about the matter, it isn’t the event itself—though your unproductive assumption—that causes an unpleasant emotional, bodily sensation, or behavioral Consequence such as hair loss, GI issues, depressive or anxious symptoms, or going into the streets and protesting while inflexibly reinforcing your unfavorable assumptions.

 

Second, as a social worker—yes, I was trained to function as an activist. Moreover, I’ve come a long way from my youth, wherein I was really ‘bout that action. Back then, it didn’t take much more than a misspoken or misperceived word—which in REBT constitutes an Action—to which I allowed my unhealthy Beliefs to cause unproductive Consequences for me and others involved with an event.

 

You see, I was ‘bout that Action, not taking personal ownership for my reactions. I foolishly Believed in an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection. Many people got hurt, because I irrationally Believed I was right—that my position was based in truth.

 

As a trained social work activist, I could’ve easily used similar unproductive assumptions which may’ve produced similar outcomes. Rather than beating down a person when on the blocc as a teenager, I could’ve been out here in these streets burning down neighborhoods, looting stores, and ruining lives in the name of so-called activism.

 

After all, bein’ ‘bout that activistic Action conveniently maps on to the violent behavior of my youth. However, I now take personal responsibility and accountability for my reactions to Actions. This requires acknowledgement of the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection.

 

And if you’re paying attention, yes—a requirement is the same thing as a demand. You see, instead of unhelpfully demanding that people should’ve respected me when on the blocc or commanding that perceived power structures do as I declare they must, I acknowledge the limits of my control and influence.

 

As such, I can use helpful should, must, and ought-type statements with myself—and only myself. Activistic Action isn’t flexible in this way. Rather, it operates on a “do as I demand or suffer the consequences” construct.

 

When you irrationally force upon others your will, I encourage you not to be surprised when they get active with you. After all, they too have their should, must, and ought-type demands which directly challenge your commands.

 

Therefore, I offer you the potential to get better by practicing the ABC model and through use of unconditional acceptance. If you willfully refuse to practice tolerance and acceptance, you will continue lighting yourself on fire to keep others warm. So far, your strategy doesn’t seem to be as beneficial to you or others, from my observation.

 

When thinking back to the aforementioned session with a client, I’m reminded of people who are self-disturbingly ‘bout that action. Despite the obvious consequences of unhelpful beliefs, some people downright advocate violence—and are perhaps excited to participate in such a manner.

 

Of this, I think of Never Broke Again record label’s artist Vonita’s song “Let’s Get Active.” Lyrics include:

 

Play wit’ my gang, watch my hoes start stompin’ shit. If you ain’t gang, you can’t hang, you can’t sit wit’ us. All my bitches, we get active, ain’t no tippin’ us. Who wan’ do it in this bitch? We can get it up! Fuck all that talkin’ out yo neck, tryin’ to pick a fuss. Let’s get active, let’s get active!

 

The point I intend on conveying herein isn’t one in opposition to activism, protests, marches, or other means to the end on a quest for justice. It isn’t my place to tell others what they should, must, or ought to do in this regard.

 

Rather, just as I disputed the irrational beliefs of the aforementioned client, I invite you to consider the young Deric’s and Vonita’s of the world. Some people would rather get active than to opt for rational living.

 

Although you may be fully convinced of your side of an issue or believe in your moral superiority, there are people within the world who subscribe to A-C rather than B-C connections. When you meet them, they may really be ‘bout that action, not necessarily about activism.

 

Thankfully, the client discussed herein used self-determination to guide the individual from psychotherapeutic treatment or management of physical and psychological symptoms. As an autonomous individual, the client chose self-disturbance rather than to get better.

 

Not a single issue for which the client advocated has changed since the individual left mental health services with me, not one. Arguably, and in the absence of nation-ending calamity, none of the matters regarding which the client used activistic measures will likely change.

 

Nevertheless, I remain grateful for having had the opportunity to work with a person who used personal agency by making well-informed decision against self-advocacy. Yes, you read that correctly.

 

I’m glad the client weighed options, considered the consequences of self-disturbing beliefs, and chose to be reactive rather than rational. This individual chose in-group-advocacy rather than to be ‘bout that action in her own interests and goals.

 

Although it can be a disappointing process to observe people we care about torch themselves in order to keep others warm, REBT practitioners across the globe aren’t unfamiliar with this experience. At minimal, such clients are self-deterministically and autonomously self-disturbed.

 

Who am I to say that they shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to be? Moreover, during the 2024 United States U.S.) presidential election season, I’ve already observed at least one person literally light himself on fire in the name of activism.

 

I suspect many more self-disturbed consequential actions stemming from the B-C connection will unfold, especially given the U.S. Supreme Court Trump v. Anderson, et. al decision. Some people irrationally believe that if their demands go unmet, they must be ‘bout that action.

 

For those in search of a healthier method of existing, opting for rational living, I’m available to help people get better. As discussed with the aforementioned client, I didn’t merely stumble into practice of REBT from a life of non-action. I, too, used to be ‘bout that action—getting active with more people than I care to admit—until I learned how to stop disturbing myself through use of REBT.

 

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, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues 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


 

References:

 

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