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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

BUSting Baseless Beliefs

Have you ever needed to end a foundationless assumption? Herein, I’ll provide two scenarios—both associated with a similar occurrence—during which I could’ve used the option to bust baseless beliefs, and I’ll highlight what happened when I didn’t do so.

It was in either junior high or high school when a man—said to have been intoxicated behind the wheel of his dually pickup truck—slammed into a busload of children on our way to school. Striking the large yellow vehicle on the driver side, rear wheel well, the bus tipped over and rested on its side along a country road.

Though I recall the incident unfolding in slow-motion, I wasted no time with the evacuation process. I, along with several of the other boys from the children’s home at which I was a resident, carried many children off the bus and escorted them to safety.

Considered a leader in my all-boys cottage, I coordinated a staging point for other children to gather. As well, I sent one boy down the southern portion of a street, and another up the northern area, to contact emergency responders and notify our rural neighbors of the situation.

The bus driver was disoriented and I ensured him that me and the remaining boys could clear the wreckage without his assistance, as he stumbled over and sat underneath a tree with kids removed from the bus. Once the vehicle was fully vacated, sheriff’s deputies and paramedics arrived on scene.

Shortly thereafter, a media crew showed up and interviewed the brave law enforcement officers (LEOs)—said to have organized the safety efforts whereby all children escaped without serious injuries. In reality, I led the push to protect all personnel on the bus that morning.

For a period of time following the accident, I was angry about how LEOs took credit for something the San Jacinto Cottage (SJC) boys were responsible for having orchestrated. Understanding Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) as I do today, I realize that I was actually upset about my belief about the situation—not at LEOs.

Using the ABC Model, here’s how I disturbed myself all those years past:

Action – LEOs were showered in local media praise for gallantry associated with actions taken by me and other SJC boys.

Belief – I believed something along the lines of, “Law enforcement shouldn’t take credit for something they had little to do with; and because they haven’t corrected the record, it’s awful that I and the other boys aren’t being recognized for our bravery!”

Consequence – Due to my inflexible demand not having been met, I was disgusted and angry.

I was taken to the hospital via ambulance that morning. Medical providers wanted to assess a number of children for internal injuries and head trauma, of which I sustained none.

Not long after the event, the dually driver’s insurance company issued settlement checks. Despite having placed me to children’s home care, my mother was still my legal guardian.

As such, my $800 check was swiftly reduced to $400 by my mother. She explained that because I was a child and didn’t need the money, I should have been gracious enough to accept the fact that I was given any money at all.

Not knowing of REBT at the time, I again engaged in self-disturbance, thusly:

Action – My mother kept half of my insurance settlement funds.

Belief – I believed, “How could she!? I was the one stepping through broken glass while carrying children off the bus that day. Therefore, I ought to receive the entire $800! I can’t stand that my own mother would steal from me and then try to justify her actions!”

Consequence – Because of my rigid and unhelpful demand, I experienced disgust and anger. Additionally, I may or may not have struck and damaged a wall with my fist—though…no pics, no proof.

In both of these scenarios, the action wasn’t what led to the consequence. I wasn’t beholden to invisible forces within the universe, forming an Action-Consequence connection.

Taking personal ownership of my emotions and behavior, I admit that what I believed about the actions created consequences. Accordingly, there was a Belief-Consequence connection associated with both scenarios.

What evidence did I have to support the belief that LEOs shouldn’t take credit for their incident response? Why must they have corrected the record?

How would recognition of bravery on behalf of the SJC boys have changed anything other than opinions others held about the accident? What made a stranger’s opinion any more or less valuable than the opinion I held about validation?

Likewise, how could I not fathom that my mom would pocket half of the insurance funds? She was the person that taught me how to hustle, so wasn’t it out of the ordinary for her not to have taken all the money?

Also, what made me think I was entitled to money—all for having done what came naturally to me on that morning? Wasn’t the truly important conclusion to my tale that all children were relatively safe and that no one died?

Was it true that I couldn’t stand how my mom behaved? Clearly, I was able to tolerate her actions even though I didn’t like or love what she did.

How did unhealthy beliefs serve me during that time in my life? How much more would unconditional acceptance of others and life have served my interests and goals?

What I’ve briefly demonstrated herein is disputation. Rather than disputing the action or consequence of either scenario, I disputed the unhelpful beliefs that caused the unpleasant emotions and behaviors.

Ultimately, the effective new belief that applies to both scenarios is, “Though I’d like for things to go my way, that isn’t how life actually works. I can accept this fact even though I’d prefer otherwise.”

When working with clients, using REBT, I’m sometimes asked about the usefulness of a therapeutic method that can teach a person about what wasn’t helpful in the past. “Deric, how will this help me now or in the future?” a client may ask.

Understanding how we upset ourselves by unhelpful beliefs is the key to the ABC Model. By retrospectively assessing what didn’t serve us well during a specific occurrence, we can then apply that lesson to the present and for tomorrow.

Think of it this way. Suppose that yesterday you accidentally touched a hot surface, like a stovetop. If you didn’t learn that there was a direct connection between a heated stove and pain, what may occur subsequent to burning yourself that first time?

Similarly, by learning about the direct association between your beliefs and consequences, you can learn how to alter outcomes by changing your beliefs. This is the benefit to reflective learning through use of an REBT lens.

As a teenager, I didn’t know how to end foundationless assumptions. Because I believed the nonsense I told myself, I suffered the consequence of unpleasant emotions and unhelpful behavior.

Now, as an REBT practitioner, I know how to bust baseless beliefs—as briefly demonstrated in association with an occurrence involving a bus accident from my youth. Understanding how I once upset myself can help me to make healthier decisions now and moving forward.

Would you like to know more about disrupting your ill-serving beliefs? Would you like to learn how to practice a therapeutic technique that has the potential of improving your quality of life? I may be able to help.

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 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

(SJC boys)


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