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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Go with the Flow


 

Although the above-featured image was generated using artificial intelligence, the scene reminds me of youthful summer hikes in the wilderness surrounding Camp Blue Haven in Las Vegas, New Mexico. In particular, there were many streams through which campers traversed along hiking trails.

 

During wetter seasons, streams would flow heavily and water could rise to waist-deep levels in some areas. As such, campers were advised on how to protect themselves from harm.

 

One lesson I was taught related to not freaking out if I lost my footing and suddenly found myself swept along a rapidly moving stream. I was told that the more one thrashed, the more likely an individual was to break a limb, succumb to a head injury, or even drown.

 

Campers were instructed to remain calm and go with the flow—allow things to happen, rather than trying to control what happens on its own. Because the streams varied in depth, I was informed that I’d likely be able to eventually stand in a shallow portion of the stream and walk away relatively unharmed.

 

By going with the flow, one may sustain minor bumps and scrapes, instead of needing to call upon emergency rescue services if one were to fight the current and experience significant injury in the process of doing so. Thankfully, I never needed to use my training, though I was grateful for the valuable lesson.

 

Thinking about that period of instruction when at camp, I now consider psychoeducational lessons I teach to clients when practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Rather than teaching people to go with the flow downstream, I present an REBT flowchart and encourage clients to use adaptable techniques regarding the perils faced in life:


 

We begin with a problem. Although not necessarily a pure REBT concept, I invite clients to consider a modified version of author Stephen Covey’s circles of control, influence, and concern.

 

The circle of control encapsulates you and only you. Even within this sphere, your conscious mind doesn’t have full control over unconscious processes (i.e., heartbeat, digestive process, thoughts, etc.). Although you maintain control over your beliefs, you don’t control all elements of this circle.

 

The circle of influence contains friends, family members, coworkers, and others over whom you have no control. After all, you don’t even control all of the elements within your own sphere. Therefore, you may be able to influence others through techniques such as persuasion.

 

The circle of concern relates to matters over which you have no control and very little—if any—influence. Climate change, the past, volcanic eruptions, famine, and other matters belong in this sphere. You can disturb yourself with beliefs about this circle, though doing so isn’t a method of rational living.

 

Flowing from the problem to the aforementioned circles, one then may wind up in shallow water while being able to stand (practice REBT). Using the ABC model, problems are referred to as Activating events (“Actions[s]”).

 

Unlike in nature, where an action leads to a consequence, REBT maintains that from a psychological perspective, Actions do not cause unpleasant Consequences (i.e., emotions, bodily sensations, behaviors, etc.). For instance, it isn’t being swept downstream that necessarily causes fear.

 

To elucidate this point, some people enjoy whitewater rafting that involves rapidly flowing water. For such people, there may be elements of joy, pleasure, and excitement—and not fear.

 

Rather than an Action-Consequence connection experienced in the physical world, people psychologically disturb themselves with Beliefs about unpredictable or unwanted events. As such, these irrational beliefs are what form a Belief-Consequence connection.

 

Therefore, I work with people so that they may develop adequate Disputation skills. By challenging unhelpful assumptions, a person can produce Effective new beliefs. Consider REBT practice as an equation: Action + Belief = Consequence ÷ Disputation = Effective new belief.

 

In addition to the ABC model, I use psychoeducation to teach people about unconditional acceptance. The psychologist who developed REBT, Albert Ellis, provided a method of reducing self-disturbance that I think maps onto Covey’s circles quite well.

 

For the circle of control, a correlate is unconditional self-acceptance (USA). Using this concept, an individual admits one’s own human fallibility. Because you don’t control all of your processes and you’re prone to error, you refrain from placing rigid conditions on yourself.

 

One can adaptively employ self-improvement measures without unproductively demanding perfection or a particular outcome. As such, USA is the building block to unconditional acceptance.

 

Regarding the circle of influence, unconditional other-acceptance (UOA) relates to acknowledgement that if each person is flawed, everyone else is also imperfect in their own way. Because you may be able to influence and not control others, you can try to persuade them through use of helpful means.

 

However, we do not inflexibly command that others must do as we wish. We may like it better or prefer the situation more if people did what we wanted them to, though with UOA we unconditionally accept that we are essentially powerless over others.

 

The circle of concern corresponds to unconditional life-acceptance (ULA). As each human is deemed imperfect, so too is life. Moreover, we have no control and so little influence over matters in this sphere that it’s downright delusional to irrationally believe otherwise.

 

As an example, you may unfavorably believe that something which happened a decade ago was so awful that you can’t bear to think of how it could’ve occurred. While I have little doubt that the incident was unpleasant, I suspect you can use ULA to acknowledge that disagreeable events happen in life and you can tolerate and accept this fact without use of unhelpful conditions.

 

As the stream of life ebbs and flows, and while clients practice REBT, I invite people to consider philosopher David Hume’s concept regarding the is-ought problem. Hume ostensibly suggested that one cannot derive an ought from what merely is.

 

For instance, as I’m swept downstream, I can’t declare that I ought not to be subject to such an experience. After all, flowing with the water current is what occurs and whether or not I irrationally believe things ought to be this way, this experience is as it is.

 

When using the ABC model and unconditional acceptance, I find it a helpful exercise to perform a reality check through use of Hume’s is-ought problem. Ultimately, clients are encouraged to go with the flow of the REBT flowchart as a method of reducing self-disturbance.

 

Of course, as was the case at Camp Blue Haven, people have choices about whether or not they will make matters worse. One can fight the stream and be medevacked to a hospital for treatment of unnecessary injuries.

 

One can also go with the flow and reach a point at which the current breaks, the water level decreases, and one may walk away from an event relatively unharmed. The choice is yours.

 

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

  

References:

 

AEI. (n.d.). About Albert Ellis, Ph.D. Albert Ellis Institute. Retrieved from https://albertellis.org/about-albert-ellis-phd/

Андрей Гликин. (2023, October 1). Time [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from https://playgroundai.com/post/cln8239er0qzxs6015ohsx704

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/blog/categories/disputation

Hollings, D. (2022, May 17). Circle of concern. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/circle-of-concern

Hollings, D. (2024, January 7). Delusion. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/delusion

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Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

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Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 4). Human fallibility. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/human-fallibility

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth

Hollings, D. (2024, January 1). Psychoeducation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/psychoeducation

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2024, January 4). Rigid vs. rigorous. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rigid-vs-rigorous

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-abc-model

Hollings, D. (2022, December 23). The A-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-a-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, December 25). The B-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-b-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, December 14). The is-ought problem. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-is-ought-problem

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna

Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, March 11). Unconditional life-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-life-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, February 25). Unconditional other-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-other-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, March 1). Unconditional self-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-self-acceptance

Wikipedia. (n.d.). David Hume. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Stephen Covey. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Covey

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