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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Meta-Emotional Problems

 

When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), clients occasionally present with meta-emotional problems. Page 64 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion describes these issues as “emotional problems about emotional problems.”

 

To illustrate this occurrence, one may first benefit by understanding how the ABC model works:

 

Activating event – What occurred

 

Belief about the event – What one tells oneself about (A) that resulted in (C)

 

Consequence of one’s belief about the event – What one felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what one did (behavior)

 

Disputation of the self-disturbing belief about the event – How one might challenge (D) what one told oneself (B) and which led to (C)

 

Effective new belief to replace the self-disturbing belief – What effective new conclusion one can tell oneself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B)

 

Commonly, a person’s activating event relates to something one does, how others treat the individual, or how life isn’t fair. However, a meta-emotional problem begins with an activating event related to an emotion.

 

That emotional event is then met with an irrational belief that causes more emotion. As an example:

 

Activating event – A client reports the experience of guilt for having accidentally run over a family pet when backing out of the driveway.

 

Belief about the event – The client unhelpfully believes about the guilt, “I can’t stand this feeling and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself!”

 

Consequence of one’s belief about the event – Because of the client’s unproductive belief about the emotion—and not merely the act of having unintentionally killed a family pet—the individual experiences profound grief.

 

Emotional problems about emotional problems are sometimes presented with layering beliefs atop on another. In this way, one experiences metacognition when maintaining awareness of one’s own thought processes along with understanding of the patterns underlying them.

 

Not only can people experience meta-emotive self-disturbance, they can simultaneously endure a meta-cognitive experience about an ABC chain. In order to effectively use time in a session while valuing the client’s expressed interests and goals, I find it useful to first prioritize the matters a client considers most disturbing.

 

Typically, the meta-emotional problems are felt more in the moment. Whereas the misfortune of having struck a family pet may be worth addressing, an individual may feel guilt and profound grief more than what is believed about the unintentional act in the driveway.

 

As such, page 65 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to first work on matters relating to:

 

·  the presence of meta-emotional problems which interfere with in-session target problems (e.g., though the client wants to process the loss of a family pet, the person can’t regulate emotions in-session so that challenging work may be done)

 

·  these meta-emotional issues interfere with a client’s work between sessions (i.e., homework)

 

·  these problems are more clinically significant than the target problems (e.g., transient suicidal ideation is expressed)

 

·  a client realizes that the meta-emotional problems may first need to be addressed (i.e., display of adequate insight)

 

Processing meta-emotional and meta-cognitive issues can be an uncomfortable process. Nevertheless, I encourage clients to push through discomfort as a means to an end—whereby growth is the hopeful conclusion worth the effort.

 

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:

 

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2023, February 20). Dipping into layers. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/dipping-into-layers

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

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2024, February 13). Focus on the target problem. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/focus-on-the-target-problem

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. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/interests-and-goals

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

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. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

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

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

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