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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Play It Through


Although not a technique specific to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), my late stepmom taught me a helpful tool related to logic and reason that I sometimes use with clients. She told me that when I unproductively believed something that led to self-disturbance, I could play through the scenario in order to determine whether or not my beliefs served me well.


At the risk of insulting the reader’s intellect, forgive my explanation regarding cassette tapes. Some of my younger clients have no knowledge of these devices and I’ve learned not to assume that my audience maintains the same level of awareness as I.


According to one source, “The Compact Cassette, also commonly called a cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback.” Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, I used tapes on a regular basis.


When teaching me of the play-it-through technique, my stepmom would say, “Honey, play that tape through.” Discussing her history of substance abuse, I was told that my stepmom learned this tool from a recovery program. Regarding this tool and addiction matters, one source states:


If you find yourself having a desire to drink or get high and you are debating what to do, a great tool is playing the tape through first. To play the tape through, you must play out what will happen in your mind until the very end. Imagine what will happen in the short and long-term future if you decide to drink or use. Think of the consequences that would occur if you used vs. if you did not use. This can help with your decision making and reduce the risk of relapse.


I appreciate this tool, because it’s not solely for addiction issues. When working with clients regarding hostility, rage, aggression, and violence matters, I find that the play-it-through technique can help people consider the consequences of their irrational beliefs before they aggress against people.


As an example, consider the song “How It Go” by Bun B and LE$. On the track, Bun B states:


It’s Bun B from Port Arthur, and I’m a grown man. I put my own work in, hold with my own hand. Got to some paper for real and kept it low-key. You had to really be in the game to even know me. I was the plug, but it wasn’t nothin’ you brag about. We get the pack, bust it down, and send the baggies out. Get outta line and it’s not even a discussion. You can bet yo ass it’s about to be some repercussions. I ain’t finna be fussin’, cussin’ all on the Gram, makin’ YouTube posts about how gangsta I am. I ain’t finna be rattin’ on Twitter. Nigga, that’s cap! I’ma just pull up where you at and wipe yo ass off the map!


The play-it-through technique applies to two individuals in the case, Bun B and the person to whom he’s talking (“person X”). First, I’ll address Bun B, as if I were seeing him in a psychotherapeutic setting.


Using the ABC model, I’d demonstrate that from a psychological perspective there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection concerning his behavior. Instead, when person X gets outta line (Action) and Bun B unhelpfully Believes something about the event, it’s Bun B’s assumption about person X’s behavior which results in an unproductive Consequence (e.g., retaliation).


Therefore, Bun B disturbs himself through use of a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Rather than wiping someone off the map (i.e., killing the person), which occurs when unhelpful beliefs influence behavior, Bun B could play the tape through before committing violence.


For instance, consider the following hypothetical syllogism that represents playing through the tape:


Form – If p, then q; if not q, then r; therefore, if p, then r.


Example – If I demand respect, then person X will respect me. If person X won’t respect me, then I will kill anyone who disrespects me. Therefore, if I demand respect, then I will kill anyone who disrespects me.


This form of reasoning is based on a flawed premise: Others must respect me. When playing it through, the logical conclusion of an illogical form of demandingness will result in the consequence of murderous behavior.


Is this reaction to a self-disturbing belief worth the real-world consequences stemming from it? I suggest that it isn’t. Let’s use another hypothetical syllogism to determine whether or not the risk of incarceration is worth the reward of retaliation:


Form – If p, then q; if q, then r; therefore, if p, then r.


Example – If I murder someone, then I’ll likely end up in prison. If I’ll likely end up in prison, then I won’t be able to provide for my family. Therefore, if I murder someone, then I won’t be able to provide for my family.


The logic follows, as playing through the accurate major premise (murder likely leads to incarceration) and minor premise (incarceration impairs one’s ability to provide for one’s family) results in an outcome Bun B may not be willing to endure. Therefore, he can choose less extreme measures than that which involves wiping someone off the map.


Now, I turn to person X, as though I see him in a psychotherapeutic setting. Understanding that Bun B is the sort of person who would wipe a person off the map, apparently without discussion regarding the matter, person X could consider the consequences of personal actions.


Unlike the ABC model, which considers the B-C connection pertaining to psychological matters, there are A-C connections within the physical realm of existence. For instance, if one knows that Bun B will commit murder if perceiving disrespect (Action), then the result of disrespecting him may result in the loss of one’s life (Consequence).


Suppose I’d not seen Bun B for psychotherapy and he was known to behave gangsta af concerning his role as the plug. Person X could play the tape through when contemplating disrespectful behavior. Using a modus ponens syllogism, here’s how to play it through:


Form – If p, then q; p; therefore, q.


Example – If I get outta line with Bun B, then he’ll get gangsta af by wiping my ass off the map. I got outta line with Bun B. Therefore…


Dead people can’t talk, so there’s no need to complete the syllogism. When practicing REBT, I keep in mind that not everyone else utilizes this helpful technique. Likewise, when playing through the tape, I understand that not everybody uses logic and reason to guide their behavior.


Therefore, much as person X learned the hard way, I remain aware of the A-C connection within the physical world taking place outside of my personal being. As such, I alter my psychological perspective by challenging the B-C connection when playing the tape through.


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




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