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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Seeing is Believing


The proverb “seeing is believing” relates to the notion that one needs to visually observe something before one can accept that really exists or occurs. When considering this assertion through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I propose that perception is impacted by belief. This is akin to believing is seeing.


Take for instance the emerging popularity of Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 virtual headsets. Blending digital content with the physical space one occupies creates a simulated version of reality.


Nevertheless, use of augmented sensory equipment that corresponds with ocular perception doesn’t necessarily cause a user to believe that an app-generated dinosaur is literally in the same room as the person wearing the headset. This is because a person understands that dinosaurs are extinct and virtual reality is merely a simulation.


Therefore, perception is impacted by belief about truth and reality as it is, not as one believes it should, must, or ought to be. While virtual headsets are a novel approach to the way people can perceive the world, there remains a natural construct that impacts how individuals interface with elements of life.


From an REBT perspective, this construct is referred to as irrational beliefs. If these assumptions were encoded in apps, one could use demandingness, awfulizing, low frustration tolerance, and global evaluations with which to perceive oneself, others, and the world.


Just as virtual reality headsets influence one’s perception, irrational beliefs impact the way we view reality. This natural construct accomplishes its task by layering onto reality what we believe ought to be when faced with what actually is.


Not a particularly new concept, the 18th-century philosopher David Hume addressed this matter in his is-ought formulation. He essentially proposed that one cannot derive an ought from an is—claiming that we can’t demand what we believe ought to be when reality simply is as it is.


As an example of how this automatic believing-is-seeing principle works, envision a particular coworker whose behavior you dislike. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call her “Daphne.”


Suppose Daphne refuses to follow standard protocol, shirks responsibility, and consistently burdens your occupational team of colleagues. Without understanding about, belief in, or practice of REBT, you don self-disturbing goggles which relate to your irrational beliefs about Daphne’s behavior.


Let’s suppose you unproductively believe, “Daphne shouldn’t evade accountability for her actions and it’s a terrible experience coming to work each day in which she burdens our team.” Here, the constructs you’ve used are demandingness and awfulizing.


While it’s understandable how one may conclude that Daphne’s behavior results in one’s unpleasant mood, REBT maintains that there is no action-consequence (A-C) connection regarding this matter. In other words, what Daphne does or doesn’t do cannot possibly result in your emotions, bodily sensations, or behavior.


You may disagree. If so, perhaps you’d be willing to consider a brief illustration that supports my proposal of a belief-consequence (B-C) connection regarding this issue. Let’s see if you can take personal ownership of your reaction when considering what I have to say.


You tell yourself that Daphne’s behavior causes your consequence (i.e., anger, rapid heartrate, and passive-aggressive behavior). What in particular could Daphne possibly do to have such a profound effect on you?


Maybe when at work she hides when the workload increases. Can you imagine that at her home, when chores need to be completed and she disappears while leaving her partner or others to perform various tasks, you would react in a similar fashion?


Let’s say that right this very instant, Daphne his nowhere to be seen within her home as countertops are messy and her floor needs to be swept and mopped. Can you envisage being upset about Daphne’s behavior when you’re nowhere within her home?


Seeing where I’m going with this rudimentary dispute to the irrational belief that clouds your vision, you may argue that the result of Daphne’s inaction at home isn’t of similar effect to the work environment. You may add that when at your jobsite, Daphne’s behavior actually has an impact on how much work you have to do.


Nevertheless, whether Daphne shirks responsibility within her own home or at the place of employment you both share, there is no A-C connection that clouds your vision. If there were, every time Daphne hides from her responsibilities—and no matter the location—you would experience the consequence of her behavior.


Therefore, we may conclude that the B-C connection more appropriately explains the uncomfortable consequence you experience. Through use of unaccommodating demandingness and awfulizing, your perception of the matter is influenced by unhelpful beliefs.


While I maintain little doubt that you want Daphne to follow protocol, that you would prefer her to assume responsibility, and that that you’d appreciate her more if Daphne didn’t burden your occupational team of colleagues, these are matters relating to what you believe ought to be—not what merely is.


Likewise, I suspect that Daphne’s behavior is inconsequential in her own mind. After all, if she were bothered by her action or inaction within the workplace, she’d likely behave in an alternative fashion.


Therefore, and without me condoning Daphne’s behavior, I conclude that you’ve self-disturbed by use of irrational beliefs and it’s you—not Daphne—who suffers the consequences. Because perception, which is impacted by belief, got you into this situation you can also take steps to get yourself out of this predicament.


Irrational beliefs are natural constructs which impact how we interface with elements of life. You can then artificially influence these assumptions through use of REBT.


Sticking with the Daphne example, you can use unconditional other-acceptance. Think of this helpful tool like an app that augments your reality. In its simplest form, it maintains that humans are fallible creatures.


Although you may have control over how you interface with life and how you respond to various circumstances, you have no control and exceedingly limited influence over Daphne and other people. As such, you can stop disturbing yourself about how you believe Daphne ought to be.


Generally, I receive challenge from people in relation to the concept of unconditional acceptance. “Deric, accepting things as you propose,” individuals often say as they upset themselves about my suggestion related to their self-disturbance, “is a cop-out, a giving in, or just a way to let others run me over.”


To this, I ask what other choice you have than to stop applying rigid conditions toward Daphne. Short of pointing a firearm at her and forcing her to behave as you demand—which I in no way advocate—what do you have in mind?


Suppose you ineffectively believe, “I’ll have a stern talk with Daphne,” and that doesn’t resolve the matter. Maybe you report her to a supervisor or human resources; and if that doesn’t remedy the situation?


With no legal mechanism of control and limited ability to influence Daphne, she will likely double down on her behavior just to spite you. Then what? Will you keep the natural perspective of self-disturbance in place while continuing to violate the is-ought formulation?


As I understand, people are paying upwards of $3,500 for virtual reality headsets. Meanwhile, the artificial techniques I’ve provided in this blogpost are offered herein for free.


Seeing isn’t necessarily equivalent to believing. Rather, in this post I’ve illustrated how believing impacts the way in which we see the world. Whether or not you choose to see things as is, rather than disturbing yourself about what you believe ought to be, is up to you.


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




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