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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Spilled Milk

 

Growing up, I would sometimes hear the idiom, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” which alludes to the senselessness of being upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed. I thought it odd, as I was said to be allergic to dairy and the phrase didn’t apply to me.

 

Nevertheless, I appreciate the wisdom of a lesson on self-disturbance. This is because the idiom is applicable to the psychotherapeutic modality I practice, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

 

REBT theory uses the ABC model to illustrate how when Activating events (“Actions”) occur and people maintain irrational Beliefs about the events, these unhelpful assumptions – and not the actual occurrences – are what create unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral Consequences.

 

Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, people disturb themselves using a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that in the context of the naturalistic or physical world there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.

 

To demonstrate this lesson, there is no A-C connection which supports the notion that spilling milk (Action) causes one to become upset (Consequence). However, spilling milk (Action) causes a surface to become wet (Consequence), thus forming an A-C connection.

 

If a person is upset in relation to spilled milk, consider that the B-C connection is at hand. As an example, you spill your milk (Action) and Believe, “This is horrible, because that was the last of my milk supply,” and as a result of your unproductive Belief, you become upset (Consequence).

 

What is the utility of allowing yourself to become upset about your beliefs regarding spilled milk? Sure, it may be an inconvenience to have wasted the last of your milk supply. However, is this common occurrence truly horrible?

 

A fatal motor vehicle accident (MVA), a sinkhole opening up and swallowing your home, or the captain of the aircraft in which you travel coming over the loudspeaker and announcing to prepare for a crash may be horrible. Does spilling milk qualify for this category?

 

Besides, the action has already occurred. It cannot be undone. Are your unfavorable beliefs about the matter truly worth upsetting yourself over?

 

Regarding this matter, page 131 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion encourages REBT practitioners to help clients understand that adversities aren’t the end of the world – they are part of the world. Spilling milk is part of life.

 

While we’re being honest with one another, fatal MVAs, sinkholes, and airline crashes – as horrible as they may be – are also part of life. Even when these events result in death, an irrefutable component of life is the process of death, so an end to existence is part of the world.

 

You may not like or love this fact, and understandably so, though I invite you to tolerate and accept that part of life is the experience of loss – whether it’s related to milk or existence in and of itself. You can cry as a result of your beliefs about this matter, if you choose to do so.

 

However, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Of course, it’s natural to mourn the loss of a loved one who dies in relation to a horrible MVA. Crying seems appropriate in this regard.

 

Even still, there’s a difference between the grieving process and unnecessarily disturbing oneself more than what may be appropriate. For instance, if your cousin dies as a result of an MVA (Action) and you say to yourself, “I hate that this happened, because I’ll miss her so much,” that functional Belief may produce sorrow (Consequence).

 

This is understandable and appropriate, because you’ve lost someone for whom you care deeply. However, the natural grieving process isn’t the same as self-disturbance.

 

As an example, your cousin dies in an MVA (Action) and you say to yourself, “This never should’ve happened and I can’t stand this horrible event.” Your rigid declaration and erroneous Belief may result in needless suffering, anger, fear, and depression (Consequence).

 

Keep in mind that adversity isn’t the end of the world – it’s part of the world. Experiencing sorrow in relation to a functional belief isn’t the same thing as enduring senseless suffering in association with a maladaptive assumption.

 

This understanding is why I incorporate existentialism into my practice of REBT. Each of us will eventually die. Whether it’s spilled milk or an MVA, what we believe about events will affect how we react.

 

An existentialist perspective affords my clients the opportunity to prepare for milk, as well as death. That way, when inevitability occurs, they will be well-prepared. Would you like to know more about how not to upset yourself with beliefs in this regard?

 

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

Hollings, D. (2024, April 21). Existentialism. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/existentialism

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

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. (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 9). Like it, love it, accept it. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/like-it-love-it-accept-it

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

Hollings, D. (2023, September 15). Psychotherapeutic modalities. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/psychotherapeutic-modalities

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. (2024, April 21). Sensation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/sensation

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. (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. (2023, September 22). You’re gonna die someday. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/you-re-gonna-die-someday

J R. (2024, January 20). A whimsical composition with milk-white acaptivant seducente […] [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from https://playground.com/post/a-whimsical-composition-with-milk-white-acaptivant-seducente-clrlomvo40lnts601dlhryiok

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