Updated: Sep 21, 2022
Brief Background on LOX
I recently had a conversation with someone concerning my approach to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), using the ABC Model, which led to a brief discussion about The LOX, often stylized simply as “LOX.” More on that dialogue in a moment.
Following the golden age of hip hop, rap artists needed to innovate in order to be recognized. The market was becoming supersaturated and after the deaths of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., people understood that while sticks and stones may not have broken bones, accountability for rap lyrics could possibly end you.
The shiny suit era of rap, largely associated with Puff Daddy, was in full swing when I lived in Rio de Janeiro and LOX dropped their album entitled We Are the Streets. Rather than remaining with Puffy’s label, LOX released the joint under Ruff Ryders Entertainment—a much grimier and more relatable label, in my opinion.
I’d gone from being posted up with the carnales on the blocc in Bomb City to chillin’ in and traversing the favelas of Jacarepaguá, Santa Cruz, and Rocinha by the time the joint was released. “Shit was mad wild.”
The album featured a provocative song, “Wild Out,” which exemplified classic Swizz Beatz sampling and rhythm with LOX’s amped up energy and street-life lyrics. It was the kind of track that has been described as “riotous,” and serves as the sort of tune alluded to by 2 Chainz’s “Riverdale Rd,” in which the artist says about his desire for a song, “I wanna’ feel like I was in some muh’fuckin danger.”
As such, the content of the current blog entry largely relates to “Wild Out.” While I maintain that the rap-made-me-do-it excuse for one’s behavior is invalid, I find value in assessing how an REBT A-B-C connection is worth considering when discussing anger, rage, hostility, aggression, and violence.
I think it’s important to note that among the five core emotions—joy, fear, anger, sorrow, and disgust—I’ve yet to have a prospective client contact me for joy management. So-called “negative emotions” is a subjective term I try not to use with clients.
Simply because a person isn’t “All the Way Up” doesn’t mean that anything other than joy is pathological. For instance, is it unhealthy to grieve the loss of a loved one?
If only one of five naturally-occurring emotions is labelled as healthy—and does not necessarily need the influence of thought in order to manifest—does this flawed logic also suggest that the most frequently occurring emotions are unhealthy?
What other elements of human existence, with which most of us are born, are also unhealthy? A nose, toes, ears, elbows? How about flatulence, hiccups, blinking, hearing, or taste?
I suppose one could make a reasonable argument about beliefs and how they may be unhealthy. When undergoing official REBT training, candidates were encouraged to consider irrational beliefs as being more unhelpful than unhealthy. Either way.
Perhaps this is because the measure of one’s health is a subjective and socio-politicized topic. At any rate, before proceeding any further with the current entry, I invite you to read Mind Tricks in order to familiarize yourself with how I conceptualize the process of the mind, largely regarding beliefs.
One of the best decisions I made concerning my current career trajectory, aside from working for myself and no longer working with minors, relates to a decision to work solely with individuals. Though I don’t see couples any longer, I will use a fictitious dyad to demonstrate how I practice REBT with different people.
When considering “Wild Out,” suppose I’m working with clients named Bufford and Bathsheba. Let’s pretend I see them as a unit and individually. During one of our individual sessions, Bufford informs me of his anger towards Bathsheba for the recent discovery of infidelity.
At this appointment, Bufford tells me about many other instances over the past week during which he became angry. Suppose Bufford uses any number of events from “Wild Out”:
· The bouncer at the club denied access
· Bufford’s romantic partner was unfaithful
· Someone stepped on his shoes
· Someone who owed Bufford money didn’t pay him back
· Bufford was fired from his job
In sessions, it isn’t uncommon for people to unload issues they’ve stored up for a while. Unfortunately, with limited time to address these problems, it’s often necessary to pick the event a client considers most worthy of attention.
Bufford reasons that infidelity of his partner, Bathsheba, is the main focus of the session. Bufford expresses a rigid and extreme attitude and perceives unworthiness while using awfulizing, catastrophizing, and an I-can’t-stand-it narrative related to low frustration tolerance (LFT).
I introduce Bufford to the REBT ABC Model in order to teach him how to dispute irrational beliefs with which he disturbs himself. The formula is simple, though applying it outside of session requires practice.
(A)ction – The (A)ction that occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about the (A)ction that resulted in a (C)onsequence
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (resulting behavior)
(D)isputation – How you challenge what you told yourself (Belief) about the (A)ction
(E)ffective new belief – What new effective belief (EB) you can tell yourself about the (A)ction—one that may better serve your interests or goals
People frequently maintain that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). Bathsheba cheating on Bufford (A) is said to lead to anger, tightness in Bufford’s chest, and wildin’ out behavior (C).
However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B). This forms a B-C connection.
In this case, Bufford discovers Bathsheba’s infidelity (A) and he tells himself, “She should not have done that, and because she did, I don’t think I can stand rejection from someone so shiftee, lowdown, gritty, and grimy” (B).
It may be useful to explore what separates a thought from a belief. A thought can take on almost any manner of description. “I need to add broccoli to my shopping list,” “Oh, I like those shoes,” or, “What was the name of that street?”
Beliefs are slightly more complex, in that they are prescriptive in nature and are often fueled by should, must, or ought statements. Beliefs are particularly rigid—in that they allow little-to-no deviation from a demand—and use extreme qualifiers—such as, “I must not experience discomfort, and it will be awful if things don’t go my way.”
In short, description tells a person what is. Prescription tells an individual what must occur. Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, is noted as having stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
REBT highlights how LFT can enhance the severity of self-disturbance—the (B)eliefs we tell ourselves. When telling himself, “I don’t think I can stand rejection,” in conjunction with the rigid statement, “She should not have done that,” Bufford has actually convinced himself that when his prescription is violated it’s literally intolerable.
When buying into his faulty belief (B), or (B)ullshit he tells himself, Bufford establishes a B-C connection. As a result, Bufford experiences anger, tightness in his chest, and wildin’ out behavior—all as a result of what he tells himself (B), not the cheating (A)—which could use disputation (D), leading to a new effective belief (EB).
It’s worth noting that REBT is steeped in Stoic philosophy, which I addressed in a blog entry entitled Stoically Existential. Essentially, REBT relies on Epictetus’ notion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” As one REBT source clarifies:
The three fundamental positions at the heart of psychological disturbance are:
A. I must perform perfectly well, and if I do not, I am a lesser person or a worthless person.
B. You must treat me as I think you “should” treat me or else you are a lesser person or a bad person.
C. Life conditions must be relatively easy, comfortable, fair, predictable, and pleasurable or it is awful, unbearable and life is totally bad.
A Stoic approach to such self-disturbance, from an REBT perspective, is as one source concludes, “In REBT therapy we teach that healthy emotional reactions are the consequence of relinquishing rigid and extreme attitudes towards adversity and replacing them with flexible and non-extreme, healthy attitudes towards it.”
The Stoic perspective requires flexibility, not rigidity.
Per a separate source, “It is important to note that although REBT emphasizes B as the main mediator between A and C, it views cognition, emotion, behavior as interconnected, and interactive processes, influencing each other.”
These mental, emotional, physiological, and behavioral processes are not fully independent of one another.
When using the ABC Model, I invite clients to share a realistic therapeutic goal we can work towards in session. This is an assessment of what emotion the client would like to experience instead of the dysfunctional emotion experienced during the (A)ction.
While it isn’t uncommon for people to aim for a goal of excitement, joy, or pleasure, I encourage clients to consider whether or not their goals are practical. How reasonable would it be for Bufford to desire happiness when Bathsheba cheats on him?
Perhaps moving from wildin’ out anger to merely being disappointed would serve as a pragmatic and attainable goal. We aren’t aiming for a Zen-like state in sessions, though only to disturb ourselves less than our unhelpful narratives cause.
Once a sensible goal is established, and a client understands that it isn’t the (A)ction though the (B)elief that leads to (C)onsequence, we practice with many other actual events to reinforce the technique. This process is understood in sessions and practiced away from each meeting.
Homework is a component of REBT to help enhance therapy outcomes. There’s only so much time in each session I can devote towards assisting clients, as the difficult work occurs outside of appointments.
Homework is not assigned. Rather, I negotiate homework with clients so that they have a buy-in to the process. Otherwise, if homework is prescribed in a should, must, or ought-type fashion, I demonstrate through my behavior that prescribing to the world the world is an effective strategy.
Now, on to disputing.
Disputing Irrational Beliefs
For more understanding about how I use disputation with clients, I encourage you to review a blog entry I wrote entitled Disturbing Democracy. With Bufford, I’ll use an existential dispute.
Later, when working with Bathsheba, I’ll use a friend dispute. Think about which of these types of disputation you prefer.
I would invite Bufford to consider that he’s a mortal, flawed being and incapable of perfection. This may seem obvious, though the process of the mind needs reminders from time to time.
REBT uses unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance to relinquish the idea of control over elements of life over which we never had control to begin with. We are fallible human beings who disturb ourselves quite a bit and the metaphorical window of life steadily closes from the time we are born.
Regarding this this existentialist concept, one source states, “Although individuals are not responsible for this sense of fallibility, their existential liberties render them responsible for whether they critically challenge or continue to credulously accept erroneous ideas once subscribed to them.”
When working with clients, I invite them to consider incorporating elements of personal responsibility and accountability, collectively ownership. I also encourage adoption of purpose from which meaning may be derived.
If Bufford chooses to waste the remaining years of his life with demandingness, he essentially becomes a volunteer—not a victim—for the result of the B-C connection. Here is how I would briefly challenge Bufford’s unhelpful belief using an existential dispute:
(B): “She should not have done that, and because she did, I don’t think I can stand rejection from someone so shiftee, lowdown, gritty, and grimy.”
Goal: Move from anger to disappointment.
Me: Bufford, remind me again, how old are you?
Me: Unless I’m mistaken, the provisional life expectancy of a United States [U.S.] man in your condition is around 78-years-old. You’re halfway or so through your life cycle.
Bufford: Yeah, I guess, Lord willin’.
Me: Now, you’ve been with Bathsheba for 15 years and married for the last 12, is that right?
Bufford: Yes. I mean, it seems like just yesterday that I met her. 15 years! Yeah, it’s flown.
Me: Ok. How long has she been seeing, what’s his name—?
Bufford: Dark skin Jermaine, that’s what I call him. From what I know, she’s been fuckin’ with him for, like, the past couple months.
Me: I try not to assume anything, because, you know…when we assume, it’s as though you sue me. So tell me, using the emotions, body sensations, thoughts, and behaviors framework we’ve previously spoken about, what does it mean to you that Bathsheba cheated?
Bufford: Well, for starters, I’m fuckin’ pissed, mane! I know you like me to challenge myself on what actual emotions I’m havin’, so I’d say I have anger. Also, I get tightness in his chest. It just wells up, like somebody filled me full of air. I keep thinkin’, over and over, about how wrong she did me, you know?
Like, she shouldn’t have done that. I mean, because she did, and the past can’t be undone, I don’t think I can stand rejection from someone so shiftee, lowdown, gritty, and grimy. I don’t wanna’ call her all out her name, but I feel naked out here, B. I’m dead out here, man. I can’t function. I can’t, B. I feel like such a fool…wait, that’s not a feelin’. I think I played the fool. It’s like I’m sad, but it’s just easier to feel anger, you know?
So I guess that’s why I just wild out and start breakin’ shit in the house. I’d never hurt her. I just wanna’ destroy somethin’, like, if I break enough shit I can break this timeline to pieces and just start all over with her. I guess if I were to sum up what it means is…I don’t know how I can go on with Bathsheba with all these shattered pieces.
Me: You did a wonderful job breaking all that down, Bufford—no pun intended. Well done! Will you take a moment with me to focus on the ABC Model? I know it can be challenging. Will you push through the discomfort and see where this goes?
Bufford: Yeah, mane.
Me: For 15 years, you’ve been with Bathsheba. Was there ever any discussion about agreements, which some people call rules, in regards to cheating?
Bufford: Yeah, we both agreed never to do it. I’ve upheld my end of the bargain. Now, all of the sudden, when she starts watchin’ all these TikTok videos where these thots ou’chea tellin’ people about how they need to step out if they’re not bein’ treated this or that way, whoopty whoo, and there goes 15 years in the toilet!
Me: There are many directions we can go with this. We could look for evidence to justify or challenge your beliefs. We can split hairs by discussing how some people say there’s no such thing as bad, wrong, evil, or whatever.
Though as your time is important to me, let’s go with time. You’re about halfway through your life cycle. You’ve been with Bathsheba for 15 years and up until recently; you’ve resolved to live with her for the rest of your life. Here you sit with the shattered pieces of your romantic relationship, and with relatively little time left in your life.
Think about it. Earlier, you stated that the last 15 years have flown by. Take the next 15 years off your life, if you no events take you off the plain of existence, and you have roughly 24 years remaining until 78. 24…that’s the same age you were when you met Bathsheba. Is the math adding up so far?
Bufford: Sho, you right! You spittin’ the digits like Foxy on “Affirmative Action.”
Me: Since it’s all adding up, I’d like to know, how many years of your life you’re willing to devote towards being angry—or sad, for that matter—at Bathsheba for cheating or at yourself for thinking you’ve played the role of a fool. Are you willing to shave 10 years from your timeline?
Bufford: I mean, why’s it me that has to change? I stayed faithful. I honored our agreement. It seems so unfair.
Me: I’m open to exploring these additional should, must, and ought statements with you. Right now, they only pollute the self-disturbing narrative we’re working on. How many more years of your life are you willing to devote towards the consequence of the unhelpful belief, “She should not have done that, and because she did, I don’t think I can stand rejection;” a decade?
Bufford: Hell nah! I don’t wanna’ spend 10 years dealin’ with this.
Me: Ok, I can’t sell you on a decade. It’s like what I’ve heard about maintaining a healthy diet, daily exercise, weight management, limited alcohol intake, and no smoking can do for you—possibly save 10 years of your life. Nice. How about 5 years? I mean, is it too much to ask that you spend the next 5 years dwelling on the belief that you were wronged or supposedly made a fool of?
Bufford: No, no, no. Look, a 5-year plan is how I became professionally successful. Givin’ the next 5 years of my life to anger is not in the plan.
Me: Right on. How about one year? Surely I can sell you on just one more year of suffering in connection to what it is you tell yourself about infidelity.
Bufford: Nah, one is too much, too. We’re talkin’ shattered pieces, bein’ naked ou’chea, and unable to function. I wouldn’t wanna’ dedicate even one more day to this shit!
Me: And here we are. You see, I’m not here to dispute what happened. The REBT technique doesn’t aim to invalidate the (A)ction. Likewise, I’m not attempting to rationalize away the (C)onsequence—your anger or sorrow, tightness in your chest, or the fact that you broke items within your home—because those elements actually took place.
What I’m doing when using this technique is showing you that it’s what you told yourself about the cheating that led to the consequence. This is the B-C connection. If you disturbed yourself into this condition, you have the ability to use reason as a way out. As you’ve stated, you wouldn’t want to devote even one more day to the suffering brought on by what you tell yourself.
This would be a good point to remind you of your goal, to move from anger to disappointment. As we sit here right now, each of our lives is slowly winding down. With the limited time you have left, I’m wondering if I can persuade you make a case for disappointment instead of anger. What would it take for you to simply be disappointed?
Bufford: You know, if I’m bein’ honest, it never really was about anger. It wasn’t. I mean, if anything, I’m already disappointed with Bathsheba and myself. With her, I’m disappointed that we can never take back what has happened. We can’t undo the past. I can’t be angry about what’s behind us.
Well, let me take that back. I can be angry if I choose to. What good would that do though? Bein’ upset and breakin’ shit around the house accomplishes what? Now, I gotta’ replace all that mess. None of the consequences you point out are goin’ away with anger. Anger only makes things worse.
I could drown the anger in alcohol. That’s an option we haven’t talked about. But I know from watchin’ family members deal with alcoholism that “bein’ an alcoholic only make things double.” On the real, I’m sad, mane—sad and disappointed.
Me: I think it’s understandable to be both sad and disappointed. Like I said before, I don’t want to assume anything, so will you tell me more about being sad?
Bufford: It’s not really something I was brought up bein’ able to admit. You know, when shit happens, I just deal with it. That don’t mean I don’t feel some type of way though. Already! And before you say it, I know you gon’ ask me, ‘What type of way to you feel, Bufford?’ I feel sad. And you know, while I’m sad about the situation, real talk, I’m disappointed.
The sadness is only there when I’m thinkin’ about the situation on repeat in my head. In reality, I’m disappointed. You remember that Dave Chappelle skit where Rick James was fuckin’ up the couch? Disappointment is the couch, my thoughts are Rick, and all that mud he was kickin’ into that couch is the sadness. “Fuck yo’ couch!”
Me: That’s the B-C connection, Bufford. That’s a great example of how it works, and how you separated the different functions of the connection, as I see you understand the technique. Knowing that your anger is masking the underlying sorrow, and underlying sadness is disappointment, will you tell me a bit more about the disappointment?
Bufford: I won’t front, I’m disappointed in myself. Don’t get me wrong, Bathsheba fucked up. We had an agreement and she went back on that. Still, I’ve spent the last several years gridin’. I’m hardly ever at home anymore, ‘cause I’m goin’ HAM to get this mugga, so it’s like, what did I expect?
I tell myself that I do this so that me and Bathsheba can shine together. In actuality, I wanna’ be respected by my peers in the industry. Why am I ou’chea tryin’ to impress these people when my queen is at home hopin’ for some recognition? Damn! I haven’t said that out loud, ever. It’s been in the back of my head, but I just drown it with bullshit about the come up around the corner.
Me: So you’re disappointed mostly at yourself?
Bufford: Yeah, mane. You know, she’s been tellin’ me for, like, a good minute that she’s needed me. She’s sent me texts, written notes, sat me down to talk, and has tried to signal to me that we’re in trouble. I ignored it all. That’s why I’m disappointed. I don’t know if I wouldn’t have done the same thing if the tables were turned.
Me: You’ve clearly moved from anger to disappointment, per your goal. Your irrational, self-disturbing belief was, “She should not have done that, and because she did, I don’t think I can stand rejection from someone so shiftee, lowdown, gritty, and grimy.” I’m wondering, what new effective belief are you telling yourself?
Bufford: Hmm, I’d say I gotta’ play it how it go. I know the name of the game, Bathsheba made her choice. “Er’body got choices.” I contributed to how she chose though. So the effective new belief—the one that doesn’t hit with anger or sadness—goes something like, I wish things would’ve been done differently, though I know I’m partially responsible for how it turned out.
Also, it’s a damn lie that I can’t stand rejection, and I know it. I’d prefer Bathsheba not to step out, just like she’d prefer me to step in more than I’ve been doin’. I’m still here. We’re coming to therapy. We’re still here. Even if she up and decided the grass was greener on the muh’fuckin’ other side of the fence, I’m gon’ be aight.
Me: Well done, Bufford! You’ve demonstrated unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance with this effective belief. With your permission, I’m going to tailor your statement a bit so we can see if it suits your goal. Let’s set it up in the ABC Model.
The (A)ction is that you discovered Bathsheba’s infidelity. We can simplify this with: Bathsheba’s infidelity.
What (C)onsequence occurs when you tell yourself, “I wish things would’ve been done differently, though I know I’m partially responsible for how it turned out,” and while “I’d prefer Bathsheba not to step out,” even if Bathsheba decided to leave, “I’m gon’ be aight”? (B)
Bufford: I feel disappointment. There’s no more tightness in my chest. Oh and, I mos def don’t wanna’ wild out!
At this point in the session, I’d negotiate homework with Bufford. Typically, I invite my clients to assist in forming activities that will allow for meaningful practice, skill-reinforcement, and an opportunity to discover whether or not we need to tweak use of REBT techniques for more effective use.
Having achieved an EB with Bufford, allow me to shift focus to an individual session with Bathsheba. Familiar with the B-C connection, Bathsheba reports the following.
Bufford is said to have stopped showing love and affection to Bathsheba (A), she thinks, “He must validate me by showering me with the praise I’m entitled to, and because he doesn’t, I ought to step out on his ass, otherwise I couldn’t bear the possibility of admitting to myself that I may be unworthy of love” (B).
It isn’t uncommon to have compounding rigid prescriptions regarding others and ourselves, along with an unhealthy dose of LFT to provoke a “Wild Out” scenario. Who hasn’t been there?
Because Bathsheba’s interpretation of the event and her unhelpful self-disturbing narrative, she experiences fear, sorrow, the sensation of her body feeling heavier than usual, and behavior that leads to cheating with Jermaine (C).
It isn’t uncommon for clients to inform me of advice-seeking in regards to friends. The proverbial they have many things to say and I often find myself disputing not only the client’s irrational beliefs, though also the broken advice they receive from others.
I don’t mean to imply that the input of others is always unhelpful, because this simply isn’t the case. Rather than teaching my clients to rely on others, I foster self-determination and autonomy through building resilience in the face of suffering.
This may be done in a number of ways. The friendship tool I use when working with Bathsheba is one such technique, in that she is encouraged to draw from wisdom within herself so that Bathsheba learns that she has the ability to answer questions and work through issues to achieve self-reliance.
Discussing the technique of a friend dispute, one source states, “We’re always so much harder on ourselves than we are on anybody else. So it can really help, when we feel stressed about something, to take a step out of the situation and say, ‘What would I tell a friend who was in this situation?”
This allows one the ability to depersonalize emotions associated with an event so that rational thinking may occur. Here is how I would briefly challenge Bathsheba’s unhelpful belief using a friend dispute:
(B): “He must validate me by showering me with the praise I’m entitled to, and because he doesn’t, I ought to step out on his ass, otherwise I couldn’t bear the possibility of admitting to myself that I may be unworthy of love.”
Goal: Move from fear to annoyance.
Me: Bathsheba, when you discuss the fear and sorrow you experience in association to what it is you tell yourself, which emotion is most impactful?
Bathsheba: The sadness is a tough one. I’ve cried a lot lately. Fear is strong, too. Do I have to pick one?
Me: You don’t have to, though it would help to identify the greatest threat, as you may perceive it, so selecting whether a charging tiger is more of an issue than the indoor cat that is hissing at you may be helpful.
Bathsheba: In that case, it’s definitely the fear. That’s the tiger.
Me: Grrrrreat! When you say fear, are we talking about fear related to intimate partner violence, coercion, manipulation, or something else?
Bathsheba: Oh no, nothing like that. I’m afraid that with Bufford not showing me affection, I may not be good enough—like I’m unworthy of being loved by anyone. I mean, if the man I’ve been with for the past 15 years—the one who knows me like no one else—doesn’t love me, who else can really love me? You know?
Me: I see. Yeah, it sounds like if I told myself something along those lines, I may be scared, too. Not just scared, terrified.
Me: As we’ve discussed, REBT identifies the B-C connection though we tend to think in A-C connection terms. Bufford not showing you affection doesn’t quite match a terror-inducing consequence. However, telling yourself that you’re unlovable could be a pretty frightening narrative.
Bathsheba: Oh, it certainly is! How do I stop that? Is it even possible? I mean, I don’t think I consciously tell myself, “Girl, he’s gonna’ leave you, because you’re unlovable.”
Me: I dig your questions, because I see you have the ability to think critically about the matter. That’s a strength. Yes, I think it’s possible to address your issue. I think answering your question about how to stop disturbing yourself may be done with another question.
Before I ask, I think it may be important to identify what you’re telling yourself—whether consciously or otherwise—so that we can address the fear-inducing unhelpful narrative. Would you be open to that? And no, that’s not the question.
Bathsheba: Of course. Ask away.
Me: In our last session, you mentioned an interest in TikTok content creation. As I understand, you have a respectable follower count. Suppose you wanted to respond to a question posed by a fellow TikToker, let’s call her Lorraine, who was asking for help regarding a romantic matter.
Lorraine—using open, honest, and vulnerable communication—states on TikTok, “I’m having problems with my man, y’all. He hasn’t been paying me any attention. I’ve been listening to other TikTokers, and they say I’m entitled to praise—that he should treat me like a queen. I don’t wanna’ leave him, but I’m thinking of getting a Sancho. Don’t get me wrong, I love my man. I just don’t think I could handle thinking he may not love me back.”
It takes courage for Lorraine to confess this. I’m wondering, to answer your question about how not to disturb yourself, what might you tell to Lorraine if you decided to post a TikTok response—if you simply must use that platform?
Bathsheba: Well, she says he doesn’t pay her the attention she deserves—or, the attention others say she deserves. That got me to thinking. I’m like, “Girl, you may want his attention, but who are these TikTokers to tell you what you deserve?” I mean, I work a full-time job. There’s a negotiated contract. I show up and do my job, I get paid. I deserve what was guaranteed to me.
Me: Interesting. Go on.
Bathsheba: Well, then I think about relationships. Lorraine’s man, did he guarantee affection? Who can guarantee that? We women may want praise, but is anyone deserving of affection? I get that we want it, but deserving of it? Aside from kids, because I think it’s different with children, I don’t know that we deserve praise and affection.
So, that’s where I start thinking of how I’d respond. Then, I think about how she wants to be treated like a queen. That made me think of Queen Elizabeth II and how she just died. You know, I never really thought about kings or queens dying—like, really thought about it.
People came out of the woodwork when she passed. There was a lot of love expressed. There was also all these people who were talking about how much they hated her. What does being treated like a queen really mean?
Me: You’re doing great. Keep going.
Bathsheba: If an actual queen isn’t entitled to praise or affection—and I support people being able to love or not love others—then what sense does it make to demand that anyone treat you like royalty? So, that’s next. Then, I’d talk about how she’s admitting that she doesn’t want to leave her man, though in the same breath talked about getting some other dude. Oh, wait.
Me: I encourage you not to stop. Your mind is using logic and reasoning. You’re not in your emotions right now, so this is an opportunity to continue talking through the matter. Go on.
Bathsheba: Yeah, putting someone else into the mix doesn’t make things easier. I heard someone on TikTok talking about relationship triangles. You should get on TikTok!
Me: Nooooope. Keep going.
Bathsheba: Anyway, the whole idea is that when bringing someone else into the relationship, unless it’s like the ENM I heard another TikToker discussing, things can get really messy, really quick. I’d tell Lorraine that if the relationship with her man is worth it, putting in effort towards the relationship she has is what’s called for.
Maybe she could go to couples counseling. Has she sat and discussed the issue with him? Maybe he doesn’t know. Let’s say she has and he still doesn’t get the message. Sometimes—and I’m sorry to say it—men don’t really get the message.
She may be communicating what she thinks is effectively, though if he’s not receiving the message, maybe she has a role in the communication breakdown. I know you’ve said before that Einstein never said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.
Still, it makes little sense to use the same communication style or message if her man doesn’t understand. His understanding will be proven through his actions. I’m telling you, people on TikTok need to hear your message. I’m getting all this from you. I could give you some pointers.
Me: I’d rather not. Go on.
Bathsheba: So, if Lorraine is using the same playbook and the plays aren’t working, it’s time to change up the playbook. And that play isn’t about becoming a player either. There’s no reason to be out here wildin’. I think the real issue is what she said at the end of her message. I felt that shit!
She said, “I love my man. I just don’t think I could handle thinking he may not love me back.” That’s how it is with Bufford and me. I love that man with all my heart. I’ve never loved someone more, especially Jermaine.
I just fear that after all these years, what if he doesn’t feel the same about me as he used to, you know? I really don’t think I could bear the possibility of admitting to myself that I may be unworthy of love. It isn’t just about not being loved by Bufford, but being lovable.
Me: It sounds as though you connect with Lorraine’s message. So far, you’ve had some sound talking points. What might you say about the big one—the message that really drives the terror for you—that you, or Lorraine, think you may not be lovable?
Bathsheba: Aww, man. That’s the really big one. I’d have to practice that TikTok speech for a while. I think it’s a message Lorraine really needs to hear and I’d wanna’ do it justice. Ok, let me work my way through it here.
Since I couldn’t have a back and forth conversation to find out if Lorraine has ever been alone before and if she has, how she dealt with it, I’d have to deliver a statement and not a question. That’s hard. Ok, I think I have it. I’d say, girl, I know what it’s like to love someone so much the thought of losing them terrifies you.
Your mind just goes on this what-if train ride, twisting and turning, and doesn’t come to a stop until everyone onboard is shaken up. It’s really scary! You can’t let that conductor run the line though. That’s a train ride from hell.
So, slow down your train. While he plays a role in all this, your man isn’t the most pressing matter. This really has to do with you. You’re scared, and I get it. I’m scared, too. Pretty much anyone I know who has someone they love is afraid of losing them. No, forget that. Terrified of losing them!
What brings that terror though isn’t losing the person, it’s the buildup—a turbulent train ride—to that point. And the real messed up thing is that the very action you take because of that train ride is the thing that will throw you off-track. Ain’t that something?
Being afraid of not being enough—unlovable—and taking action to force someone to reject you, all so you can sit back and say, “See? I knew I wasn’t worthy of love!” Lorraine, honey, you can’t let your mind take you down those tracks. It’s not your man. It’s not that you aren’t treated this way or that.
This all has to do with telling yourself that you’ll be left behind at a train station, so you jump on hell train and go for a ride. Girl, I feel you. We can’t do that. It’s too detrimental to the relationship. Know what else I’d say? I’d tell Lorraine that she’s worth love whether or not she has her man.
He may enhance her experience in life, but she was worthy before ever meeting him. Worthy doesn’t mean deserving—it only gives us a possibility and not a guarantee. I wish Lorraine and her man the best, and even if they don’t work out, she’s worthy of love. And now I see what you did here. I’m telling you, Deric, the people of TikTok—
Me: —and that’s about all the time we have for this session.
At this point in the session, I’d negotiate homework with Bathsheba. Similar to Bufford’s situation, homework is negotiated with the intent of strengthening lessons learned in-session. Also, I used more minimal encouragers with Bathsheba than Bufford, because she was on a roll and didn’t require much intervention or a direct approach.
Challenges to REBT
In the “Is my approach to REBT practical for everyone?” section of my Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) blog entry, I address challenges and limitations to REBT. I’ve yet to hear a reputable REBT source declare that the technique is a be all, end all for every possible scenario—unlike the marking and claims put forth by a number of other psychotherapeutic modalities.
In fact, in an interview, Ellis stated, “I, for one, do not believe in rational thinking as an absolute good or certain solution to all possible problems. I fully admit that a rational approach to life is a value judgment rather than a scientific ‘fact,’ and that those who wish to be irrational are fully entitled to their value judgments.”
In a separate interview, Ellis addressed a topic akin to Bufford’s presenting issue by stating that REBT addresses “staying in uncomfortable positions, such as with a rotten boss or in a bad marriage until you stop upsetting yourself about it and then you decide whether or not you are going to change,” rather than avoiding, seeking escapism, or wildin’ out altogether.
It isn’t uncommon for clients to challenge my approach to REBT by using one of the three most commonly voiced critiques:
· It isn’t easy.
· It makes sense rationally, though it doesn’t feel real.
· It doesn’t work for me.
I’ll briefly answer each of these challenges.
“It isn’t easy.”
What is the inference here, that psychotherapy must be easy? According to whom? From where does the notion of “easy” equating to being meaningful stem? Think about three meaningful elements of your life.
I’m not talking about the purchase of a new item of clothing, consumption of desired food or beverages while on vacation, or other subjectively superficial activities. Those things may provide pleasure, though I’m assessing worth.
Framing it in the following way may be of some use. Purpose is what one does (e.g., I function as a psychotherapist) and meaning is worth associated with purpose (i.e., Because I’m able to help others navigate the complexity of their lives, I consider my role—fulfillment of my purpose—as being something which provides worth).
I’m inviting you to take a moment to truly contemplate what you’ve accomplished, what has happened, or what you consider as being worthy of recognition—the thing upon which one reflects while slipping from this plain of existence to whatever comes after.
Did any of the three examples about which you thought come “easy” to you? It very well could be that the answer is yes. For the rest of us, it often is the case that fulfilment of purpose and meaning require some level of suffering, resilience-building, and disappointment.
I know what I’m suggesting likely doesn’t reflect the TikTok-esque psychobabble with which you’re likely familiar. You probably know what I’m referencing.
The nonsense espoused on social media platforms that lead one to believe, “I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
Wouldn’t it be nice and easy if that were true? Here in the real world, life doesn’t function in that manner.
Likewise, the challenging experience of REBT is not necessarily easy. The question is not about whether it should, must, or ought to be easy; though, rather, what element of your life has provided meaning that was it easy to accomplish?
“It makes sense rationally, though it doesn’t feel real.”
After years of hearing this—the most frequently expressed challenge I’ve heard about REBT practice—I think I understand what it is people are saying. (Yes, it sometimes takes a bit for me to catch on.)
Using REBT, I’m inviting clients to try something that is unusual to them. Going through life with the deception of an A-C connection becomes one’s “normal” way of existing. Using reason to disrupt the cycle is unnatural.
Discussing this matter in an interview, Ellis stated of humans, “They are short-range hedonists and have low frustration tolerance—go for the pleasure and joys and good satisfactions of the moment—and they forget the consequences. That’s a normal human aspect of what we call human nature,” and, “We have the greatest difficulty teaching humans who come to us for help to not only go for immediate joys and satisfactions, which are great, but also to think of the future and the long-range gains.”
Just as short-term gain in the way of pleasure is often the default behavioral function of people, so is wildin’ out for others. You perceive event A as unpleasant and you seek behavior to stop the discomfort associated with it.
Taking an unnatural approach, understanding the B-C connection, may not seem as though the new strategy fits. Or, to use common parlance, it may not “feel” natural, real, or comfortable.
In my approach to REBT, when I speak of feelings, I mean one of two things: One, feelings as emotions (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, etc.). Two, feelings as bodily sensations (e.g., “I feel tightness in my chest.”).
Saying something like, “I feel like people don’t know how to drive,” isn’t necessarily accurate or helpful. Generally, if you can replace feel/feeling with thought/think, you’re likely not describing an emotion or body sensation (e.g., “I don’t think people know how to drive.”).
The words we use matter, because your mind will believe the story you tell it. Therefore, REBT makes sense rationally though you may not think it is realistic for you. Now, we’re in belief territory.
When I speak of beliefs, I’m referring that which doesn’t require evidence in order to exist. Suppose I believed in a unicorn named Charlie, what could you do to convince me he doesn’t exist?
I may feel joy and a rapid heartrate, experience excitement, and have an elevated mood when thinking about Charlie and all the wondrous works with which I think he’s associated. The feelings associated with my belief are real.
Regarding belief, I’m reminded of two concepts. Christopher Hitchens, a late author and journalist, is credited with Hitchens’ Razor, which claims “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
Carl Sagan, a late astrophysicist and author, is credited with the Sagan Standard which states that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” You could simply dismiss my belief in Charlie, because one can neither prove nor disprove a negative claim, and what I belief doesn’t bother anyone else.
When hearing the claim that REBT practice makes sense rationally, though it doesn’t feel real, I understand that clients are expressing how thinking isn’t necessarily experienced through emotion or bodily sensation. It doesn’t feel real.
Whereas I may experience the consequence of happiness when maintaining a delusion about Charlie, what is the consequence of your self-disturbing beliefs? I understand that your heartrate may elevate, your breathing may become shallow, your chest may tighten, you feel anger, and you wild out.
That feels real. However, I invite you to consider whether or not your belief and resulting consequence is serving your interests and goals. If not, perhaps it’s time to let go of the must statement that prevents you from practicing REBT.
Telling yourself, “Rational thinking must feel real, and if it doesn’t, I don’t think I could stand practicing it,” likely isn’t serving you well. How might you feel if you achieved a new effective belief?
“It doesn’t work for me.”
One catchphrase I encourage clients to consider is, “The tools we use less are useless.” This is a self-evident claim, as the proof is in the name (use—less).
I realize that content creators, influencers, TikTokers, and others may promote a fast food equivalent of mental health tools (e.g., 5 Quick Daily Hacks for Your Mental Health). I’m not offering a processed equivalent of edifying food.
One may only speculate, coming from an ignorance-informed perspective, about how taking time to prepare a meal and using fresh ingredients—though more time-consuming and costly—may lead to a more meaningful life. Who knows?
Using similar reasoning, one may further hypothesize that pushing through discomfort, undergoing suffering, building resilience, and accepting disappointment may lead to a more meaningful existence. Are you willing to find out?
Not everyone accepts my challenge offered to this challenge of REBT practice. Some people forego use of these tools, perhaps expecting—or dare I say rigidly demanding—that mental, emotional, behavioral, and social health care comport to their self-assigned standards.
Underlying this narrative is—as you may have guessed by now—a should, must, or ought narrative. “REBT should work the way I want it to.” It’s my job to identify these unhelpful beliefs and assist clients with disputing such statements.
When life doesn’t unfold the way one thinks it must, it may be easy to simply dismiss REBT techniques as ineffective. Therefore, one doesn’t have to use self-reflection or consider personal responsibility or accountability.
After all, it’s the REBT method that’s flawed, not one’s precious beliefs. As I’ve mentioned herein, REBT may not be a modality everyone will find useful. For those willing to use this tool—rejecting useless, unused tools—it is my hope that they will benefit from the services I offer.
There are some clinical models, such as psychoanalysis, in which clinicians are reportedly encouraged to “remain objective in order to avoid contaminating the therapeutic field.” This tabula rasa (blank slate) technique is said to urge therapists to be “careful to avoid revealing any personal information about themselves.”
REBT practitioners aren’t cautioned in such a manner. In fact, throughout REBT literature, captured in audiovisual recordings, and expressed elsewhere, Ellis used humor, “colorful language,” and personal experiences when helping clients.
Regarding the concept of use of self in therapy, one source states that “the conscious, active and purposeful use of self by the therapist in the therapeutic process is an essential aptitude in establishing an effective therapeutic relationship.”
While I don’t take ample opportunity to talk about myself when working with clients, I also do not shy away from appropriate professional use of self. Some clients do not appreciate this, as it ruins the mystery surrounding a therapist—kind of like, in childhood, seeing a teacher in a grocery store.
All the same, my blog entries aren’t hidden from public view, nor have I taken the liberty to scrub my online presence so that favorable representations are all anyone may find. This is proper use of unconditional self-acceptance.
Nonetheless, my blog entries aren’t an adequate demonstration of the concept regarding use of self, because I’m not providing therapy herein. These entries are for informational and educational purposes, not meant to serve as a clinical intervention.
That stated, I think it’s appropriate to briefly self-disclose my relationship with REBT outside of a professional setting. Unlike a number of my professional colleagues who have discussed their connection with mental health symptoms from an etic perspective, I have an emic understanding of the field.
A cursory review of my blog entries will reveal acknowledgement of my diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, and traumatic brain injury. I didn’t simply read books, attend classes, and receive certificates or degrees related to mental health, because I live this life.
It was once theatrically stated, “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man.” While I could lament not having discovered REBT until my later years, unconditional life-acceptance allows me to be grateful for discovering it at all.
Earlier in this entry, I mentioned being from Bomb City. In my youth, I experienced more chaos and violence than I did regarding the entirety of my U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) service—and I’d been assigned to a hostile fire/imminent danger pay area as a Marine.
Depending on the reviewed source, Amarillo remains one of the most dangerous cities in Texas. From my youth, I remember the “drive-by era,” hand-to-hand street pharmacies, and honor culture activities in various sections of the city.
Like the lyrics of “Wild Out,” I grew up irrationally believing that denial to access of an establishment, infidelity, having employment terminated, failure of others to pay me their debts, and even someone stepping on another person’s shoes was just cause for wildin’. That’s the perceived A-C connection at play.
Perhaps, according to Sigmund Freud’s perspective, my entrance into the USMC was due to the process of sublimation. Per one source, this occurs when “channeling negative and unacceptable impulses into behaviors that are positive and socially acceptable.”
Anger, rage, hostility, aggression, and violence were as acceptable in the Corps as provocation in the rap to which I listened. Openly fomenting unrest, urging people to wild out, wasn’t unlike being conditioned to say “kill” as an acknowledgement of commands in boot camp.
I packed up unhelpful lessons learned in an Amarillo barrio and carried them with me to the favelas of Rio, discovering what Scarface, of Geto Boys, said in “The World is a Ghetto” by stating, “From Amsterdam to Amarillo, it ain’t no secret, the world is a ghetto.” Or, at least my mentality was on some hood shit.
It took many years for me to finally realize the B-C connection—that is, in my case, the (B)ullshit-(C)onsequence connection—was what led to failure after failure. There was a time when I thought I was broken, that I was unable to be helped.
I thought, as Treach from Naughty by Nature said in “Ghetto Bastard,” “So don’t say jack, and please don’t say you understand. All that man-to-man talk can walk, damn. If you ain’t live it, you couldn’t feel it. So kill it, skillet. And all that talkin’ ‘bout it won’t help it out, now will it?”
Oh, how wrong I was. Incredibly wrong!
The techniques I teach clients aren’t simply echoes of academe or content picked up from TikTok. I’m not encouraging others to do what I’ve only read about or known a loved one to endure.
While my experiences aren’t necessarily representative of the conditions others face, the effective believe I maintain is that when we stop disturbing ourselves there is hope for a more meaningful existence. Or, as my late stepmom used to say, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t another train.”
Are you ready to ditch the “Wild Out” narrative for a helpful, healthier perspective?
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about this form of therapy, I encourage you to reach out using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, 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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