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Revealed Perspectives: Commonalities and Differences
There are several themes that are found in both the narratives in which the experts succeeded in applying REBT to themselves and those in which they failed. One expert's area of success was often another expert's area of failure. For example, Weinrach succeeded in using REBT to manage his anxiety, whereas Vernon failed to manage hers. Ellis and Wolfe succeeded in using REBT in the area of unconditional other-acceptance, yet Malkinson and Weinrach failed in managing their issues of unconditional self-acceptance. DiGiuseppe cited low frustration tolerance (LFT) as an example of how he succeeded (and also failed), whereas Ellis and Wolfe cited LFT as an area where they both failed. Backx's narrative about how he was successful in applying REBT to himself was not classified because of its general nature. The assignment of narratives into specific themes was not precise because some of the narratives could have been assigned to more than one theme. The classification of narratives by theme was made primarily on the basis of self-talk as opposed to the experts' description of the surrounding circumstances.
Walen, DiGiuseppe, and Dryden (1992) subsumed Ellis's irrational beliefs into four categories, which they referred to as "core irrational beliefs." The categories are "demands, awfulizing, low frustration tolerance, and global evaluations of human worth" (p. 17). This four-category model was applied only to the narratives in which the experts described their failures at applying REBT to themselves. (It was not applied to the narratives wherein the experts succeeded because there was considerably less evidence of irrational thinking in these examples.) Two of the experts (Weinrach and Malkinson) dealt primarily with issues of global evaluations of human worth, and three of the experts (Ellis, DiGiuseppe, and Wolfe) experienced LFT, primarily. MacLaren's narrative about depression was not classified because its origin seems to have fallen primarily outside of REBT's sphere. It serves as a cogent reminder that relying solely on one approach, in this case REBT, may not always be in the client's best interest.
Finally, more than one core irrational belief was found within most of the narratives, which is often the case with clients. For example, Weinrach dealt with both global evaluations of (his) human worth and the demand that his colleague offer greater respect for the importance of his work. Ellis displayed classic LFT and demanded that the airline treat him better. DiGiuseppe experienced LFT (by displaying an intolerance for discomfort) and demanded that he should not have to use an appointment book. Vernon demanded a certainty of the outcome of her husband's surgery as well as "awfulized" about what life would be like for her son if her husband were to die. Wolfe displayed LFF along with global evaluations of human worth of her employees; Malkinson dealt with global evaluation of (her) human worth and demanded that she be treated better.
Anxiety Reduction (Stephen G. Weinrach)
I fully understood Debbie's directions about inhaling and exhaling, and I was willing but unable to comply. There was a cognitive disconnect between comprehending and acting. For example, I was unable to imitate someone showing me how to cough. Debbie, in her own charming and nonthreatening way, calmly made it clear to me that I was not following her directions. I fully understood the implications of her threat to insert the tube--something I did not want to take place. I was not particularly frightened that I was not breathing adequately because I was unaware of its serious implications. I was frightened that inserting the tube would be very painful.
As the hour elapsed, I found myself remarkably and uncharacteristically calm about the prospect of the tube being inserted. I was alert enough to talk to myself rationally. I told myself that "I was powerless to change whatever the ultimate outcome was" (tube or no tube) and that "were the tube to be inserted, it would take only a minute or two and that I could stand a lot of pain for that short amount of time. That was the worst thing that could realistically happen." The prospect of dying had never occurred to me. Throughout the hour, Debbie coached and encouraged me to inhale and exhale to no avail. At the appointed hour, she told me to swallow once she got the tube halfway down. I relaxed, swallowed, and the tube was painlessly inserted. I was very excited that I could invoke REBT under the circumstances. Its use helped me handle a situation that I had found very threatening. At the time, I remember being more elated that I could rely on invoking REBT while lying in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit than I was upset with the necessity to insert the tube. I may have forgotten how to breathe, but I did not forget my REBT.
A month after my initial discharge from the hospital I was readmitted for 2 more weeks, during which time I had two additional surgeries and the temporary insertion of a port in my arm so that intravenous antibiotics could be self-administered 3 times a day for the next 45 days at home. For this procedure, I was not sedated and was even more anxious than before, with some justification. Then, every few weeks, I had to have blood tests to determine if the antibiotics were damaging my liver. The blood needed to be drawn from the top of my hands because I had an artery removed from my left arm for the bypass surgery and I had the temporary port in my right arm. These blood tests were far more painful than anything I had experienced previously and at times I would cry afterwards. In all three situations, I was successful in calming myself down to the point where I was merely appropriately apprehensive. I was able to tell myself "I may not like it, but I can stand it. I have stood it before so I know that I can stand it again."
Unconditional Other-Acceptance (Albert Ellis)
I got a good chance to put my unconditional other acceptance into practice in 1993, when I was celebrating my 80th birthday. For several years before that, I had been collaborating on a Dictionary of Sexological Terms with B., with whom I had maintained a close friendship since our college days. I gave him considerable material that I had already gathered for the Dictionary, and he promised to complete it in, at most, a year and by doing so get some credit on his PhD in philology. B. did little work on the Dictionary, kept lying to me and our publisher, and completed the work he had to do on his PhD. The publisher rightly canceled the contract for the book after 3 years of B.'s abysmal procrastination; the Dictionary was never published.
Under ordinary conditions, before I began to use REBT on myself, I would have been incensed for several reasons: (a) B. was slothfully procrastinating, (b) he kept lying about the work he was doing, (c) he had me write a special letter to his Philology Department saying that he was working , hard on the Dictionary, and (d) I had agreed to forgive him $8,000 he owed me when he would finish his work on the Dictionary. But after the publisher canceled our contract, he invented an outrageous lie to the effect that I had forgiven the debt just for his starting to work on the Dictionary. So he canceled the debt.
Instead of making myself incensed at B., I used REBT to make myself feel very displeased with his behavior but not angry with him. How? By telling myself, 'Too bad that B. has lied, cheated, and procrastinated, but that rotten behavior doesn't make him a bad person. "I no longer viewed him as a dose friend but was not angry at him. I invited him to my 80th birthday party in 1993, and we talked in a pleasant manner, reminisced about some of our mutual experiences over the years, and semihumorously mentioned our monetary differences. No, no feelings of anger, rancor, or resentment on my part. Using REBT and its philosophy and practice on myself, I accepted B. with his poor behavior and I rarely think any more of the highly immoral way he treated me.
It should come as no surprise that several experienced REBT experts have both succeeded and failed in applying REBT to themselves. The implication for practitioners who use REBT with their clients and perhaps on themselves, as well, is clear: The successful use of REBT requires considerable and continuous hard work. REBT is not easy. REBT is not applicable to every situation. Nor is it realistic to expect REBT, or any other approach, to work 100% of the time. That said, it has been used successfully in the personal lives of those experts who contributed to this article. It could be argued that in those cases in which the experts failed, it may have been a function of their fallibility as human beings. For example, those who struggle with LFT probably get frustrated trying to reduce their LFT. In the final analysis, Paul (1967) got it right. The ultimate question is, of course, "What treatment, by whom is most effective for this individual with that specific problem under which set of circumstances?" (p. 111).
Reflection Exercise #11
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