Tag Archives: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

BPD And Rigid Thinking

inflexible thinking

bpd and rigid thinking

One of the main hallmarks of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the pronounced tendency of those who suffer from it to display marked rigidity in relation to both their thought processes and behaviors. 

This means that, when events occur, the way in which the BPD sufferer interprets them tend to be habitual and fixed and it is very difficult indeed for him/her to adopt a more flexible view or alternative perspective ; instead, once the rigid way of interpreting events formulated in his/her mind, it becomes a kind of idée fixe (the problem is compounded, of course, because, very frequently, such rigid thinking also leads to rigid, inflexible behavior) that s/he, terrier-like, refuses, seemingly at all costs (even if such incurred costs are extraordinarily, perhaps tragically, high), to relinquish (sometimes, it has to be said, provoking great exasperation, pain and frustration in others, particularly those who are not well versed in the disorder).

Rigid thinking patterns are associated with poor mental health, not least because it can give rise to obsessive worry and rumination (intensely and chronically focusing on one’s problems) and a dysfunctional way of interacting with others.

rigid thinking

RIGID THINKING EXAMPLES :

Examples of rigid beliefs include :

  • others should always agree with me and see things from exactly the same perspective as I do
  • others should never behave in ways of which I disapprove
  • if others don’t agree with me it’s because they’re stupid
  • I need to always be right
  • things must go perfectly
  • I must be liked and approved of by everyone at all times
  • others can NEVER be trusted and will always eventually screw you over

cognitive rigidity

Core Beliefs :

Our fundamental core beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in general develop early on in childhood and this period of development is closely related to how flexible / inflexible our ‘thinking style’ becomes. If this period is traumatic, stressful and involves chronically dysfunctional relationships with significant others (most of all, our primary carer) we are at high risk of developing negative core beliefs and a rigid way of thinking that can very seriously harm our adult lives including our intimate relationships, friendships and career. To read my article, previously published on this site, which explains more about core beliefs, click here

Possible Therapies :

Therapies that can help you change your core beliefs and correct a dysfunctional, rigid thinking style that derive, at least in part, from the theories of Albert Ellis (a pioneer and expert in this field of psychology) include rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

rational emotive behavior therapy

rational emotive behavior therapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy :

People are disturbed not by things, but by their view of things.

-Epictetus

REBT emphasizes that the key to emotional health, even in the face of life’s adversities, is RATIONAL THINKING. In the context of REBT, it is useful to consider the reasons the 4 words: RATIONAL, EMOTIVE, BEHAVIOUR and THERAPY have been used to make up the name:

1) RATIONAL – REBT stresses that irrational thinking leads to emotional problems. Irrational thinking, in the context of the therapy, has the following characteristics: it is rigid, it is extreme, it is false and it is unconstructive. Rational thinking, on the other hand is seen to be flexible, true, non-extreme and constructive.

Irrational thinking tends to lead to unhelpful emotional responses such as anxiety, which, in turn, lead to unhelpful behaviours.

2) EMOTIVE – in this context, the word ’emotive’ means ‘relevant to emotions’. REBT is concerned with reducing feelings of emotional distress, but, importantly, it also recognizes the fact that, in life, people will, inevitably, experience NEGATIVE FEELINGS WHEN FACED WITH ADVERSITY, BUT THESE NEED NOT BE UNHEALTHY.

REBT sees NEGATIVE EMOTIONS AS BEING SPLIT INTO TWO DISTINCT CATEGORIES:

i) UNHEALTHY NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (UNEs)

ii) HEALTHY NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (HNEs)

The theory states that UNEs we experience as a reaction to adversity are a result of IRRATIONAL BELIEFS ABOUT OURSELVES, OTHERS and THE WORLD IN GENERAL. We need to change our irrational beliefs to rational ones so that we may experience HNEs rather than UNEs. The theory incorporates the ABC model to help illustrate this. In the ABC model A,B and C stand for the following:

A : Adversity

B : Beliefs

c : Consequences of beliefs (eg emotions)

Let’s consider, with this model in mind, the following scenario :

First, an adverse event occurs (A) – a colleague at work snaps at you

this leads to you having a belief (B). The belief (B) may be IRRATIONAL or RATIONAL. Let’s look at examples of both:

(B) IRRATIONAL : ‘It is imperative that my work colleague likes me’

or

(B) RATIONAL : ‘I would prefer it if my work colleague liked me, but it is not a catastrophe if she does not.’

These opposing two responses then give rise to commensurate emotional responses:

(B) IRRATIONAL leads to UNEs eg Anxiety

and

(B) RATIONAL leads to HNEs eg Concern (the emotion of concern, whilst a negative emotion, is also a healthy one).

In order to illustrate further how negative emotions can be both healthy and unhealthy, below are two lists. The left hand column is a list of unhealthy negative emotions (UNEs), whilst the list on the right gives the healthy negative emotion equivalents (HNEs):

UNEs — HNEs

ANXIETY — CONCERN

DEPRESSION — SADNESS

GUILT — REMORSE

SHAME — DISAPPOINTMENT

HURT — SORROW

 

INTELLECTUAL VERSUS EMOTIVE UNDERSTANDING : it has already been stated that REBT views irrational beliefs as rigid, false, not sensible and non-constructive. The example given of an irrational belief was ; ‘it is imperative that my work colleague likes me’ whereas the rational response would be : ‘it would be nice if my work colleague liked me but it is not a catastrophe if she does not.’ REBT states that we need to understand ON AN INTELLECTUAL LEVEL that the second response is the rational one but that this INTELLECTUAL UNDERSTANDING is not sufficient on its own.

rational emotive behavior therapy

 

Above : A diagrammatic representation of the mental process encouraged by REBT.

If we only understood intellectually, our ‘head would understand but our heart wouldn’t’ – this would mean we would not FEEL any different : we would still have a UNE (ie anxiety), consistent with an IRRATIONAL BELIEF. So, REBT emphasizes that our understanding that the rational belief is the correct one needs to be not only INTELLECTUAL, BUT ALSO EMOTIVE. Only then can we feel, think and act in a way that is consistent with the rational belief (ie in a CONCERNED rather than ANXIOUS manner).

3) BEHAVIOR : REBT states that IRRATIONAL BELIEFS lead to NON-CONSTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR whereas RATIONAL BELIEFS lead to CONSTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR. In our example about the work colleague, this idea might be illustrated by the irrational belief leading us to AVOID our work colleague whereas the rational belief might lead us to approach her assertively and talk the problem through calmly and maturely.

Below are examples of how UNEs can lead to unhelpful behavior whilst HNEs can lead to helpful behavior:

UNE – DEPRESSION leading to withdrawal from enjoyable activities/EQUIVALENT HNE – SADNESS leading to participation in enjoyable activities after period of adjustment

UNE – GUILT leading to begging for forgiveness/EQUIVALENT HNE – REMORSE leading to asking for forgiveness

UNE – SHAME leading to withdrawal from others/EQUIVALENT HNE – DISAPPOINTMENT leading to contact with others and talking things over

UNE – HURT leading to sulking/EQUIVALENT HNE – SORROW leading to assertiveness and communicating with others.

4) THERAPY – in order to get the most out of REBT it is necessary to first address one’s maladaptive (unhelpful) responses to life’s adversities BEFORE dealing with the practical side of the actual problems. The rationale behind this is that otherwise the unhelpful responses will impede the individual’s ability to deal with the particular adversities in an effective way.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).