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Beliefs I Use To Help Me To Stay, Feeling Right When Things go Wrong
Pat Fobair, LCSW, MPH

The only issue more powerful to us than a challenge to our beliefs about life is the possibility of loss of one's survival.

When it comes to the possibility of loss of one's life, we have sense of shock, feelings of isolation, and fear. We may notice feelings of being, out of control. I found that it helped me to notice my feelings of sadness, fear, anger, as soon as possible, and give my self permission to feel disappointment, directly. I feel less defensive, sooner when I can do this. For example, I have fewer blaming thoughts and use less denial, when I can acknowledge my emotional pain. Almost as soon as I get to naming the feeling, I am able to move on to constructive thinking and problem solving. Yet, a source of conflict may emerge within us between our values and beliefs about life and the more immediate reality emerging before us.

When our survival appears to be threatened, some of our basic beliefs in life seem out of line with the new reality. How could God let this happen to me? I've lived a good, clean life. What is true? I feel deceived! The meaning in life seems to have shifted!

Addressing this major issue, Albert Ellis, PhD originated a therapy he called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

Some ideas are comforting, others challenge us to shift our thoughts to more inclusive humanitarian viewpoints. Here are those that I found comforting.

- Humans are by nature remarkably imperfect and are encouraged not to define themselves by their shortcomings. If I can be imperfect, I can relax within.

- Humans are not only different from another, but also differ within themselves by way of thoughts, feelings, and involuntary biochemical sensations. These differences frequently occur spontaneously, often for no special reason, and are best accepted rather than protested against. You do not have to be like me!

- Human do best when they do not try to be islands unto themselves. Nor would it be well to make themselves endlessly dependent on their social group. Rotation and balance between you, and me, and us is the socially advisable ideal.

- By putting yourself first and keeping others a close second you may be able to promote the give and take that is compatible with harmonious social living.

- The essence of good problem solving is to give yourself some emotional slack; to lighten up on yourself rather than tighten up. Permitting yourself an emotional breath of fresh air has value apart from outside changes that you may be able to accomplish.

- Individuals are capable of emotional self-reliance with or without the support of their family or social system. I can get along alone, should I need to do so!

- Undamning acceptance of self, others, and life is a fundamental premise of rational living. You are okay just the way you are, and so am I!

- Humans routinely don't practice what they preach. Pledging to more consistently practice affirmed ideals, while not condemning oneself for not hitting the bull's eye, is suggested. Thanks for forgiving my discrepancies!

Here are philosophies that may challenge us to rethink our values and beliefs.

- There is no law of the universe that says others have to do unto us as we do unto them. Although it is nice when others treat us like we kindly treat them, such returns on our emotional investments are not necessities. I will have to tolerate my disappointments with others who let me down. And, I can allow myself to feel less guilty, when I disappoint others.

- The persistence factor is best not underestimated. Getting behind yourself and pushing is habit forming and has a life of its own. Consistently going to bat on behalf of yourself strengthens emotional stamina while increasing the changes of success.

- Everyone is in life together and no one person is any better than another. There are no good or bad persons, only individuals who do good and bad things. This is hard to accept when I feel hurt, angry or disappointed, but blaming others only covers up my feelings and distances me from feeling them fully.

- Happiness is a fleeting thing. It comes and goes in large part by how well you are able to control for your wants. Vital absorption in a selected project or cause that structures large amounts of your time you can improve our sense of meaning in life. Having projects and completing them gives me satisfaction.

- We can all benefit from a healthy perspective on discomfort in life. Accepting rather than intimidating oneself about discomfort will promote an expanded lifestyle. Worshipping the avoidance of discomfort can lead to an avoidance lifestyle. Humans are in the world to experience the world, which includes a fair amount of discomfort. It has been hard for me to give up my childhood view of entitlement to unlimited happiness.

- Convincing yourself that you can stand what you don't like allows you to be well grounded in curtailing your frustrations. The little child in me wants to run away and avoid discomforts, and situations that I don't like.

- To damn or condemn a human, including yourself, is immoral and encourages a continuation of problems. Accepting and forgiving others reduces tension in my life.

- Much of what is called anxiety is being overly concerned about what others might think of you. Understanding that you are not at the mercy of others' opinions of you better lubricates your relationships with them.

- A cornerstone of emotional well-being is not dramatizing the significance of disappointment, by awfulizing or catastrophizing the consequences. When I am scared, I immediately think of the worst thing that might happen, then imagine that it has happened. Accepting that I am feeling scared, and that its just a feeling, helps me let go of the dramatization inside my head.

- Accepting the deficiencies of surety, certainty, and orderliness in this world permits less confusion about and more enjoyment of what it does offer. Uncertainty is part of our daily world. Accepting this idea, encourages me to make the most of each day, and to stay-in-the moment.

- Running from pain increases suffering. Taking the long, easy way rather than the short, hard way is central to rational thinking. Everytime I've avoided a problem, it has returned to be struggled with again!

- Human are born with the ability to emotionally upset themselves. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy takes a dim view of the idea that family of origin or other intrusive background factors are crucial in understanding how humans disturb themselves. I can choose to upset myself, or to calm down and figure it out!

- Just because we experience feelings in a situation, does not mean that the circumstances caused the feelings. Nor must we presume that if we have a problem we wish to solve, that we must solve it. Feelings do not equal facts! Feelings are just feelings, physiological phenomena, i.e. subjective reactions that may be pleasant or unpleasant, brought about by external circumstances and one's own thoughts and behaviors, and experienced as brief electrical surges in the body.

- People can get by without outside reinforcement by reinforcing themselves with heavy doses of encouraging self-talk. We can do it, I can do it!

This philosophy holds us responsible for our emotions. Accepting this higher level of responsibility puts us in the drivers seat to be our own best problem-solving philosophers.

Source: In 1955, Albert Ellis, Ph.D. originated a therapy he called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, (REBT) an applied philosophy which helps us become aware of our belief system. In Bill Borcherdt's book, Feeling Right When things Go Wrong,(Professional Resource Press, Sarasota, Florida, 1998), these points were summarized

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