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Theoretical Assumptions

Ellis argued that REBT is more theoretical than most therapies and that the theory not only structures but also drives the entire therapeutic process (Trower & Jones, 2001). Like most generic cognitive-behavioral therapies, REBT ascribes to the notion that cognitions or beliefs cause emotions and behavior (Ellis, 2002a), and REBT theorists stress the interconnectedness of thinking, feeling, and behaving (Dryden et al., 2003; Nelson-Jones, 2000). Because people think, feel, and act simultaneously, it is logical that what people think affects how they feel, that people usually do not feel or act without thinking, and that how people behave influences what they think and how they feel (DiGiuseppe, 1999).

Central to this theory is the idea that events and other people do not make a person feel bad or good (Dryden, 2003; Ellis, 2002b). Rather, emotional distress results from dysfunctional thought processes such as exaggeration, overgeneralization, oversimplification, illogic, faulty deductions, absolutistic rigid schema, and unvalidated assumptions (DiGiuseppe, 1999). Therefore, the best way to reduce emotional distress is to change the way people think because irrational beliefs are "the core of psychological problems" (Dryden & Branch, 2008, p. 13).

According to this theory, irrational beliefs emanate from multiple environmental and genetic factors. Although these factors contribute to the acquisition of irrational beliefs, they are maintained because people rehearse them and continue to reindoctrinate themselves without reevaluating their thinking (DiGiuseppe, 1999). Thus, REBT theorists emphasize that irrational beliefs can be changed but acknowledge that this is often difficult and takes persistent practice. Ellis (cited in Nelson-Jones, 2000) stated that "People are bom, as well as reared, with greater or lesser degrees of demandingness, and therefore they can change from demanding to desiring only with great difficulty" (p. 186).

Ellis and Dryden (1997) identified five major theoretical concepts: goals, purposes, and rationality; a humanistic emphasis; the interaction of psychological processes and the place of cognition; basic biological tendencies; and fundamental human disturbances.

Goals, Purposes, and Rationality

The REBT theory proposes that humans are happiest when they have goals and purposes that give meaning to their lives. As they strive to attain their goals, they need to adopt a philosophy of self-interest, in which they put themselves first and others a close second, as opposed to being selfish and disregarding others. Given that people are interested in goal attainment, rational beliefs help them achieve their basic goals and purposes, whereas irrational beliefs prevent them from achieving them.

Humanistic Emphasis

Although REBT is rational and scientific, it is not "purely objective, scientific or technique- centered, but takes a definite humanistic-existential approach to human problems and their basic solutions" (Ellis & Dryden, 1997, p. 4). The importance of human will and choice is emphasized while, at the same time, REBT recognizes that some behavior is biologically or socially determined (Ellis, 2001b).

Interaction of Psychological Processes and the Place of Cognition The REBT theory emphasizes an interactive view of psychological processes in that cognitions, emotions, and behaviors do not exist in isolation but actually overlap considerably. This theory, however, especially emphasizes the cognitive aspect of the psychological process (Dryden & Neenan, 2004). In fact, REBT is best known for the concept of rational and irrational beliefs.

Two Basic Biological Tendencies

The REBT theory recognizes two biological human tendencies: to think irrationally and to behave in self-defeating ways. This theory acknowledges that social influences have some impact on humans' tendency to think irrationally, but it stresses that irrational beliefs also have a strong biological basis and are more related to mental health problems than are rational beliefs (Bernard, 2009). According to Ellis and Dryden (1997), even if everyone had an exceptionally rational upbringing, all humans would eventually think irrationally and dysfunctionally to varying degrees. Ellis also noted that many of a person's self-destructive behaviors are not advocated by parents, educators, or the media, which strengthens the argument for a biological basis. For example, parents do not encourage their children to procrastinate or seek immediate gratification, yet that does not stop children from doing it. Furthermore, even though people give up irrationalities, they often develop new ones, and it is easy to revert to self-defeating behaviors even after working hard to change them. Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to learn and practice self-defeating rather than selfenhancing behaviors.

Two Fundamental Human Disturbances

Dryden and Ellis (2001) identified two major categories of psychological disturbance: ego disturbance and discomfort disturbance. Ego disturbance occurs when individuals make demands on themselves, others, and the world. If these demands are not met, people put themselves down by assigning a global negative rating to themselves and identifying themselves as bad or less worthy. This is in contrast to the concept of unconditional selfacceptance, which does not involve rating but acknowledges human fallibility.

Discomfort disturbance, or low frustration tolerance, occurs when individuals make demands on themselves, others, and the world in relation to comfort and life conditions. When these demands are not met, individuals begin to "awfulize" and develop an "I-can't- stand-it" attitude (Dryden & Branch, 2008).

 
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