irrational beliefs and cognitive restructuring


For this assignment you will become more aware of your personal belief system and how that system developed in your childhood and your adulthood. As a child, most of your early beliefs were formulated by the modeling of your caretakers as well as your nuclear and extended family. If someone told you that you should wash sand off your hands when you finished playing in your sandbox to get rid of germs, you probably just washed your hands and were glad that you had avoided getting sick! As you grew older and entered school, you learned where germs really came from and changed your belief about the sandbox, and dismissed the irrational idea that sand on your hands would give you a cold.

However, as humans, we all still hold onto some irrational beliefs that we have not replaced with rational ones. The result is every day stress that could be eliminated if we analyzed these beliefs and replaced them with beliefs that are rational. Dr. Albert Ellis, the pioneer of cognitive restructuring, developed techniques for replacing irrational beliefs with rational ones. The process involves an analysis of our thoughts and feelings that result in unpleasant emotions and stressful outcomes.

According to Dr. Ellis, if we hold onto these unexamined irrational beliefs, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and stress throughout our lifetimes.

Some of the most common beliefs that we hold onto from childhood are:

  1. I must always be competent.
  2. Everyone must treat me fairly.
  3. I must get what I want and need at all times.
  4. I must have love and approval from my peers, family and friends.

You might notice that all of these statements contain absolutes such as always, must and everyone. As an adult you are reading this list of examples and thinking that you don’t believe these examples of irrational thoughts. In reality, however, all of us fall prey to this way of thinking.

These old thinking patterns are just habits and can be replaced with new more effective ones. These new patterns will allow you to notice that most of your stress is literally just in your head and that any stress activating event is just an event. The negative spin we put on the event is just negative “self talk.”

Cognitive Restructuring allows you to intercept potential stress and remain calm and in control of situations. In order us to understand how these irrational beliefs play out in life, you are going to view a short video clip on an activating event, an event that has stress producing potential. Observe how the actor in the video could and does handle the stressful situation of a flat tire.

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