Imagine a scene in an office. Mary’s supervisor insults Mary saying, “How could you be so incompetent? Now you have messed up the Kleinjans file and you should have known better. Any idiot off the street could have done it right.” How does Mary now feel? Of course you don’t really know, but you could ask Mary
· Perhaps Mary would answer:
“I am worried. I need this job. Maybe he is just looking for a reason to fire me. How could I pay the rent if I lose my income.”
Mary might now be feeling anxiety, maybe even panic.
· Another response could be:
“He’s an SOB. He’s always picking on me and everyone else. He’s just using all of us in order to propel himself into a promotion.”
In this case Mary’s feelings are hostility and anger.
· Alternatively Mary could say;
“He’s right. I am a loser. I never get it right. I deserve it.”
Mary’s depression just keeps building.
· But there is a completely different possibility:
“I don’t deserve that kind of treatment, but that’s just the way he is. Besides, maybe he had a fight with his kid this morning. Or didn’t get enough sleep. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it really isn’t about the one page in the Kleinjans file. I can fix that in a minute. He’s having a tantrum, maybe like a child.”
Now, while Mary is perhaps annoyed, she doesn’t react with self-damaging emotions. Her emotions do not immobilize her or lead her to make her life worse.
Of course there are other possibilities, but what these illustrate is that our feelings do not come from the things that happen. If they did, they would always result in the same feelings for everyone. Instead, the activating event—the boss’s insult—triggers some belief or automatic thought. It is the belief that creates the emotion. While everyone’s irrational beliefs are somewhat different, there do tend to be a few major categories.
In different ways, the first three possibilities for Mary’s reaction are all beliefs and thoughts based on unreality or irrational thinking. Emotional retraining helps us, and Mary, to respond rationally and realistically, as she does in the fourth response.
Emotional retraining . . .
- Is the application of the best, evidence and outcomes-based and tested psychologically sound insights.
- Is here and now oriented.
- Begins by making a contract for change within yourself and with others.
- While it honors intuition, it demands that solutions produce results.
- Is focused on making decisions.
- Recognizes that adults can choose their own behaviors.
- Asserts that most, but not all, emotions are a result of automatic negative self-talk and irrational beliefs and philosophies, often learned in childhood, but inappropriate in the here and now.
- Believes that there are appropriate and rational “negative” emotions like sadness, fear, regret and disapproval, escalation of these into self-damaging forms like depression, phobia, guilt and anger are dysfunctional and self-damaging and come from irrational beliefs about life and people.
Among the forms of tools used are Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Choice Theory, and General Semantics. These tools have been used with great success in life coaching, treatment of both major and minor emotional issues as well as marital conflict, depression, anxieties and phobias.
Emotional retraining is not a new “self-help” idea. It is based on some fairly well-established principles. The first was expressed by a Greek philosopher, Epictetus, over two thousand years ago. Epictetus told us that a person is troubled, not by what happens to him, but by what he believes about what happens.
Psychologists, beginning with Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, have applied Epictetus’ idea and call it Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It has become the best tested and demonstrated system of working with major and minor emotional problems from post traumatic stress disorder to depressions, phobias, and anxiety.
Emotional Retraining takes this same system and applies it to the day-to-day, ordinary, emotional stresses and responses that we all encounter. Learning to retrain our emotions doesn’t require therapy, but it does require learning new beliefs that function better and are more realistic.
Another idea that Emotional Retraining embraces is Alfred Korzybski’s “Whatever you say it is, it isn't.” The words we use about someone or some situation, do not tell us about that person. At best they tell us a little about what we think about the person or situation.
Korzybski also said, “The map is not the territory.” The map is just an abstraction that may help us get around the territory, but often the map may be partly wrong and we turn left according to the map, but it runs into a dead-end The map may show a bridge we plan to cross, but when we arrive, the bridge is only a foot-bridge—or perhaps it’s an auto-bridge but has fallen in a recent storm; we can’t rely completely on the map.
So Emotional Retraining helps us develop ways of checking our maps and relying always on reality so we don’t try to drive over the foot-bridge.
Emotional Retraining will give you the tools to lead a better, happier life together with your family, partner, and community. It will help ensure that the way we pursue our love-interest improves the opportunity to make the relationship warm, exciting and wonderful.
For more information, contact me, Dr. David Pittle.
I began to develop Emotional Retraining in the 1970s when I was asked to help the Social Security Administration provide improved services for their clients and customers–you and me. Already a practitioner of Rational Emotive Therapy, I developed a program which applied RET (Now REBT) principles to management and supervisory relationships. The same principles with the support of other psychological concepts allowed the Social Security Administration improve the satisfaction level of their clients, workers, supervisors and managers.
In 1981 I realized that I was working with a lot of people who were being helped by REBT but who really should not have needed a counselor. They were people who could learn and apply some of these principles for themselves.
Over the years I've developed my workshop in Emotional Retraining improving it with the latest research and results-proven methods. I've taught it in colleges, universities and independent seminars.
For an appointment, please call 415-479-3945