What are Irrational Beliefs?

Ellis placed Irrational Beliefs at the very heart of REBT, as these are the primary reason for human misery and dysfunction. By challenging, questioning, disputing and acting against our Irrational Beliefs we can change our emotional responses to events, from unhealthy to healthy, which better aid us in achieving our goals in life.

Before summarising the main types of Irrational and Rational beliefs, it is important to ensure clarity about the use of the terms irrational and rational. Although many people have wrongly assumed that Ellis argued that there was such a thing as rational world, this was never his intention. Rather, he chose the terms irrational as a euphemism for unhelpful, illogical and inconsistent with our social reality. Rational beliefs on the other hand are a euphemism for beliefs that are helpful, logical, and consistent with our social reality.

The four types of Irrational Beliefs

Demands: These are the primary Irrational belief. They often feature phrases such as must, absolute shoulds, have to, need and ought. Example: I would love to succeed and therefore I have to!

All other Irrational Beliefs following from the demand.

Awfulising: In REBT awful is defined as anything that is evaluated as being worse than 100% bad. Example: If I don't succeed in my presentation is will be awful!

Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT): Otherwise known as I-can't-stand-it-itis, LFT beliefs feature an acknowledgement of a struggle and an assertion that the struggle is truly unbearable or cannot be stood. Example: If people are rude to me I cannot stand it!

Conditional Self (other, life) Acceptance: Otherwise known as self-downing, this is where we define our self based on one aspect. Example: If I fail at something important to me then I am a failure!

The four types of Rational Beliefs

Preferences: Rather than demanding, preferring is a much more helpful attitude to have about life. Example: I would love to succeed but I don't have to.

Anti-awfulising: Nothing in this world could not be worse, and anti-awfulising beliefs reflect this. Example: If I don't succeed in my presntation, it may be bad but never truly awful!

High Frustration Tolerance (HFT): Usually, we tell ourselves we cannot stand something when in fact we do not like it (and we might dislike it very much indeed). HFT enables us to face difficulty with more courage and resilience. Example: If people are rude to me, I do not like it, but I can stand it and it would be worth the struggle.

Unconditional Self (other, life) Acceptance: We are far to complex to be rated in one aspect or dimension. In fact it is impossible to truly define a human being in any one way. We are better off rating our behaviour, not ourselves. Example: If I fail at something then I will have failed at an important thing to me, but that would never make me a failure I would be a fallible human being.