Our irrational beliefs that keep us from growing emotionally


An irrational belief :

  • distorts reality
  • is illogical
  • prevents you from reaching your goals
  • leads to unhealthy emotions
  • leads to self-defeating behaviour

Irrational beliefs are:

  • Messages about life we send to ourselves that keep us from growing emotionally.
  • Scripts we have in our head about how we believe life “should” be for us and for others.
  • Unfounded attitudes, opinions, and values we hold that are out of synchrony with the way the world really is.
  • Negative sets of habitual responses we hold to when faced with stressful events or situations.
  • Stereotypic ways of problem solving we fall into in order to deal with life’s pressures.
  • Ideas, feelings, beliefs, ways of thinking, attitudes, opinions, biases, prejudices, or values with which we were raised. We have become accustomed to using them when faced with problems in our current life, even when they are not productive in helping us reach a positive, growth-enhancing solution.
  • Self-defeating ways of acting. On the surface they may look appropriate for the occasion, but actually they result in a neutral or negative consequence for us.
  • Habitual ways of thinking, feeling, or acting that we think are effective; however, in the long run they are ineffectual.
  • Counterproductive ways of thinking, which give comfort and security in the short run, but either do not resolve or actually exacerbate the problem in the long run.
  • Negative or pessimistic ways of looking at necessary life experiences such as loss, conflict, risk taking, rejection, or accepting change.
  • Overly optimistic or idealistic ways of looking at necessary life experiences such as loss, conflict, risk taking, rejection, or accepting change.
  • Emotional arguments for taking or not taking action in the face of a challenge. When followed they result in no personal gain, but rather in greater personal hardship or loss.
  • Patterns of thinking that make us appear to others as stubborn, bullheaded, intemperate, argumentative, or aloof.
  • Ways of thinking about ourselves that are out of context with the real facts, resulting in our either under-valuing or over-valuing ourselves.
  • Means by which we become confused about the intentions of others when we are enmeshed in interpersonal problems with them.
  • Lifelong messages sent to us either formally or informally by: society, culture, community, race, ethnic reference group, neighborhood, church, social networks, family, relatives, peer group, school, work, or parents. They are unproductive in solving our current problem or crisis, but we are either unwilling or unable to let go of them. These messages can be very clear to us or they can be hidden in our subconscious.
  • Conclusions about life that we have developed over time, living in an irrational environment not identified as being irrational (e.g., beliefs developed as a member of a high-stress family).
  • Standards by which we were reared and from which we learned how to act, what to believe, and how to express or experience feelings. When followed, however, these standards do not result in a satisfactory resolution of our current problems.
  • Ritualistic ways by which we pursue our relationships with others, resulting in nonproductive relationships and increased emotional stress.
  • Outmoded, unproductive, unrealistic expectations exacted on ourselves and/or others, guaranteed to be unattainable and to result in continuing negative self-concepts.

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 : Awful is defined as anything that is evaluated as being worse than 100% bad. Example: If I don’t succeed in my presentation it will be awful!

Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT): Otherwise known as I-can’t-stand-it. 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 presentation, 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 too 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.

Here is a list of common irrational beliefs

  • I need the approval of others in order to be happy.
  • I am inferior to everyone else
  • A person who behaves badly should be punished.
  • I should be terribly unhappy when something goes wrong.
  • If I avoid thinking about a problem, it will go away by itself.
  • I can’t face life without help from someone bigger, smarter, stronger, or better.
  • If someone criticises me there must be something wrong with me
  • If I make a mistake or fail at a project, I should be extremely upset.
  • I won’t try anything new unless I know I will be good at it
  • I will always be held back by negative things that happened to me in the past.
  • If I feel happy about life something will go wrong
  • I need to be in control all the time.
  • It’s not my fault my life didn’t go the way I wanted
  • I can be happy without taking an active role in getting the life I want.
  • When I experience a negative emotion, I can’t do anything about it.

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