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REBT techniques/coping with urges

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Old 08-27-2007, 08:02 PM   #1
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Default REBT techniques/coping with urges

I've found that many techniques from REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) have been useful to me in keeping to a healthy food and exercise plan as well as making me a happier person overall.

The main REBT technique that has helped me is identifying and disputing irrational beliefs that make me very unhappy and result in behaviors I don't like. It uses an A-B-C framework. A=activating event, B=belief, C=consequence.

We usually think of events (A) causing results (C):

A: I'm at a cafe, see some delicious fresh-made pastry, and get an overwhelming craving for some with my coffee even though I've had plenty to eat and am not hungry.
C: I give in and get the pastry and eat it.

But did A really cause C? REBT says no, there is a B, an irrational belief that caused me not to do what I know I should and would prefer to do (not order the pastry). REBT encourages you to dig deep and figure out why. In my case there might be several irrational beliefs:

B1: I will feel terrible and awful if I don't eat the pastry and I won't be able to stand it!
B2: It's SO UNFAIR that I can't eat what I want when I want it and I can't stand it! Life SHOULDN'T be unfair!
B3: I SHOULDN'T crave food every time I see it! I'm a weak, pathetic person.

The next step of REBT is D="disupting". I then actively dispute the beliefs.

D1: Is it really true I wouldn't be able to stand it? Will I actually die if I don't have the pastry? Would I have even felt the urge if the coffeehouse had been out of pastry that day? Haven't I gone without food before and survived? I have zero evidence that "I couldn't stand it" (I'm still alive!), and lots of evidence that, yes, I CAN stand it. It might not be pleasant, but it's not terrible, horrible, and awful!
D2: Who am I to dictate how life should be, am I god? Don't I have lots of advantages that other people don't have? Is that fair?
D3: I am who I am. I can't be other than I am right now and the workings of the brain are poorly understood. Just because I get a desire for something doesn't make me weak or pathetic, it just makes me human.

If one is successful at finding the irrational belief that is really driving one's actions (and sometimes it's not obvious and takes several rounds of doing this technique) and successful in disputing the irrational belief and getting myself to see this, it gets replaced with a new E: effective belief.

Perhaps:

E: It's unpleasant to have to experience unsatisfied desires for the pastry and give up the short term pleasure, but it's not terrible, horrible, and awful and I CAN stand it. It would be nice not to be subject to such urges, but sometimes life isn't nice and I just have to deal with it. I'd also prefer that life was fairer, that I could eat whatever I want, or that I didn't get strong urges, but again, it's not terrible, horrible or awful, and I CAN stand it. That I get urges for such things doesn't say anything about my character, that would be silly.

By replacing the strong irrational beliefs which "awfulize" the urge with a gentler one that recognizes the reality of the urge and merely expresses my preference that things be otherwise, C need not happen even though the urge did. I wrote C above as "give in and eat the pastry", but it could also be "I don't order the pastry and get angry and upset", which is also not a good outcome. Disputing irrational beliefs also helps diffuse that "angry and upset" result in the cases where I am successful in not ordering unhealthy food for me. So the new outcome becomes "I don't order the pastry, and feel some disappointment at not getting to fulfill the urge, but don't feel angry and upset about it".


The ABC technique is the cornerstone of REBT, but there are many other coping with urges tools, including many for preventing them. And there is a site that has collected many of the tools together and worksheets for addressing them:

http://www.smartrecovery.org/resources/toolchest.htm

These were pulled together by SMART Recovery which is an alternative/adjunct to AA and mostly focused on helping people overcome substance and alcohol abuse, but is helpful for any chronic problem behavior.

One of the best books on REBT generally is by the psychologist who formalized the theory and is _A Guide To Rational Living_:
http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Rational.../dp/0879800429
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Old 08-27-2007, 09:42 PM   #2
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atalanta,

It sounds a lot like cognitive behavioral therapy, which I find quite helpful. Do you know enough about them to compare? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

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Old 08-27-2007, 10:08 PM   #3
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Anne -- atalanta may know more, but I do know that REBT was created by Albert Ellis in the 50s and was one of the early forms of cognitive behavior therapy.

I can really see how something like that would help me. In fact, when I'm "on my game" I think I do this ... just more informally and more haphazardly.
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Old 08-27-2007, 10:29 PM   #4
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It's really an interesting approach! And so useful to get to those "B" statements that are operating behind the scenes and see them for what they are.

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Old 08-27-2007, 10:33 PM   #5
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Atalanta, wow, thanks for sharing this. I've actually done this a few times haphazardly as well, wyllenn. But I think it is helpful that this mental process is "formalized" into a more logical situation because I tend to take a more emotional approach towards eating. Transforming my eating approach from emotional to cognitive could be extremely beneficial!!! I am going to try and use this when those urges come along. Thanks again
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:37 AM   #6
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Yup, Wyllenn has it exactly -- REBT is one branch of cognitive behavior therapy. Albert Ellis passed away last month. He was a prolific writer, mostly saying the same thing over and over (another of his books is : How to Absolutely Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything, Yes, Anything -- but note that some people find his style to be very annoying. Another good book on the subject is Michael Edelstein's "Three Minute Therapy" which is arguably better written). But it really does help to see lots and lots of examples: it's motivating and it helps one to better figure out what the irrational beliefs are. And it's a bit comforting to know we all deal with them.

And also I think that a lot of it is just formalized common sense. However, I personally find the framework very helpful.
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:43 AM   #7
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I definitely need to keep that method in mind, I'm sure it can be really helpful. So far, all I've been doing was to ask myself "why" questions (such as, "why do I want that pastry? What will it bring me?", etc), but it's nothing really structured. I guess I'll try that next time I get such a craving.
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:50 AM   #8
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atalanta -- Did you stumble on REBT, or have someone recommend it specifically for weight loss? (or was it something else?)

And I so agree its' helpful to see how we all deal with the same kinds of issues! That's why I love this place so much!!
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Old 08-28-2007, 01:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wyllenn View Post
atalanta -- Did you stumble on REBT, or have someone recommend it specifically for weight loss? (or was it something else?)

And I so agree its' helpful to see how we all deal with the same kinds of issues! That's why I love this place so much!!
About 8 years ago I went to a vegetarian potluck that had a speaker, Michael Edelstein. He gave a quick summary of REBT, the ABC technique and suggested that irrational beliefs generally fall into 3 categories: believing that we should be other than we are, believing that others should be other than they are, or that life should be other than it is. And that making these things be AWFUL rather than preferences can make us miserable.

I thought about the things in life that made me miserable and sure enough ... I was unhappy because so-and-so shouldn't act the way they did, or because I thought I should be more perfect, etc. I was intrigued, read his book and then lots of Ellis. Using the techniques really made a positive difference in my life. It wasn't until 3 years after that that I successfully applied it to weight loss.
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Old 08-28-2007, 01:34 AM   #10
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Interesting, I haven't yet found a good book with a strong focus on REBT/cognitive techniques wrt to weight loss. Ellis had one decades ago, but I didn't think it was very good. I had high hopes for the "Beck Diet Solution", which promised to be a cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) approach, but that too was a disappointment.

One of the things I really like about REBT and cognitive techniques is that they recognize our individuality -- encouraging you to work on the specific behaviors you decide you want to change, to find your own specific irrational beliefs and to find your own, specific new effective rational beliefs. There is a lot of focus on you figuring out things for yourself and designing your specific plan of action.

The Beck book was a disappointment because it didn't do this. It seemed to assume that the challenges the author faced were the ones you do and to repeatedly asserted that it was important you do ALL the things she said (despite some token words in the other direction about not viewing things as all-or-nothing). I'm sorry Dr. Beck, one of your challenges may have been eating while standing but that isn't something that is a contributor to my overeating. And while I do need to journal my food, I don't need to do it a day in advance. And no, I'm not in denial about this. It was also annoying the number of times it refered to itself, continually asserting that you were on the "Beck Diet". To me this the antithesis of self-driven, self-designed cognitive behavior change. Give me the tools, give me examples, and I'll fly on my own, you don't need to chart the flight path.

Oops, that got a little ranty. There are some good things in the book. I guess my strong disappointment comes partly from wishing that one of the few CBT-centered weight loss books were better.
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Old 08-28-2007, 07:20 AM   #11
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I think it's a great technique to incorporate into ones life. And I'm definitely going to try it myself.

I've actually started reading the Beck Diet Solution. I'm not up to the journaling portion and at this stage of my game, I don't think I'll need to follow it. But I had heard about it and was curious. I'm only about 50 pages in, from what I can see it does teach some useful tools. Perhaps a bit watered down though from REBT.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:15 AM   #12
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atalanta -- Thanks for the background and the info. You know... there could be a market for a book yourself! You seem to have the writing skills for it!
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:21 AM   #13
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Hmmm, it seems like I was reading a CBT-based weight loss book, when I became pregnant last time and subsequently put it away. Lemme go look...

Here it is: The Rules of "Normal" Eating by Karen Koenig. I didn't get far enough in it to see if it was helpful. I'll pick it up and try again, well, just as soon as I finish the latest vampire murder mystery I'm reading. It looked like CBT, talking about irrational beliefs, with the though/response column format, with some ideas about what beliefs people have about food. It seemed to be one of those books where you have to actually think and find your own answers, so isn't likely to go flying off the shelves in our quick-fix world.

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Old 08-28-2007, 10:01 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atalanta View Post
Interesting, I haven't yet found a good book with a strong focus on REBT/cognitive techniques wrt to weight loss.
Taming the Feast Beast by Jack Trimpey is an REBT-based weight-loss-oriented book. I read it years ago but I don't remember if I thought it was good.

I HAVE utilized REBT successfully in the past for other things, though.

Doh! I'm not a maintainer and I keep posting in the forum! Darn these interesting topics. Sorry, I hope you guys don't mind!
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:06 AM   #15
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Silly, Amy! Everyone is welcome here!! In fact, I think it's important everyone think about maintenance early on!!!!
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