Advances in Personality Assessment - Vol. 6

By James N. Butcher; Charles D. Spielberger | Go to book overview

4
Measurement of Irrational Beliefs: A Critical Review

Nerella V. Ramanaiah
Joel R. Heerboth
Thomas R. Schill Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Over the last 2 decades, there has been a great deal of interest in and acceptance of the principles of rational-emotive therapy (RET). The most basic principle of RET is that human emotional and behavioral disturbances largely result from the individual's accepting and acting upon assumptions, premises, and ideas that are essentially irrational in content ( Ellis, 1957, 1962, 1977, 1980; Ellis & Harper, 1961, 1975). According to Ellis' ABC theory of human emotional disturbance, the individual perceives some event at point A, evaluates the event on the basis of his or her own beliefs, values, and goals at point B, and it is faulty evaluative beliefs at point B that ultimately create the emotional disturbances observed at point C.

According to Ellis ( 1962, 1980; Ellis & Harper, 1975), beliefs that contribute to personal happiness are rational, whereas beliefs that sabotage personal happiness are irrational. Rational beliefs are identified on the basis of empirical proofs about the reasonableness of one's evaluations of a given activating experience. Irrational beliefs are characterized by nonempirical premises stated in absolutistic language, which overlook reality in favor of what the individual insists should exist. People are said to be irrational when they elevate sane preferences and desires to absolutistic prescriptions and unconditional imperatives about how the world must be.

The goal of RET is to help clients to accept reality as it is, and to reject their irrational evaluations of reality as nonempirical. More specifically, RET involves the identification of irrational beliefs that produce extreme emotional states such as anxiety, depression, guilt, and so on, and the replacement of these irrational beliefs with more rational views that result in concern, disappointment, and sorrow instead ( Ellis, 1980; Garcia, 1977). The end result of successful

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