Although I have been introduced to this therapeutic method through the comprehensive work of late Dr. Albert Ellis—founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)—this approach was originally invented thousands of years ago by various philosophers—some of them Asian, and others Greek and Roman.
First and foremost, don’t worry: Disputing unhealthy ideas and thoughts has nothing to do with a hostile or aggressive method. Very far from that. This therapeutic approach rather consists in comparing what we think—our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs—with reality. As I have pointed out in my article titled How to Identify Our Unhealthy Thoughts and Ideas, reality is purely defined by what actually exists—what is, no more, no less. To sum it up, “disputing” simply consists in questioning our unhealthy ideas and thoughts.
In this regard, here are some useful questions to help ourselves challenging our unhealthy thoughts:
- Where is the evidence to support the existence of this idea?
- Is this idea consistent with reality?
- How can I prove this idea?
- If this idea is true, how can I prove it?
- If this idea is false, how can I prove it?
Let’s face it: When it comes to disputing our thoughts and beliefs, we’d better be demanding with ourselves. As a matter of fact, not only the things we believe most may be false, but the things we particularly find absurd may well be fundamentally true. Finally, what we believe to be uncertain or questionable may be true or false.
Now, let’s assume that we have clearly demonstrated that one of our ideas is unhealthy. The real truth is it will not change much at once… alas, it won’t. Remember: We are most possibly used to thinking this unhealthy idea for years. But how do we change a habit, regardless of its cognitive or behavioral nature? Is it not by replacing it by a different habit? And how do we acquire a different habit? Is it not by repeating the same idea or the same action?
We may have unconsciously made a habit of thinking unhealthy thoughts, but the good news is we can consciously change them by training ourselves—through repetition and demonstration—to think healthier ideas and beliefs, and thus raise our level of happiness and improve the quality of our lives.
© Chantal Beaupre 2010