Rational or Irrational?

Posted on August 30, 2011

How To Tell The Difference

Dr. Philip Tate, author of Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did


Once people learn of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), many want to help themselves with it. But their thinking isn’t as easily discernible as they want, and they become confused about what’s rational and what’s not. Here are some ways to help you know.

First, rational thinking is defined as thinking that helps you achieve your goals. On the other hand, irrational thinking is thinking that easily defeats you.

A criterion that is not indicative of rational thinking is normality. For example, some people think “my thinking is normal; anybody would feel that way”. In REBT, we recognize that most people are irrational at least some of the time, so that “normal” entails some degree of irrationality.

Here is a list that assumes rational thinking:

    • You relate to people mostly in a manner that creates good will and the attainment of
    mutual goals.

    • You manage frustrating situations either by solving your problems or by accepting what you can’t change and then moving on. You accept your problems — those of the past, the present, and those anticipated in the future — as unwanted events to be dealt with constructively.

    • You accept others as fallible, and you choose to relate to them satisfactorily as such.

    • You succeed at attaining your goals most of the time.

    • Your emotions are helpful in solving your problems and seeking your goals.

    • You practically never give up on seeking personal happiness, no matter how difficult life is for you.

    • You fully accept yourself when you fail.

Irrational thinking includes these:

    • You demand that others act as you want.

    • You whine if things don’t go as you want.

    • You damn others for their mistakes.

    • You find pleasure in creating discomfort for others.

    • You focus on shortcomings and mistakes, both yours and others, without finding a way to either correct them or merely accept them and manage them constructively.

    • You feel overly frustrated, shameful, anxious, guilty, or angry.

    • You fail to accept yourself when you are irrational.

Of all these irrationalities, the most important is the last. When you fail to accept that you are a fallible, irrational creature, you more than double your misery, and you fail to eliminate your irrational beliefs, and hence, most of your problems. Similarly, the last rational statement in the first list is probably most important.

PhilipTate. Ph.D., is author of the book titled Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did, which is included in SMART Recovery®’s Suggested Reading List. This article originally appeared in a previous issue of SMART Recovery® News & Views  .

2 thoughts on “Rational or Irrational?

  1. Danny Royal Lautenschlager

    i am so really interested in smart recovery i need contant updates iam so glad for your work i have the relapse smartrecovery and am attending councler meetings inspired by smart recovery however i also have some drug problems also besides alcohol so plese i believe in your program and find alot of hope having not sucsseded at 12 step programs yet so sincerly your Danny Royal Lautenschlager

  2. David Powers

    This is a great quick read of rational approaches to addictive behavior–heck, to life in general. I think I’d add that choosing to be rational and to seek to outgrow irrational behaviors gives us power over our lives and proves that no substance is more powerful than ourselves and our wills. No substance is smarter than a rational human being. Certainly not cunning!

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