Rational Emotive Imagery

In their pamphlet, Techniques for Using Rational-Emotive Imagery (REI), Maultsby, M.C., Jr., & Ellis, A. New York: Institute for Rational Living, 1974., Maultsby and Ellis show a simple yet very effective way to eliminate emotional disturbance through your ability to imagine.

Picture a bad event clearly. One that has either already happened or that you believe likely to happen. Take your time. Fill in the details. Visualize the people involved, hear them talk, describe the environment, let the situation happen in your mind. Feel the emotions; you can do it. Keep imagining until the emotions are as disturbed as you can get them.

After a minute or two, change your emotions from disturbed to merely unpleasant. For example, from depressed to sad. How did you do it? If you changed the facts of the matter, you noticed that when the event is different you will feel differently. Why? It is because you think differently about different facts. Check it out. Get into your disturbance with the correct facts. Once done, live with the image a minute or two. Now, change your emotions without changing any relevant factual material. You can do it. Take your time. Once you have it, reflect on how you did it. You changed the things you thought about the event. Its the thinking that causes the emotions.

This is not to say the event is good, the other fellow was right, or that you deserved what you got. It is only to show that how you feel emotionally is a result of your thinking, not of the event or the other person.

A person about to confront a spouse in a child custody matter in court may feel disturbed. When anxiety threatens his ability to function in his best interest, he may try the following:

Imagine you are in court. Picture the most humiliating set of occurrences. Now add these: 1. You break into tears; 2. Once everyone sees you and your opponent begins to sneer, you urinate on yourself; 3. Now that everyone is laughing and the judge is glaring at you; 4. You crawl under the table to cry. Now you escalate on your own one more and greater awful, catastrophic thing. This image carries the anxiety provoking beliefs to their logical craziest point. Usually this ridiculous state is disputation enough.

What are you feeling? What are you thinking that causes the feeling? It is probably one of The Big Five Crazy Beliefs.

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