How therapy turned out to be my key to consistency as a solo founder
Almost a year ago I started working on Pingr.
I did this because I thought that the idea, although not novel, was very clear. I estimated that the implementation of such a service will take approximately up to 300 hours in total and I will finish it by the end of 2019.
Now, things work never as expected. In the end of the article you’ll find surprising insights about why motivational videos on youtube usually don’t work!
I had to cope with several problems at once:
- I had a hard time at my work, since I had few projects and a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know exact deadlines, when and what I really had to deliver.
- I quickly realised that 300 hours is not enough. Others said that it was such an easy task that it even wasn’t worth working on this since everyone can write some kind of script which will do this. It was somewhat upsetting.
- I suffered general depression and anxiety. Some said that it was just my mood, but I indeed suffered constant pressure and eventually it was hard to go to work.
During the development I was tracking the time I spent on my product. Here is the chart:
I started at the end of September. October was pretty good, I was full of enthusiasm.
But then things went bad and you can see the red arrows which show how little time I spent during November and December. Moreover, these are low-quality hours, I recorded them just for the sake of recording.
Now in the end of November I started seeing a therapist and you can see that I spent 4x more time while still working at my full-time job.
Now, let’s get straight to the method I used and how it helps. It’s called REBT.
What is REBT?
REBT stands for Rational emotive behaviour therapy.
REBT is the first form of CBT, which is quite popular today. I previously saw some articles about CBT, but not that many for REBT.
Let me copy some information from Wiki: REBT posits that people have erroneous beliefs about situations they are involved in, and that these beliefs cause disturbance, but can be disputed with and changed.
So most people know that not things themselves cause depression or stress, but how you think about them. But this doesn’t help, since it’s the same as if you say to your friend “Think positive!”. Of course this wouldn’t work.
REBT is not telling you about what is good and what is bad, about what is positive and what is negative. It tells you how it is in reality and what you can or cannot do about it. It’s really hard to explain everything in one article, so I’ll try to give a brief explanation with an example.
ABC model is the core of REBT.
A is what actually happened. Your car broke, you lost your job, your wife cheated on you.
C is the consequences of the event. Your wife cheated on you and you felt very bad. Your blood pressure went through the roof. You couldn’t pull yourself together.
B is what you think about A. Depending on how you interpret the event, the consequences may be different.
Rational and Irrational Beliefs
Now, REBT has two types of belief: Rational and Irrational.
We should talk about irrational beliefs, since they cause us problems. Thank you Wikipedia again.
REBT proposes four core irrational beliefs:
- Demands: The tendency to demand success, fair treatment, and respect (e.g., I must be treated fairly).
- Awfulizing: The tendency to consider adverse events as awful or terrible (e.g., Its awful when I am disrespected).
- Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT): The belief that one could not stand or tolerate adversity (e.g., I cannot stand being treated unfairly).
- Depreciation: The belief that one event reflects the person as a whole (e.g., When I fail it shows that I am a complete failure).
The first one is the main one, kind of “core belief”.
In a nutshell, REBT states that if you have unhealthy emotion (which means that it’s way too overwhelming, e.g it’s not a bad mood — it’s devastating mood, depression, dismal mood) than you have an irrational demand (or some other irrational beliefs but usually it’s a demand).
The demand eventually turns into severe frustration. Let’s see some examples of irrational demands
- John must not behave this way, it’s not serious
- I have to do this project, now or never!
- Jane has to treat me well, have I done something bad to her?
- This guy must not be so rude, isn’t it obvious!
When you demand from yourself or others anything it will lead to endless stress and anxiety
Okay, imagine two students, John and Bob. Both took exams, and both got bad grades. John suffered serious anxiety, while Bob was okay.
This proves that it’s not the Activating Event (A) that causes bad mood, rather our Beliefs (B) causes this. Because both students had the same A, but the C was different.
While John thought that under any condition he had to get a perfect grade, Bob was thinking in a more rational way.
Which way? Something like this: “I really really want to get a good grade. But I don’t have to. There is no universal law which states this, people fail and that’s okay. If I get a bad grade, I’ll try again, since I want a good one”.
Okay, it’s not necessary that they literally thought in this way, but the idea is that the demand is not rational.
In order to reduce anxiety and depression you should do the following (usually with your therapist, it’s pretty hard to work on this on your own. If you don’t have the opportunity to work with a therapist, you’d could consider classical CBT techniques but you can try REBT too).
- When you feel bad, try to write down what you think at the moment (google “automatic thoughts”).
- Try to make A-B-C sequence. What happened (literally, like the wife cheated on you) is “A”. “C” is how you feel, your physical conditions, your mood.
- Then try to write down irrational beliefs. In this case it would be “My wife shouldn’t have cheated on me”.
- Next, the main thing is DISPUTE. Dispute is what the therapist is going to do most with you. He’ll ask some questions which you have to answer. The aim of the dispute is to reduce the power of your irrational belief, make it more rational which will reduce the bad mood.
So we added Dispute which is “D”. So it’s easy as that A — B — C — D.
Something happened (A). You think that it shouldn’t (B). You feed bad (C). You have to have a dispute about irrational beliefs (D).
As a result your B changes (not completely but at some degree) and you feel better.
Exclusive information 👈
My doctor gave me a number of questions for disputes which are divided in three categories. You can ask your friend to ask them when you’re disputing your irrational beliefs.
There are three types of arguments.
- Why have I decided that this guy should treat me well? On what account/grounds?
- Are there any laws in university which do not allow him to do this?
- Are there any moral laws that do not allow him to do this?
- Even if there are, why can’t he break them?
- Is this a common way for him to behave?
- What reasons might he have to behave this way?
1. Why does it follow, from the fact that I don’t like him, that he must not act like this?
2. Do I make myself into a god whose desires must be fulfilled by others?
3. Can I manage people’s behaviour?
4. What determines other people’s behaviour ?
- What is the use of this belief?
- How does it affect my behaviour and mood?
- How does it affect my goals and personal values?
How did I apply REBT in my case?
When I did not succeed in implementing a feature for Pingr I felt bad because I thought that I had to do this feature.
When I was wasting my time I thought that I shouldn’t waste my time.
So these are irrational beliefs which I had. Lets create an A-B-C sequence for the second belief.
A — I looked at my watch and saw that it was already late
C — I suddenly felt very bad and depressed
B — “I shouldn’t waste my time!”
Now, which questions my doctor asked me:
- Is it possible not to waste your time?
- What do you mean by wasting your time?
- Do people waste their time? Is it a common thing?
- You don’t like the fact that you wasted your time. Why does it follow from the fact that you don’t like it that you shouldn’t do it?
- How do you feel when you think that you shouldn’t waste your time?
- How did it affect your mood?
- Do you make any use of this belief?
- Does thinking like this help you achieve your goals?
After this dispute my belief turned from “I shouldn’t waste my time” to “I can waste my time, though I don’t like it, and I really want to be productive. However, people tend to procrastinate, tend to distract, and it’s impossible to be focused all the time. If I wasted my time, it’s okay, I will try to catch up with my product, but I’m human after all. This is how we, people, behave”
This is of course a short explanation and I haven’t expressed everything I wanted to. The aim was to tell you that REBT exists and it has much more techniques to learn and it is proven to be effective.
Why motivational movies don’t work?
Because they are full of demands. Like, “You have to do this!”, “You will not get another chance!”, “Now or never!”. These are examples of irrational beliefs and in case you fail you’ll get into the trap.
They just don’t give you any chance at all. Basic advice here would be to replace “have to” to “want to”: “I want to do this!” instead of “I have to do this”.
If you want to do something but you understand that there is no law which tells that you have to do this, then there is high probability that you’ll feel okay.
Thank you, Victor