The irrational beliefs of Aaron Beck

The irrational beliefs of Aaron Beck

According to Cognitive Theory postulated by psychologist Aaron Beck, people suffer because of the personal interpretation they make about the events and not because of the events themselves.


  • 1 Beck's irrational thoughts
  • 2 Irrationality is something human
  • 3 Irrational vs. rational thoughts
  • 4 Rational beliefs, how they are
  • 5 How to eliminate our irrational thoughts

Beck's irrational thoughts

For Beck there are some general assumptions on which certain irrational beliefs that generate discomfort and depressive thoughts, and are the following:

  • Rules of conduct: For example, think: "I always have to act correctly."
  • Basic assumptions: Like: "If I'm wrong, people won't believe in me anymore."
  • Nuclear beliefs: of the type: "I am incompetent".

According to Beck, these ideas or beliefs influence affective states (and modify them). Some of these ideas are responsible for the genesis of certain psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression.

So that, The development of a disorder is based on cognitive vulnerability and depressive thoughts suffered by the individual. This vulnerability is the result of the operation of certain schemes or patterns of inadequacy, failure or loss.

Such schemes are represented by dysfunctional attitudes and thoughts in the style of "if someone I love does not love me, I am not good enough." and these automatic thoughts that favor the appearance of depressive symptoms use cognitive distortions.

When the individual encounters certain negative events that activate their cognitive vulnerability, generates negative thoughts about himself, the world and the future, even in spite of the existence of contrary evidence.

As a consequence, the negative symptoms that characterize depression appear.

Irrationality is something human

First, we must say that irrational thinking is much more common than we think, in fact everyone has had it at least once. Next we will present what constitutes evidence in favor of the basis of irrationality human:

  • Potentially all humans, including bright and competent people, demonstrate having the main irrational thoughts.
  • All irrational thoughts producing disorders (such as thoughts called absolutists that systematically include words I have to and I must) that have been discovered in our society, have also been found in virtually all social and cultural groups that have been discovered in our society, and have been found in virtually all social and cultural groups that have been studied in History and Anthropology.
  • Many of the irrational behaviors we do, such as “leaving for tomorrow what we can do today” or the lack of self-discipline, go against the teachings of our parents, friends and the media.
  • Humans (even intelligent and bright people) once abandoned and overcome irrationalities, adopt new ones.
  • People who oppose various types of irrational behaviors with all their strength are often prey to these same irrationalities.. There are atheists and agnostics who preach deeply religious philosophies and there are deeply religious individuals acting immorally.
  • Realizing irrational thoughts and behaviors helps only partially change them. For example, there are people who know that drinking alcohol in large quantities is harmful, but knowing it does not necessarily lead them to refrain from drinking.
  • Humans often fall back on irrational habits and behavior patterns, even if we have worked hard to overcome them.
  • People often find it easier to learn self-destructive behaviors than self-assessment behaviors.. In fact, there are usually no problems to eat more than the bill, but to follow a simple diet.
  • Psychotherapists who should be a good model of rationality for their patients often act irrationally in their personal and professional lives.
  • People often deceive themselves by believing that some negative experiences (divorce, stress and other misfortunes) will not happen to them.

Irrational vs. rational thoughts

Here is a table with some irrational thoughts and their rational opposites:

It's awful scaryIt is a setback
I can not stand itI can tolerate what I don't like
I am a stupidMy behavior was stupid
He is a jerkIt is not perfect
This should not happen.This happens because it is part of life.
Has no rightYou have the right to do what you think, although I would prefer it not to be so
I must be condemnedIt was my fault and deserves sanction but I don't have to be convicted
I need him (her) to do thatI want / wish / would prefer that he (she) do that, but I don't necessarily have to get it
Everything always goes wrongSometimes, maybe frequently, things go wrong
Every time I try, I failSometimes failure
Nothing worksThings fail more often than I would like
This is all my lifeThis is an important part of my life.
This should be easier.I wish it were easier but, often, what suits me is difficult to achieve
I should have done betterI would rather have done better, but I did what I could at that moment
I'm a failureI am a person who sometimes fails

Rational beliefs, how they are

RATIONAL BELIEFS are evaluative cognitions of each person and with a sense of preferential type (although not absolute). They are expressed in the form of "I would like to," "I would like to," "I would not like," "I would prefer," "I would like." The Positive feelings of pleasure or satisfaction are experienced when people get what they want, Conversely, negative feelings of displeasure and dissatisfaction (eg sadness, worry, pain, disgust) they are experienced when what is desired is not achieved. These negative feelings (whose strength is closely related to the importance of desire) are considered as appropriate responses to negative events that may have occurred, but do not interfere in the pursuit of new goals or purposes. These BELIEFS are RATIONAL for two aspects: 1st because they are relative and 2nd because they do not prevent the achievement of basic objectives and purposes.

How to eliminate our irrational thoughts

Irrational thoughts do not bloom from nothing. There is a family system, a story, including a genetics that have generated them. But at this moment it is useful to be able to detect them and work on them.

To achieve a real philosophical change in this regard, we have to do the following:

  1. We figure out that it is we who create, to a large extent, our own psychological disturbances and that, although environmental conditions may contribute to our problems, they have, in general, a secondary consideration in the process of change.
  2. Clearly recognize that we have the ability to modify in a significant way these disturbances.
  3. Understand that emotional and behavioral disturbances come largely from irrational, dogmatic and absolutist beliefs.
  4. Discover our irrational beliefs and discriminate between them and their rational alternatives.
  5. Question these beliefs irrational using the logical-empirical methods of science.
  6. Work in the attempt to internalize our new beliefs rational, using cognitive change methods.
  7. Continue this process to refute irrational ideas and use methods of change for the rest of our lives.
Related tests
  • Depression test
  • Goldberg depression test
  • Self-knowledge test
  • how do others see you?
  • Sensitivity test (PAS)
  • Character test