Chapter 1 Introduction to BET’RR model
- Chapter 1 Introduction to BET’RR model (transcript)
Are you struggling with stress in your work or in your studies? Do you find yourself challenged by your relationships? Are you, from time to time, having difficulty being your better self?
Hi, I am Dr. Johnben Loy. I am a US-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and I am also the founder and clinical director of Rekindle Therapy Centre and the founding president of the Malaysian Marriage and Family Therapy Association.
Today, I’d like to share with you a very helpful method for managing stress and strong emotions. I developed this method over the years of giving talks where I’ve had to make very complex psychotherapy concepts into simple tools that people can use everyday. I have shared this method in workshops to lawyers, business leaders, university students, and even with mental health professionals. The feedback I’ve received is that the method is easy to remember, easy to use, and quite effective in making a difference if you practice it.
I call this method the BET’RR Way. And I spell the word BETRR as B-E-T-R-R. Each of the letters stands for something. B stands for Body, E is for Emotions, and T is for Thoughts. B, E, and T (that is, body, emotions, and thoughts) represent what I call the plain or the landscape of awareness. In the BET’RR Way, we start off by learning how to cultivate awareness of our B, E, and T: our bodies, our emotions, and our thoughts.
Once we have learned how to be more aware of our internal states, it sets up a proper foundation for us to better able manage what I call the plain or the landscape of action. I denote this landscape of action with two Rs. The first R stands for Reactive, and the second R stands for Responsive. When we are reactive, we react… usually from a state of strong or intense emotions that cloud our judgements. We do or say things that we often regret when look back to it.
In contrast—with the second R—when we are responsive, we are able to tap into our landscape of awareness, take a moment to calm down the negative triggers in our B,E, and T, and then choose to respond in better ways.
So this concept is really quite simple and intuitive. To have better living and relationships, tap into your landscape of awareness of your internal states, and then choose to respond instead react.
Unfortunately, when it comes to making changes in mental health and behavior, what is more easily said is not as easily done. We will need to go into each of these letters of B-E-T and R-R in more depth so that you can fully appreciate every component of the BET’RR Way.
In today’s short podcast, I can only give you a quick overview so that you can have an overall understanding, and maybe even be able to start practicing it. If you’d like for me to cover the BET’RR Way in more detail, reach out to My Psychology and let them know.
So let’s spend a bit more time on each of these letters and then at the end, I’ll give you a “secret” to start making change happen. It’s super easy to do, but most people don’t do it. So making that positive difference is completely up to you!
Earlier, I talked about the landscape of awareness. Imagine living without a mirror for a week. How would you be able to take care of the way you look? How would you put on your make-up, or brush your hair? You’d have to guess, and you’d never be fully sure if everything looks alright.
The same applies to our internal state: without a way for us to look into the interior of our selves, it would also be very difficult to maintain our inner sense of good mental health. And research is clear that having a prolonged and extended state of poor mental health will eventually lead to all kinds of physical illnesses, including a shortened life.
Let’s look at B, our Bodies.
Our brains are connected to our bodies. Did you know that our bodies can respond to our environment even before we are conscious of what is happening? Before we are consciously aware of a dangerous snake slithering next to our feet, we could have a sense of it, and suddenly jump. That split second reactivity is meant to help us survive in the wild. But in our modern daily living, our biology is still wired to produce sudden fight or flight reactions, even to signals that are not actually a physical threat to our lives, like deadlines, traffic jams, family arguments, and so on.
So in order to have good self-awareness, we need to become aware of the signals that our bodies are giving us —the tiredness that we feel, the hunger, and the muscle aches and tensions.
So how do we get to know our bodies, we need to slow down and pay attention to what is going on. A good exercise to promote bodily awareness is to close your eyes and pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. Do this at any time of the day. Get to know what it actually feels like in the body when you’re stressed or worried, compared to when you are relaxed.
Now let’s look at E, our Emotions.
The emotion is really interesting. It’s like a bridge between what the body is sensing and what the mind is thinking. Emotions are like body-mind signals, and we use certain words to describe them: such as mad, sad, glad, or scared. Emotions may come and go, but they provide important signals to us, which we should not ignore, because over time, ignoring these important emotional signals could lead to worse outcomes.
The more words we have to describe what is going on for us in the body and our emotions, the more tools we have to increase self-awareness. Try this: how many different words can you use to express the range of emotions under the broad category of anger?
Here’s a few: Irritated (mild), frustrated – boiling mad, raging (as intense words to represent anger).
When we don’t have the words to describe our emotions, it becomes harder to know what is going on. So the more words we have, the clearer is our mirror to the interior of our selves.
Finally, let us look at T, our Thoughts.
By “thoughts,” I mean reasoning. Why would we need to develop more self-awareness of our thoughts? It’s because our reasoning is influenced by our body and emotion states. For instance, research in the legal system has actually shown that court judges tend to make more lenient decisions in the morning and after a scheduled break – in other words, when they feel better, they make more lenient decisions! Can you imagine that? Court judges! So if we’re in a better mood, we will also judge or think more positively. That’s the nature of who we are.
How we see or think of ourselves is also very important and our core self-beliefs can really affect how we act. For example, if a man grew up not doing well in school, and he was even teased by his father for being not as smart as his brothers, his entire life may be defined by how he sees himself as an unintelligent under-performer. Even if he completed college and did OK, that negative self belief may still be operating within him, and may even lead him to make decisions that are not based on clear, objective reasoning. For example, he may not apply for a job or a promotion because he is afraid that he is not smart enough for the job. Or when he is confronted with more challenging situations that requires for him to use his analytical skills, he may freeze or feel terribly about that challenge. These, I also call “reactions.” But these reactions are a result of much deeper core beliefs about ourselves.
So there you have it. B, E, and T, for the landscape of our awareness. When we have learned to be more self-aware, we can shift our negative reactions into positive responses. How?
Well, I’ve told you that I would share a little secret with you. And here it is. The shift occurs with your breath! That’s right. By taking deep, slow, breaths, we can learn how to calm the body down when we’re triggered or when we’re in a reactive mode. When our bodies start to calm down, the emotions and the thoughts will also have to follow, because the entire Body-Emotion-Thoughts form a system that needs to align and work together. Using your willpower and exercising deep breathing, you signal your brain that your body is more relaxed, and so the mind (that is the thoughts and emotions) can be worked on to choose more positive and more adaptive responses.
So the next time you’re triggered, first take a deep breath. In fact, take as many breaths as you need to. Notice your body calming down. Then, as you continue to breathe, think through your situation with more positivity. After some time, you will also discover that your negative triggered emotions have shifted to a calmer or more positive tone. And finally, you’ll be able to choose a response that would represent your BET’RR self!
Of course there is a lot more to it than what I can cover here today. Learning to be our BET’RR selves is a process and it does take practice. If you’re interested in learning more about the BET’RR Way, reach out to My Psychology and let them know. We’ll be happy to consider more lessons to follow.
Take care and have a BET’RR day!
Dr. Johnben Loy