Dr. Kevin Vost | Catholicism, Fitness & Psychology
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Kevin Vost is the author of more than a dozen books with more in press, bringing his knowledge of classical Greco-Roman and medieval scholastic philosophy, modern cognitive psychology, and High Intensity Strength Training to bear on issues of Catholic catechetics, apologetics, saint’s biographies, spiritual growth, and physical fitness. He’s also written about the links between Stoicism and Christianity in his book, The Porch and the Cross.
Dr Vost holds a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) degree from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago with internship and dissertation work at the SIU School of Medicine’s Alzheimer Center’s Memory and Aging Clinic. He has taught psychology and gerontology (the scientific study of old age) at Aquinas College, the University of Illinois, MacMurray College, and Lincoln Land Community College. Kevin has also served as a research review committee member for American Mensa, a society promoting the scientific study of human intelligence, and as an advisory board member for the International Association of Resistance Trainers, an organization that certifies personal fitness trainers.
- Albert Ellis was a psychotherapist who was trained in psychoanalysis, mostly influenced by Sigmund Freud.
- The key idea of this type of therapy was that if you were suffering as an adult then it most likely had to do with something that happened to you as a child. The psychotherapist would try to tap into your unconscious mind and learn about your dreams/childhood memories so that they can get to the root of your problem. The focus was very much on externals, as in the things that happened in your outer world.
- In the field of psychology, the behaviourists held most of the sway at this time. People like Ivan Pavlov (known for his dog salivation experiment), John Watson, and B. F. Skinner were popular for their work, and as such the view was very much on the outer world and how that affects our inner world.
- This view of psychology has held its weight in our modern culture as we often attribute our negative feelings and responses to external events, touting phrases like, “You made me angry,” or, “I’m scared because of (x)”. It’s a game of stimulus and response.
- Ellis took the view (based on Epictetus’ works) that although we absolutely are influenced by childhood trauma and external events, it’s actually what we keep on telling ourselves about those events that makes the biggest difference in how we feel and act. Therefore, if you can train yourself to look at the situation differently and to tell yourself a different story then you can remove a lot of that trauma.
- Ellis uses the ABC model for understanding how to change the way we feel about external events. He gives the following example: You’re on a bus and a heavy man treads on your toe while passing by. He says nothing, and simply sits down, and now you’re left with a throbbing toe. With the standard “stimulus-response” model it would be seen that you’ve had the stimulus (man standing on your toe) and that this will lead to your response (whatever it is). Ellis changes this and uses the following formula to help the person who was harmed:
- Stands for “Activating Event”. This is when the man stands on your toe.
- Stands for “Belief”. This is the story that you tell yourself about what happened. E.g. “What an arsehole,” or “Maybe he’s blind and he simply didn’t see my foot.”
- Stands for “Consequence”. This is your reaction to the event. For example, being mad and saying something or dealing with your pain quietly.
Ellis then adds the following to the formula after (B):
(D) Stands for “Dispute”, meaning that you can dispute your initial belief about the situation. Maybe it’s not as bad as you think?
(E) Stands for a new “Emotional Response” once you’ve reevaluated your initial perceptions and beliefs about the situation.
- As you can see, this whole process is based around the theory that we can change our perceptions and tell ourselves different stories about the events in our lives, which will lead to better responses and therefore better outcomes.
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