In math classes, we are taught that if we approach each new problem in the same step-by-step fashion, we are more likely to arrive at the correct answer to the problem. The same is true when approaching problems in everyday life.
People must be in the right mental and emotional place to function at the levels they are capable of and want to. Too often people aren’t there and don’t know how to get there.
Dr. Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotions
- A stands for an ACTIVATING EVENT.
- B stands for Beliefs, about what happened, others, ourselves, and life
- C stands for Consequences, or what we feel and do as a consequence of what we believe about the event, others, ourselves, and life
Dr. Albert Ellis’ step-by-step approach based on the ABC Theory or Emotions
- A = Activating Event Step 1 or 2
- B = Beliefs (about the event, others, self, and life) Step 3
- C = Consequences (feel, do) Step 1 or 2
- D = Disputing Step 4
- E = Effective Coping Statements Step 5
- Can be real-time, remembered or imagined
- We can start with the ACTIVATING EVENT or the CONSEQUENCES
- The basic question is “What happened?”
- If the feeling is anxiety, the question can be “What are you imagining will happen?”
- This step can be the first or second step
- It’s identifying how you felt and what if anything you did, or might be contemplating doing
- One basic question is “How did you make yourself feel?”
- Another question is “What if anything, did you say or do?”
- A third question can be “Did that make things better or worse?”
- A fourth question can be “What might your mistaken goal have been?” Some common mistaken goals are ATTENTION, POWER AND CONTROL, REVENGE, AVOIDANCE OF FAILURE, and WITHDRAWAL, AVOIDANCE and RELIEF
- It’s also a good time to ask, “What do you really want?” and identify that
- This is the third and most important step
- What you want to identify is what Ellis called Automatic Irrational Beliefs, beliefs that are automatic from prior practice and rehearsal
- David Amen calls them Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs and says people often have ANT problems, and need an ANT eater
- The basic questions are:
- What were you thinking (when you made yourself feel that way and said and did what you did)?
- What was going through your head?
- What were you telling yourself?
- You can brainstorm DEMANDS of others, yourself, or life by combining the verbs in the left column with the appropriate pronouns, depending on what the feeling is. Remember that anger tends to come from making demands of others. Anxiety comes from making demands of self or life before an event. Shame and guilt from making demands of self after a life event. Finally, depression tends to come from making demands of life.
Try it yourself using this Worksheet
- You can brainstorm AWFULIZING by simply adding an EVENT or IMAGINES EVENT to the statements:
- It’s AWFUL that + EVENT
- It’d be AWFUL if + IMAGINED EVENT
- You can brainstorm CAN’T STAND IT-ITIS by adding an EVENT or IMAGINED EVENT to the statements:
- I CAN’T STAND + EVENT
- I COULDN’T STAND + IMAGINED EVENT
- I’D JUST DIE if + IMAGINE EVENT
- You can brainstorm LABELING AND DAMNING beliefs by simply filling in the blanks in he following statements with a derogatory name
- They’re _____ for + BEHAVIOR
- I’m _____ for + BEHAVIOR
- I’d be _____ to + BEHAVIOR
Means challenging and questioning your automatic beliefs. That’s Tool 6. With practice and rehearsal, posing these questions can become automatic and act like grammar check on a computer.
EFFECTIVE COPING STATEMENTS
Things you could think, tell yourself or say out loud that would help you generate a more functional type and amount of emotion.
- You can ask others for ideas, or alternative ways to look at things
- You can create a coping card, using a 3×5 index card and write 3-5 coping statements on it, and carry it with you
We could add three letters to Dr. Ellis five steps
- F can stand for FUNCTIONAL AMOUNT OF EMOTION, which is the goal of this work
- G can stand for GENERATE OPTIONS, what you could say or do
- H can stand for the goals, to be HEALTHIER, HAPPIER and more HOPEFUL
Dr. Paul Hauck created a simple paradigm to remind people of what they four basic options are when they find themselves in a situation they don’t like. Those options are:
- Problem solve and assert yourself
- Tolerate what is happening with disturbance (getting upset)
- Tolerate without disturbance
The best way to assert yourself is always by using I MESSAGES. That’s Tool 8