In the midst of a challenging situation, do you ever find yourself reacting in a way that doesn’t benefit you, or even makes the matter worse? If so, regaining your self-control could be as easy as ABCDE.
Devised in the 1950’s by psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, the ABCDE Model of Emotional Disturbance is a framework that helps us to review our internal processes by looking at an event through a different lens.
Ellis devised the ABCDE model to segment an emotional disturbance into five clear stages, thereby helping to increase our self-awareness, and allowing us to view the situation with a different perspective.
Deciphering the acronym
The activating event refers to an external occurrence or situation that most of us blame for our problems. In a sporting context, the activating event could include not being selected for a team, being asked to play in a position we don’t like, losing a match, making a mistake and so on.
Our belief is what we tell ourselves about these activating events, which can then lead us to experience either positive or negative emotions. For example, let’s say the coach has just announced the team for the next match, and I’ve not been included. From this announcement (Activating event), I could form the belief that the coach must think I’m a bad player because she’s not picked me.
The consequence relates to the emotion which is formed from our belief. Using the example from above, if I now believe that the coach thinks I’m a bad player, consequently I could suffer any number of self-defeating feelings, such as depression, anxiety, self-pity, anger, and so forth.
The dispute phase is when we challenge any harmful beliefs that relate to the activating event. This involves examining and questioning our rational and irrational thoughts emanating from the activating event – irrational thoughts are those which lack clear evidence, are exaggerated, or are otherwise based on faulty reasoning. By examining and questioning our beliefs, and therefore identifying any irrational and harmful thoughts, we increase our self-awareness, gaining insight into how we tend to think and behave.
The effect alludes to the result of actively examining and disputing our irrational thinking, namely an alternate line of thinking which is based upon a more plausible set of beliefs. By going though this process, and thereby gaining new perspectives, we experience cooler and calmer emotions which allow us to rationally approach the situation, which in turn improves our chances of achieving a more positive outcome.
Epictetus was right
When we encounter an emotionally disturbing situation, most of us begin the ABCDE process at the C stage, therefore experiencing a negative emotion. It is common for us to then make a mental leap to stage A.
In other words, we wrongly assume that the activating events in our lives are the causes of our negative emotions.
Yet this is not the case. It’s our thought process (Belief) that causes the emotional upset.
As the Greek philosopher Epictetus said all those years ago…
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
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