In the last blog, “Why do you feel that way?” (August 27, 2020), I introduced you to a foundational emotional management model. I promised to provide you with a few illustrations of how you can use it.
Before drawing several pictures of defensive feelings, which can quickly become destructive, here are a few facts:
First, the “ABC Method” is valid for various neurological, psychological, and even theological perspectives.
Second, we categorize it as a cognitive model because it highlights how our thoughts (i.e., cognitions) affect our feelings and behaviors.
Third, it is also a foundational tool used in what we call Cognitive Restructuring. That is a way of saying, it is a highly useful tool for changing (i.e., restructuring) our thoughts.
ABC stands for Activator or Adversity, Belief, and Consequence.
Any number of situations, usually adverse, can lead to a response or reaction mechanism within us.
The response or reaction we make, which we label as the consequence, is mostly a result of our beliefs about the situation.
To underscore it, feelings and actions, the consequence, arise from our beliefs about events, not the events themselves.
The range of potential activators is as limitless as the experiences of life. An activator is anything that sets you off emotionally. You may have a good idea of the emotional triggers that are most challenging for you.
If you are not sure, the following list will give you some ideas. They can stimulate your thinking and help you recognize your most challenging situations. (The list seems long, so you may glance at a few items and move to the end of the list):
- Loss of a job
- Start of a new career or promotion
- End of a relationship
- Beginning of a relationship
- Death of a person close to you
- Birth of a baby
- Running out of gas
- Arriving late for an appointment
- Arriving early for an appointment
- Missing an appointment
- Computer or other tech problems
- Burning dinner
- Dinner at an elegant restaurant with a special person
- Falling in love
- Falling out of love
- Spilling a drink on your outfit
- Losing weight
- Gaining weight
- Receiving bad news from a medical test
- Receiving good news from a medical test
- Losing money in the stock market
- Making money in the stock market
- A stubborn child
- A cooperative child
- A pen that runs out of ink
- An upset customer
- A happy customer
- Conflict in personal or professional life
- Too much to do
- Too many demands
- Nothing to do
- Time on your hands
- A wonderful vacation
- A horrendous vacation
- A conflict-averse leader
- An incompetent team member
- Lying or being lied to
This list is long to include in a blog. (As I suggested, you probably skipped most, if not all, of it.). But compared to the number of infinite possibilities, this is very short and selective.
Don’t expect or try to see the examples in your life if they are not there. Instead, review the list several times to see if it helps you recognize situations you find most challenging and rob you of resilience.
You notice that the triggers include events we might consider being positive and negative. They come in both forms.
Many wonderful experiences can trigger devastating emotions. I remember countless high potential executives I coached who were promoted to the C-suite in their companies (e.g., CEO, COO, CTO, etc.). The otherwise great opportunity and healthy challenge resulted in fear, anger, frustration, self-doubt, and self-loathing.
On a more everyday level, I have worked with many middle-aged people who meet the person of their dreams and commit to marriage. Unfortunately, as the wedding day approaches, they drown in anxiety, fear, etc. Sometimes, the emotional rollercoaster is so overwhelming they call off the wedding. A few never found their way to the marriage altar.
Let’s turn the page to the beliefs that lead to debilitating—even harmful—emotions. As with the activators, the list of beliefs is infinite.
Surprisingly, most of them fall into two categories: First, beliefs we are being threatened. Second, beliefs that our rights are being violated.
Before unpacking those two categories and exploring their practical implications, I would ask you to use the list above to pinpoint the tripwires in your life. What are the situations that trigger you into negative emotions?
Make your list and look beneath the surface. See if the triggers have to do with believing the situation is threatening you or violating your rights.
In the next blog in this series, we will investigate examples of situations that can flow into beliefs about being threatened or having our rights violated.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” Do you know how that statement ends? Hamlet added, “To me, it is a poison.” Amazing!
Be safe and courageous,
(from Between the Two Horizons)
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