Where does your anger, fear, and guilt originate?
Sometimes such emotions are appropriate, even necessary. But not always.
Such powerful emotions seem to have a life of their own. Haven’t you asked yourself at times, “Why do I feel like this?” It is as if you are a victim of your own emotions.
The odds are you are familiar with the sensation. Sometimes it is hard enough to manage our thoughts. Trying to do the same with our emotions seems like a pointless exercise, an impossible battle to win.
But it is not. To a significant degree, we can control our emotional responses to adversity.
As we develop that capacity, everything about life will improve for us and those around us.
We can approach emotional control from multiple directions. All of them come under the umbrella term of cognitive restructuring. It covers an array of insights, strategies, and tactics we can use to manage our thoughts and feelings.
Though we derive cognitive restructuring techniques from decades of ongoing neurological and psychological research, we can express the sophisticated tools in terms easy to understand and apply.
A primary example is the “ABC Method.” You will find that this technique is simple to grasp and use.
“A” stands for “Activator” or “Adversity.” Between the two, the most widely used term is “Activator.” It refers to any person, event, or thing that functions like a tripwire. It is comparable to the first domino that falls, leading to a succession of other reactions.
“Adversity” has become more common in recent years with a growing recognition of the need for resilience. Everyday life is full of challenges for which we need resilience, fortitude, or inner strength. Adversity is the term that captures those challenges.
It includes such events as losing a job, the onset of a disease, ending a relationship, the angry attack of another person, etc.
The “B” in the “ABC Method” stands for “Belief.” That is a way of referring to what we think or believe when adversity comes into our pathway.
It comprises what we believe about the adversity. Still, it also involves some ancillary beliefs: “How will it affect me?” “Can I do anything about it?” etc.
The “C” stands for “Consequence.” It is the emotion that seems to happen because an “Adversity” strikes. But that is not accurate. Here is the critical distinction to keep in mind: It is the “Consequence” of our “Belief” about the “Adversity,” not the “Adversity” itself.
As we put the “ABC Method” into play, it positions us to identify the adversity, the belief we have about it, and the emotions that result from it. The critical point is to understand that it is not the adversity per se but our belief about the adversity that determines our emotional state (i.e., the consequence).
Examples will make this model easier to follow. It will be helpful to look at some of those in the next blog. We will also examine the typical beliefs that trigger expected consequences such as anger, guilt, and fear.
In the meantime, I invite you to pay attention to the tripwires that set off your negative responses. A good question to ask is, “What adversity triggered my emotions?”
As you do that, a second question is also important, “What do I believe about the adversity?”
Be safe and courageous,
(from Between the Two Horizons)
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