Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 2 - Your ABCs

As I have hammered into your head on a number of occasions (and will continue to do in future posts) there is a connection between the thoughts in our head and the feelings that emerge as a result. This is easy for me to write, especially as I have done so many times by now! But it's much harder to really understand on a deeper level. You must make this connection for yourself and it has to happen experientially.

I'll give you an example of when a realization like this might occur. You and your spouse get in a fight. You believe that he has treated you in a rude way. You think to yourself "Ugh, he makes me so mad!" You begin to give him the cold shoulder and intentionally stay upstairs for the evening, while he remains downstairs watching TV. You begin to sulk and think to yourself how unfair it is that he is enjoynig himself and watching his favorite shows while you are bored and alone in your room. He just makes you feel horrible sometimes! (By the way, I have never had this experience... Oh wait...)

One of the things we are going to try to accomplish throughout this series is to develop a new perspective on situations like the one just described. Rather than blaming someone else for your anger, sulking, boredom and all-around bad night, perhaps there is a way to actually feel okay, despite the fact that you're dealing with a situation that seems to be anything but okay. More on that later though.

We're still at the beginning. Actually identifying yourself when the thought-feeling connection is playing out in your life. So, first thing's first; you need to learn your ABCs.

A - Activating Event
This is the external situation. The fight, for example, between you and your spouse. It could also even be the anticipation of an event (i.e. a phobic person's anticipation of flying) or even simply a memory or image in your mind (perhaps a past event that created strong emotions).

B - Beliefs
These are your perspectives on the world, views of yourself and views of others. These play a hige part in hor you react to the activating event.

C - Consequences
These are the emotions, physical sensations (i.e. symptoms of panic) and/or behaviors that result from the activating event and your personal beliefs.

So here is your first "assignment". You can do this formally on paper or you can just give it some thought. What I encourage you to do is be your own coach and really begin to understand the ABCs.

If you decide to do this formally, it would look something like this:

1) Get some 3 x 5 cards or a small notebook that you can carry around with you.

2) Write the date and list out:
    A: activating event -
    B: belief -
    C: consequences -

3) If you find yourself feeling emotional throughout the day, stop! Pull out the paper and think about what took place when your emotions started heating up.
A - What kind of situation were you in? Did you get in an argument with someone? Were you facing a deadline at work?
       Or did you start thinking about something negative or scary? Are you anticipating a big speaking engagement or assignment that's due soon?

B - What thoughts did you have regarding the situation? Were you thinking "Gosh, this person is irritating" or "I'm never gonna get this finished!" or "I hope I don't screw this up!" etc.

C - What feelings or behaviors ensued?

This is the first step in gaining control of your thoughts! Practice, practice, practice! We'll get into more details later.

See you tomorrow!


  1. This is a great post! I love how clearly you explain this cause/effect, how reaction comes back to our inner line of thinking.

    I've hopped over from Jill Kemerer's place. Love what you've got going here! :)

  2. I just dealt with these feelings this week! I was starting to get all insecure and wishy-washy, and then I stepped back and realized I didn't have to react that way. You spelled it out exactly!