Manage your emotions better with the ABC model

“I think, therefore I am,” said Voltaire. So if our thinking is distorted, it affects our lives and those of the people we love. Distorted thinking can show up in many ways, like anger, self pity, etc. Talking yourself out of these self destructive patterns to manage emotions is helpful.

The ABC model

ABC model to manage emotionsHere’s an easy framework to get you started- the ABC model, developed by clinical psychologist Albert Ellis.

A- An Activating experience or event (A1)

-How you processed it in your head. (A2)

B- The Beliefs you have, the judgments after your interpretation of what happened.

C- The Caused emotions and behaviors following these evaluative beliefs.


The ABC model in action

An example of the ABC model, applied to daily life.

A1- Actual event-

A friend hasn’t called me for months.

A2- Inference drawn from event-

She’s indifferent.

B- Beliefs about A

She’s not worthy of being my friend. (Evaluation)

C-Caused reactions

Emotions- Anger

Behavior- Shouting at her when she does call.

Managing emotions with the ABC model

There’s a D and E in the ABC model too, to help us manage our emotions better.

D- Disputing irrational belief

E- New effect or the more effective emotions resulting from thinking more reasonably about the Activating event.

So in our example, we would Dispute B by perhaps pointing out to ourselves that maybe our friend is busy and that’s why she hasn’t called.

That would result in E- the new Effect, where we are more empathetic towards her and ask her what’s going on in her life when she does call. Or better still, we call her ourselves to see how she’s doing.

We often don’t know how we’re thinking about what’s happening to us. With practice, we can learn to keep an eye on ourselves. Cognitively processing incidents will help us manage our reactions to them better.

I’ve talked about the 4 types of problematic thinking in the next blog post.

Now it’s your turn! Think of something which bothered you. How did you process it? Which of your beliefs changed? How did you react?

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