A famous psychotherapist named Albert Ellis discovered that many of his patients said things to themselves that contributed to their problems, especially to their anxiety. It was their irrational beliefs (beliefs not based on the facts or reality) that were contributing to strong emotional reactions and negative behaviors and causing them to feel anxiety. By helping his patients think in a more rational way their anxiety was eliminated or reduced. Ellis created a useful explanation of this mental and emotional sequence, and called it the A-B-C method:
A-Activating Event. Something that triggers the whole sequence. It could be
something inside our minds or bodies, or it could be in our environment.
B-Belief. These are the thoughts we have regarding the activating event.
C-Consequences. This is what happens as a result of A and B.
The following is an example of a sequence of thinking:
A-Activating Event. While taking a difficult test a student begins to feel physically tense.
B-Belief. When I feel this way I always get into trouble, and I can’t stop it.
C-Consequences. The student gets a full blown anxiety attack and goes completely blank.
Two students experiencing the same activating event can interpret that situation in two different ways:
A-Activating Event. A teacher assigns a major research paper for the class to
complete in one month.
B-Belief. Student #1: I am never able to get things done on time,
I’ll probably fail again (irrational).
Student #2: That is a difficult assignment that will be hard and will require
a lot of preparation. (rational)
C-Consequences. Student #1: Begins to procrastinate.
Student #2: Starts making an outline.
Now try out the ABC’s yourself. Complete the following:
A-Activating Event. You are taking a test and your mind starts going blank.
B-Beliefs. What are you thinking or saying to yourself?
C-Consequences. What usually happens when you think this way?