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Dumping negative thoughts can be as simple as ABC.

I love discussing positive mindset in my writings and how it has far reaching implications in all aspects of our lives.

Caught in a traffic jam, one person will honk the horn in anger, another will turn on some quiet music and just sit and wait, while still another will be flooded with anxiety about being late. Why do people have different reactions to adversity and stress?

The answer can be found in the iconic research in 1957 led by the famous psychologist Albert Ellis in cognitive therapy. He called it ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs.

It can be simply explained as below:

* A - Activating Event: The objective situation, that is, an event that ultimately leads to some type of high emotional response or negative dysfunctional thinking.

* B - Beliefs: The negative thoughts or limiting beliefs that are being associated with this event.

* C - Consequence: The negative feelings and dysfunctional behaviors that ensued after A.

Consider an example: Mary-Jo has been consciously living a healthy lifestyle for more than two months. She finds out that she wasn’t invited to a party at school, but her friend Janice was invited. Mary-Jo thinks to herself, Janice always gets invited to things; I never do. I am such a loser—nobody likes me. She gets very sad, doesn’t go out jogging, and eats a whole box of candy instead.

So what are the ABCs in this scenario?

Activating event = didn’t get invited to the party to which her friend was invited.

Beliefs = “I am such a loser—nobody likes me.”

Consequences = feels sad, even depressed. Has no motivation to go jogging and eats a whole box of chocolates despite her focus on healthier living.

NOW if you flip the belief and re-frame the whole activating event differently, everything changes. Take Anna, who also doesn’t get invited. However she reacts to the same situation with a bit of positive mindset. She thinks well that’s disappointing, but I actually don’t know Nancy very well. Janice knows her far better. That’s probably why I wasn’t invited. Maybe next time I’ll be invited. She goes for a run, stops at a video store to rent a new comedy, and calls a girlfriend to come and watch it.

This method works by changing one’s beliefs in response to the environment around them, rather than changing the environment around them.

The main takeaway from the ABC Model is that while environmental factors can certainly negatively affect our lives, we do have some control over how we react and respond to those factors. This does not mean that no harm can come to someone with a positive attitude, but it does indicate that a positive attitude can get someone through rough times. A very key character trait to develop.

Sources: [1], [2], [3]

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