A thinking model that blows my mind — ABC Model


Do you sometimes regret losing your temper?

Do you envy others’ optimism? Or are you jealous of others’ excellence.

Perhaps you might think: these negative reactions stem from my personality, and personality cannot be changed, so I can only endure the negative emotions they bring.

But what if I told you that it can be changed? Would you believe it?

According to the ABC model in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), by changing your “belief,” you can break free from emotional inertia and regain a sense of control over your emotions.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a psychological therapy aimed at helping individuals change unhealthy thought patterns and behavioral habits to achieve positive emotional and behavioral changes.

The core belief of CBT is that our emotions and behaviors are influenced by our thought patterns and beliefs. Unhealthy thought patterns, such as negative self-evaluation, overgeneralization, and emotional amplification, can lead to negative emotions and maladaptive behavioral responses.

Through cognitive restructuring and behavioral changes, CBT helps individuals identify and change these unhealthy thought patterns, thereby improving emotions and coping strategies.

One common model in CBT is the ABC model.

The ABC model consists of the following three elements:

  • A (Antecedent): External or internal stimuli that trigger problems or distress. These can be specific events, people, thoughts, memories, or physical sensations.
  • B (Belief): The individual’s subjective evaluation, viewpoints, and beliefs about external events. These can be conscious or unconscious and have a significant impact on the individual’s emotions and behaviors.
  • C (Consequence): The emotional and behavioral reactions generated by the individual, including both positive and negative responses. These reactions can either exacerbate problems or distress or help resolve them.

The ABC model suggests that unhealthy emotional and behavioral responses often stem from unhealthy beliefs or cognitions about events. By becoming aware of and changing these unhealthy beliefs, individuals can better cope with emotional distress and problems.

This model challenges the conventional belief that our reactions to events (happiness, sadness, anger) are directly caused by the events themselves. Instead, the ABC model tells us that our feelings originate from our Beliefs.

Since the events (A) that occur often come from external sources and are objectively present, we often cannot change or influence the occurrence of events. Consequently, we tend to immerse ourselves in reactions/emotions (C).

However, we can change our reactions by changing our beliefs.

For example, if I frequently feel envious of talented people around me, I cannot make them less talented. Therefore, the result is either constantly pushing myself or being immersed in negative emotions such as self-blame and regret.

The underlying belief behind this reaction may be that I have been accustomed to the ranking system in school, and I must be in a competitive relationship with others. If someone else is excellent, it means I am not.
But is that really the case? Is this belief the truth?

If I shift my perspective and approach this matter with a new belief — realizing that we are not in a competitive relationship, that others being more talented does not make me worse off, and instead, through daily interaction with this person, I can learn a lot and become excellent myself.

After changing this belief, my feelings of envy become less intense, and my focus shifts from “Why is that person so excellent?” to “What can I learn from them?” The emotions I experience are no longer envy but gratitude and the joy of mutual growth.

My reaction to events stems from my beliefs, and these beliefs can be questioned and even changed.

Of course, changing beliefs and even changing one’s behavioral patterns is challenging but not impossible.

In one episode of “The Tim Ferris Show”, guest Derek Sivers provided a method he practices for changing beliefs.

In fact, the method is straightforward: stacking up evidence.
Once you decide to change a belief, you need to seek evidence that supports this change through various channels.

One good channel is to confide in trusted friends, informing them that you have been contemplating this issue and that you want to develop in this direction. If your friends understand your experiences and can grasp your motivations for change, they might offer additional supporting evidence or similar beliefs. With this “additional” evidence and the support of friends, you can easily begin internalizing this belief.

You can also find numerous pieces of evidence that confirm and support your belief change through other input channels, such as reading related books or listening to relevant podcasts.

At the same time, you need to take action to implement this belief change. It doesn’t have to be a significant change; it can be a small step. However, each step accumulates some momentum, and after some time, the change becomes evident.

There is also an essential mindset: telling yourself to “fake it before you make/believe it.”

Through the ABC model of cognitive-behavioral therapy, we understand that our reactions to events around us ultimately stem from our beliefs.
If this reaction is negative, it may indicate that there is a belief that needs to be changed (because in most cases, we cannot change external events).
Simultaneously, we realize that beliefs can be changed, and we have control over them.

With the belief we want to change and a sense of control over the entire process, we can begin to stack up evidence through various channels and take corresponding, small actions.

Gradually, this belief will be strengthened and internalized, and the actions taken will accumulate momentum. Before you even realize it, this belief has become a part of you, and the things that used to bother you no longer do.

Regaining control over our emotions does not mean avoiding or denying them. On the contrary, it means facing our emotions, seeking the underlying beliefs, and liberating ourselves from adversity by changing those beliefs.

The Tim Ferris Show mentioned in the article: #668 Derek Sivers — The Joys of an Un-Optimized Life, Finding Paths Less Traveled, Creating Tech Independence (and Risks of the Cloud), Taking Giant Leaps, and Picking the Right “Game of Life”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *