In this article I talk about how you can take responsibility over your feelings and stop being a victim of them. With this simple exercise, coming from cognitive therapy, you can unstuck yourself and choose beliefs and solutions that serve you better.
Do you know those situations when you feel stuck, powerless and maybe even a victim of a specific environment, person or behaviour? Like, if you have a problem with the way your boss treats you, or the way a family member has opinions on what you should do with your life? Those situations that make you trigger and it seems like you can’t prevent yourself from reacting in a specific way or feeling what you feel – and blaming yourself later.
Feeling controlled by your emotions is not fun. And this is why today I want to share with you one of the techniques that I use with my clients to support them in becoming aware about what’s going on inside them. Because awareness is the first step to gain control over the process and choose a different, more useful response.
GROWING AWARENESS WITH THE ABC MODEL OF THINKING
Let’s start saying that difficulties and setbacks are something to be expected in life. We can’t change the fact that they happen, but we can always change our response to them. This is when the ABC model of thinking can help you to become aware of what creates your feeling and reaction to a specific situation. I’ll explain it with a concrete example.
Let’s say that you are faced with a difficult situation at work. You have a new team mate who was hired to work closely with you. Whether you are alone with him or in meetings with the whole team – and your boss – the guy keeps interfering with your work. He keeps mentioning that he could do it better, talking about how he has previous experience on it and start mentioning names and references. You get angry, give him a bad look and try to gain control over your emotions. You think that your colleague is overstepping you and doesn’t respect you. You may find it difficult to trust him and work closely with him every day. You blame your colleague about how he is making you feel angry.
You spend a lot of time and energy complaining about his behaviour with your partner or your friends on Friday evenings, everybody gives you advices, but this doesn’t change the situation. Of course you can try to influence his behaviour, but this is not under your control. So let’s focus on what’s under your control. Here we have:
- A = Adversity (in this case, your colleague interfering with your job)
- B = Beliefs about adversity (he doesn’t respect me, he’s trying to overstep me)
- C = Consequences: emotional and behavioural (getting angry and answering with an aggressive tone of voices, difficulties in working together)
The assumption here is that A is causing C: your colleague → makes you feel angry. This way of thinking implies that events or others make us feel and act in the way that we do. But let’s consider that when A shows up, you could as well react laughing, ignoring A or staying calm and being assertive. And the missing element here is B. This way of thinking implies that our beliefs, rather than events or others, powerfully affect how we feel and act. So here you have the two different responses:
- A → C thinking is likely to keep your feeling trapped, acting like a victim, helpless to direct your own destiny.
- B → C thinking encourages you to take personal responsibility for how you think, feel and act thereby making your the author of your life experiences.
If you want to change the situation, start changing yourself. Here’s what you can do:
- You can discover what is the belief creating the feeling and the reaction (B)
- You can challenge the belief to test if it’s actually true
DISCOVER YOUR BELIEF
Take your notebook. Think about a specific situation when A → C happened.
Can you write everything that happened between A and C? If you struggle, follow this model:
A (the fact or adversity) happens → What do you think about it? What’s your judgement about it? (B) → How do you feel as a consequence? (C) → When feeling this way (f.i. angry), what’s your response like? (C)
CHALLENGE YOUR BELIEF
Now that you are aware of what the limiting belief is, let’s have a closer look at it:
- Is this belief rigid of flexible?
- Is this belief realistic or unrealistic?
- Is this belief helpful or unhelpful?
- Would you teach this belief to others?
Once you test it, it’s time to make a choice. Do you still want to keep that belief for yourself? Otherwise, what belief could best serve you? Can you challenge the new belief using the same set of questions?
This way, it’ll be easy to choose what best serve you, what’s helpful and can actually solve the problem. You get one problem less, develop resilience and flexibility and this sums up to your positive experiences about owning the power of your choices. To me, that’s what a win-win situation looks like!
I hope you enjoy and I am curious to know how this technique helped you in the comments!