Follow the ABCs to Healthy Emotions

In our last blog, we explored the idea of emotional responsibility and how we, as Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) practitioners, never ask ‘how did that make you feel?’. Rather, we want to know ‘how you felt about that’.

The basic idea is that it is not events or other people that ‘make’ us feel anything. Rather, it is what we believe that leads to us experiencing emotions, thoughts, symptoms and behaviours, be they healthy or unhealthy.

As simple as ABC…

The simple way we explain to all our clients when we begin working together is via the ABC model. This elegantly explains the process through which, more often than not, we actually disturb ourselves. It goes like this…

A: the activating event

This is the ‘something’ that happens. The A can be real or imagined (it’s really happening to you or you are imagining it might), come from the past, present or future (a memory, a real-time event or a worry about the future) and be internal or external (a physical sensation or thought, or something coming from the outside world).

B: our belief about what is happening. 

We can choose to interpret what is happening at A either in a rational, realistic and helpful way, or in an irrational, unrealistic or unhelpful way. How we interpret something influences how we feel or think about it, and often our beliefs can be so familiar and ingrained that we don’t stop to question them (hint – that’s where REBT comes in!) You can find out more about the REBT process and how you can become an accredited therapist with us here.

C: The consequences of our beliefs

These consequences are experienced as behaviours, emotions, action tendencies (what we feel like doing), physical symptoms and thoughts. A healthy belief will lead to healthy emotions such as sadness, concern or disappointment, whereas unhealthy beliefs will provoke unhealthy emotions such as depression, anxiety or hurt.

Here’s an example….

A: Your boss calls you into her office

B: An unhealthy belief of ‘I must be in trouble, I’m not good enough at this job!’

C: The unhealthy consequences of anxiety, shaking hands and an action tendency to run and hide


A: Your boss calls you into her office

B: A healthy belief of ‘I wonder what this could be about? She might have a big project for me.’

C: Healthy consequences of curious concern, no physical symptoms and the behaviour of remembering to bring your notebook and a pen.

Which would you rather experience? 

Of course, moving from one to the other takes work. That’s why Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, said it was simple, but not easy. Commitment, hard work and repetition are all key to making the change, and that’s what we’re here for!

Nick Jones
CBT / REBT Therapist

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