Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours – The ABC Model

As humans, we all have various thoughts, feelings and behaviours in response to situations, interactions with others and other experiences we have during the day. These thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact and influence one another. Most of us are unaware of these interactions. Thoughts are often the hardest to identify, given their abstract nature. You cannot touch or see them, and different people experience thoughts in different ways. Some people experience thoughts as words and others see images. Because thoughts are so hard to identify, we often fail to recognise the important role they play in the way we feel and behave. People often assume that events lead directly to emotional responses (e.g., losing a final = sadness/frustration). This presumption is important because it leads people to believe that they have no influence over the way they think, feel or behave. In reality, the way someone thinks about or evaluates (B) their environment (A) is important because it helps to explain their emotional response and behaviour (C). That is, thoughts intervene between A and C. (e.g., losing a final = “I’m terrible at this sport” = frustration/punch teammate). This explains why two people might have a very different emotional response to the same event. It’s because they think about the event differently. Using the above example of losing a grand final, while one player might think “I’m terrible at this sport” and this leads them to feel frustrated and punch a teammate, another player in the same team might think “I played really well, the other team were just too good” and therefore might feel better about losing and congratulate the other team. So people can respond differently to the same situation. Their emotional response and behaviour (C) is related to the way they think or interpret (B) any given situation or event (A). This model is called the ABC model: A = Activating Event B = Beliefs C = Consequences - emotional and behavioural Looking at this model of how thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact and influence one another, it becomes clear that while we often don’t have much control over the activating event, we do have control over how we choose to interpret it (B) and how we respond (C). Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are two types of psychological therapy that provide tools, or techniques to deal with thinking, feeling and how we behave. See CBT and ACT.

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