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More In-depth Explanation of the ABC Exercise Steps:
NOTE: It is often is easier to start with the Consequences you are unhappy with, then work back to the A and B understand what they were.
What is an “A”?
(Activating Event)
Something has disturbed you. This disturbance could be from the past, present, or thoughts about the future. These disturbances could be internal or external, real or imagined. It is important to know what actually happened to you, and what you truly observed.
What is a “B”?
(Your beliefs about “A”)
Our beliefs can be helpful or unhelpful, self-enhancing or self-defeating, rational or irrational. This part of the exercise asks you to look closely at your beliefs, and carefully judge them as rational or irrational, helpful or unhelpful. This can be done by understanding some of the common distortions or irrational beliefs many of us have when we’re upset. Here are some irrational “core beliefs” with examples:
Awfulizing: “This is as bad as it can be!” Or having the belief that the worst has happened, or that one event will “automatically” lead to total despair.
Frustration Intolerance: “I just can’t stand this!” Easily frustrated by common disturbances, when we know that it really won’t kill us.
Demandingness: “All of this must go my way!” Having an expectation of absolute control.
Person Rating: “You’re no good, I’m better than you!” Judging others without cause; judging the entire person based on one action.
Entitlement: “I deserve this, the world owes me!” Expecting or demanding special treatment.
There are other common distortions that can disturb our ability to reason things out, but these are the five core irrational beliefs that stand in the way of our ability to make sense of our problems.
What is a “C”?
(Consequences of “B”)
Some consequences of our irrational beliefs can appear as rage, anxiety, depression, or some other strong negative emotion. Consequences can also appear as inappropriate behavior such as drug and alcohol misuse; gambling, sexual, or food addictions; or physical and emotional violence. These emotions and behaviors are the consequences of holding on to our irrational beliefs and acting upon them.
What is a “D”?
(Disputing the irrational beliefs, and adopting more helpful “B’s”)
Here are some important questions to ask yourself when examining your irrational beliefs:
“What is the evidence that my belief is true?”
“Could there be other explanations for what occurred?”
“In what ways are my beliefs helpful or unhelpful?”
“What harm could come from examining other ideas and options?”
“If someone close to me were experiencing this event, what would I tell them to do?”
What is an “E”?
(A new effect, or effective behavior based on your rational beliefs)
Calmly make the effort to change your irrational beliefs about any disturbing events so that you can develop a more rational response to them. If you are successful at examining how you respond to the events that occur in your life, you can reduce the stress and anxiety that results from reacting to events with negative responses and enjoy a more positive relationship with yourself and others.

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