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Picture the scene. I’m standing in line at the Atlanta Airport in the midst of a mob of folks whose flights had been cancelled due to inclement weather. For anyone who travels, this is the ultimate frustration.

As the ticket agents attempted to calm down the edgy travelers you could feel an emotional force field building that resembled the storm outside.   Everyone was agitated, but the reactions polarized into two responses.

One group had varying levels of rage that seemed out of control. Their inflamed language was filled with everything from threats of lawsuits to promises of certain job termination for the agents. They were attacking and marginalizing the very folks that could help them.

The other group – a much smaller group – was also frustrated. Yet in the midst of their displeasure and agitation, they seemed to control their thinking. They were polite and attempted to partner with the agents for the best possible solution – even though it would fall short of their desired outcomes.

What was the difference in their response? It’s as simple as ABCD. The late Dr. Albert Ellis is the father of Rational Emotive Behavior Theory.” It’s a way of modifying and changing your feelings through logical deductive reasoning. It’s about changing your beliefs.

Here’s how the ABCD’s work.

A – stands for Adversity, the Activating Event.

B – stands for Beliefs, usually in the form of silent self-talk. This impacts our thinking and informs our beliefs. The self-talk can be from dated tapes still playing in our head. They are often irrational like “this shouldn’t be happening to me,” as though the Universe was taking orders from us. When we identify these dated tapes we begin to diffuse their power.

C – is the Consequence: anger, frustration, victimhood, and even out of control behavior. This is a result of our Beliefs (B). Adversity (A) is simply the trigger that B interprets which creates C.

D – stands for Dispute; i.e. dispute your irrational beliefs. We debate, dispute, and discard the self-defeating beliefs that give rise to C. This is done by answering the following questions:

  • Where’s the proof? Is there objective, verifiable evidence that supports my belief that the ticket agent is at fault? Is the agent also frustrated over the situation? Am I able to discuss the problem without assigning blame? Can I acknowledge my frustrations and disappointment without being hijacked by my emotions?
  • Are there alternatives? Are there more logical explanations and solutions to the activating event?
  • Can I control my feelings without denying them? We are able to move away from hot feelings to cool feelings. Hot feelings have a spiraling effect on our thoughts and moods. Cool feelings are much less intense. It doesn’t eliminate the unpleasantness of the situation, but it does make it less debilitating and incapacitating.

So how do we cool off the emotions? In How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable Again About Anything – Yes Anything!, are 5 common thinking errors that heat us up.

  1. This is awful” – Tone down the catastrophe. It may be inconvenient, a real hassle, a pain in the neck (and other places), but it’s probably not the end of the world.
  2. I can’t stand it” – But wait. You have in fact stood lots of difficult situations, and will continue to do so. They are a part of life, which has a habit of going on.
  3. “Condemnation and Damnation” – Blaming yourself with “why does this always happen to me”, or “they always do this to me”, is never constructive.
  4. “I’m worthless” – We carry enough load in the best of times without saying, “I’m an utter and complete screw up”, or the showstopper, “I don’t deserve good things.
  5. “Should, Ought, and Must”—When did this world guarantee you a trouble-free existence? Flights get cancelled, and it will happen again. You have, are, and will survive. It’s perfectly fine to wish, want, and desire. Success, approval, and comfort are my preference. But I won’t die without them.

What’s the trap? Frustration and anger creep in when I assume the Universe bends to my will.

“Life should treat me fairly all the time?” That’s not rational.

I ought to succeed at this or I’m a failure.” Are you kidding?

This person must love me back, or I’ll die.” No you won’t.

So the next time you’re turning red, moving the needle on your blood pressure, and spewing out fiery darts while banging your fist on the counter, remember the simplicity of knowing your ABCD’s.

By applying D to B, your response to A changes C.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”     – Shakespear in Hamlet

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