Many times I tell my clients that it’s not the things that actually happen to us that upset us; it’s what we tell ourselves about those events.  I often use the following diagram developed by Dr. Albert Ellis to help folks get a visual of what is happening in their thought life.


A” stands for the actual event, what really happened.  Let’s say you hear about a party or some other event and you are not invited.  “B” is your belief, what you tell yourself.  You might think, “Everyone is invited except me.  There is something wrong with me.  No one cares about me.”  “C” is the consequence of those thoughts.  You can imagine how that way of thinking  would make you feel: depressed, unloved, and ashamed.  Here is how that looks in diagram form:

A” Actual event = uninvited > “B” Belief = I am unlovable > “C” Consequence = depression

You can use this diagram with almost any event and feeling.  My favorite to use is a common event, that I confess, happens to me sometimes:

A” = Someone pulls in front of me in traffic. > “B” = “That jerk just cut me off!” > “C” = anger

I am letting my thoughts control my feelings.   The result is a bad mood that might last even after I get out of traffic.  I have learned to push the rewind button and ask myself what the truth is in the situation.

A”  = Someone pulls in front of me in traffic. > “B” = “He is just trying to get somewhere, same as me.  He is not doing it to me.  I am not even on his radar.” > “C” = I have forgotten about it by the time I get to the next stoplight.  Feeling calm.

This is an example of the cognitive therapy that I do with clients.  I help them see their situation in a different perspective.  There is a wonderful book that I highly recommend called, Telling Yourself the Truth.  Your wrong thinking may be making you unhappy.  Give the A>B>C method a try.

Author: Fran Carona, Ph.D.

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and licensed clinical psychologist.

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