ABC Thinking

Have you ever heard of ABC thinking?

About two months ago, we were having some conflict with a friend in Kids Club. So, I began walking this amazing friend through something I learned while in counseling: ABC thinking and the 6 ways we distort reality.

I had not heard of ABC thinking or these distortions before meeting with a counselor a few years back. In many ways, I believe I paid this counselor to disciple me. My life is forever different thanks to working with him for over 2 years.

So, what is ABC thinking? It looks like this:

  1. A is an event.
  2. B is what we think about.
  3. C is our reaction or response.

I lived most of my life going from A to C, without stopping for B. You punch me, I hit you would be an example. It is a reaction, not a response. By introducing B in to the steps, you train yourself to stop, listen (to yourself and to the other person), and then decide what to do (the response). The 6 distortions of reality I mentioned earlier are helpful tools to help you process during the B step.

Those distortions are:

  1. Magnification/Minimization (making a mountain our of a mole hill, or vis-versa)
  2. Personalization (making things about you that are not)
  3. Polarization (taking things that are grey and making them black/white)
  4. Over-generalization (predicting the future, based on an event, negatively)
  5. Selective Abstraction (take specific parts of something and define everything by it)
  6. Emotional Reasoning (making things turn or false based on how you feel about it)

This friend and I started meeting most days for two weeks. We talked about the distortions, and as homework they would go home and write down actual things that happened, and then put them in to the ABC model. The next time we met we would talk about them.

My friend began to see how the distortions were affecting their thinking, and thus the response/reaction to whatever they faced. For example, I struggle with personalization, and left unchecked I can easily take something personally that was never meant to be that way. If someone gives me feedback, and I am not taking my thoughts captive (step B), then I can easily turn very helpful feedback in to a personal attack. And, you can imagine where that would lead.

So, this friend and I began to talk about "putting thoughts in jail" and only letting them out if they are true. Then, once you decide if a thought is true, you determine how to respond.

Well, my friend has implemented this in to their life, and they are teaching me how to do it better! The other day I got a phone call about something they were going through. My friend told me they were working on the ABCs, but couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. We talked about it for a bit, they found some clarity, and then adjusted their response (which required taking responsibility for their part in the situation).

This is a HUGE step for anyone! What will this friend's relationships look like going forward? What will their family life look like? Their parenting? How will my life or your life improve as we take thoughts and put them in jail before we take the next step?

I think we would begin to love people really well!

Will Dowell