Ellis ABC Model: What is it and how does it describe thoughts?

Everyone has an opinion about themselves or the world around them which, in one way or another, is nothing more than an exaggeration.

Sometimes people go through the drama and we tend to overestimate the weight of certain threats which, well thought out, are just minor inconveniences that we ourselves have helped to pass off as something really scary.

These irrational beliefs are a key element in understanding Ellis’ ABC model, Which tries to explain how people, faced with the same event, can interpret it in such a varied way according to our own cognitions.

If such beliefs are not necessarily pathological, it is true that, taken to the extreme, they can lead to disorders. To learn more about what we mean, let’s see this model, its components and its therapeutic application below.

    Ellis’ ABC model: what is it?

    The ABC model is a theory proposed by cognitive psychotherapist Albert Ellis (1913-2007), who attempts to explain why people, even if they are going through the same event, may develop different responses based on their own beliefs. These beliefs are a fundamental pillar in understanding how a person views the world and how they decide to meet the demands of everyday life.

    The idea behind the model is inspired by a quote from the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “people are not changed by facts, but by what they think about facts”. In other words, it is not the fact itself that positively or negatively affects a person, but the way the individual sees it and treats it.

    Components of this model

    Ellis’ ABC model offers three elements to explain and understand the behavior of an individual and his degree of psychosocial adaptation.

    1. Triggering event

    In the model, by activating event is meant the phenomenon which happens to an individual or that he himself has caused that it triggers a series of problematic thoughts and behaviors.

    It can be a situation external to the individual, such as an accident, the illness of a parent, an argument with another person or something internal to the person, such as a thought, a fantasy, a behavior or emotion of the person.

    It is necessary to understand that in the model the idea is considered that the same event can be perceived very differently by two peopleAnd that the degree to which the same involves some sort of dysfunctional behavior varies greatly from individual to individual.

    2. Belief system

    We understand by belief system (“belief system”) to the whole series of cognitions that make up the way of being and seeing the world of the person.

    In reality, this component includes thoughts, memories, assumptions, inferences, images, norms, values, attitudes, patterns, and other aspects that shape how we perceive both threats and opportunities. These thoughts are usually automatic, Flashing through their minds as if they were lightning and with no conscious control over them.

    Beliefs can be rational or, conversely, irrational. The former, whether positive or negative, contribute to self-agreement.

    however, in the case of irrational beliefs, these are usually based on illogical things or exaggerations. what makes the individual an aspect of his personality or his capacities. They are usually false thoughts, which come from overly demanding inferences, formulated in terms of “should” or “should”.

    They often involve very negative views of oneself, or overly unrealistic self-demands, which can contribute to the person perceiving themselves as unnecessary or worthless.

    This has, therefore, the feeling deep negative emotions associated with depression and anxiety, In addition to encouraging the conduct of harmful behaviors such as drug addiction, assault and suicide.

    3. Consequences

    As the last link in the ABC chain, we have the C of consequences, both emotional and behavioral (“Consequences”). Here is the answer that the individual gives in front of him a certain event being activated and modulated by its own belief system.

    As each person has their own cognitions, the consequences involved in a given activation event vary from individual to individual, being positive for some and negative for others.

    How do disorders form according to this model?

    Based on the components explained above, this model considers that psychological disorders would form inappropriate and dysfunctional thinking style faced with facts which, objectively, are not threatening.

    Thinking irrational thoughts are relatively normal and common. We all have a somewhat negative view of certain aspects of ourselves. The problem comes when it significantly delimits our way of being and deprives us of well-being.

    In most cases, extreme irrational beliefs contribute to the development of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety issues. In turn, these disorders persist due to the person’s own way of thinking.

    Within the theoretical framework of rational emotional theory, which is inspired by Ellis’ ABC model and which the psychotherapist himself has contributed to its theoretical definition, it is argued that there are certain types of ideas or insights behind maintaining pathological irrational thoughts.

    In turn, these disorders persist due to the person’s own way of thinking. The person generally thinks that it is an event that makes them suffer, whereas it is really their way of thinking and perceiving the event itself. Additionally, because their irrational beliefs are rigid and extreme, they are highly unlikely to change.

    On top of that, those whose minds are clouded by this type of cognition they tend to be obsessed with the past, rather than working on the present and the futureThis is what guarantees recovery.

    Relationship and application to rational emotional therapy

    Ellis ‘ABC model is widely applied as part of rational emotional therapy which, although reformulated over the decades, remains firmly anchored in Albert Ellis’ thinking.

    With the model, it is possible to understand why a person behaves in a dysfunctional way in the face of an event and, thus, once they understand their way of thinking, to work on it to modify it in such a way that it is. possible to obtain a better adaptation.

    This is where the therapeutic debate is used. The purpose of this is to overcome the problems that the person shows because of their irrational beliefs when interpreting one or more activating events, which led him to a situation in which self-destructive behaviors and dysfunctional emotions are manifested.

    What the therapist should realize, before beginning to discuss the patient’s dysfunctional cognitions, is to make him see and realize what they are. Once identified, which is not easy, it will be possible to see them holistically and discuss which aspects are real and which are not.

    One way to do this is to, in the event of an event that has caused discomfort to the patient, to make him try to return to the exact moment when the triggering event appeared. Thus, he is led to see which feelings he has started to manifest, judged inappropriate, from what and whether his way of seeing the world further explains his way of seeing the event or is totally and absolutely the fault of the activating event. .

    Once irrational beliefs are detected, a number of questions can be asked in the therapeutic context. examples:

    • Where is the proof that this is really threatening?
    • Is there any law or rule that says it should be seen as you see it?
    • Why do you think it should always be done the same way?
    • How does this way of thinking affect you?

    With these questions it promotes the questioning of the veracity of irrational beliefs. Once debated, it is easier to throw on the floor and get the patient to adopt a tighter thinking style.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Ellis, A. (1991). The ABCs of RET. The Humanist, 51 (1), 19-49.
    • Ellis, A. (1991). The Revised ABCs of Rational Emotional Therapy. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 9 (3), 139-172.

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