The A-C Connection
The ABC Model
When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) I invite clients to consider that events are not what lead to how we think, feel, or react. Rather, our belief about the action is what leads to unpleasant consequences.
I use the ABC Model to demonstrate how the Action-Consequence (A-C) connection—though seemingly logical—isn’t typical regarding the way we engage the world from our mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral experience. This Model is depicted as follows:
(A)ction – What occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)
(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)
(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B)
To give an example of how an illogical perspective may support what we believe about the world, consider the following syllogism:
Premise 1: Zebras are black and white.
Premise 2: Some newspaper articles are printed in black and white.
Conclusion: Therefore, some zebras are newspaper articles.
Though it may be logically sound to describe zebras as black and white in appearance, not every black and white thing is a zebra. Now consider how the following example of an A-C connection isn’t rational—that is to say that it doesn’t make much sense—though many people simply accept the premise:
Premise 1: People who disrespect me online deserve to be punished.
Premise 2: Jane Doe disrespected me online.
Conclusion: Consequently, Jane Doe deserves to be punished.
In this case, premise 1 is flawed, because it prescribes what should, must, or ought to be. Premise 2 is a description and very well may be true. This prescription-description error could result in an unhelpful or unhealthy Consequence if left unchallenged.
To illustrate an example of the A-C connection I came across while working out earlier; consider the song “Losing It” by Phalo Pantoja, from his album The Butcher Boy. On the track, the following lyric is presented as logically sound:
Posted with the chrome fitted, yeah, I’m gone wit’ it. Put it to the side off George Zimmerman’s head and open it. Cabbage just got splattered all over Sanford. His brains covered the pamphlet of the neighborhood watch captain. Racism, I can’t stand it or tolerate it, so I act violently. I feel I’m obligated.
Taking the liberty to plug the final prescriptive sentence into complex syllogistic form, here’s how I interpret the unhelpful or unhealthy logistic principle:
Premise 1: The rapper believes he can’t tolerate the fact that other people hold views on race that are different than his; therefore, he’s obligated to behave violently.
Premise 2: George Zimmerman is someone who many believe is racist, and who fatally shot Trayvon Martin.
Conclusion: Hence, the rapper is obliged to act violently towards Zimmerman.
From an REBT perspective, I recognize a number of issues in this verse which are worthy of consideration. First, the rapper maintains that there’s an A-C connection.
When not considering how the rapper’s Belief is what directly impacts the Consequence of his behavior, the logically sound though irrational proposition is that events occur and he’s compelled to react. Action = ReAction.
It’s not uncommon for people to think in A-C terms. Still, doing so violates the ABC Model formula: A + B = C ÷ D = E. Racism or a racist isn’t what leads to the rapper’s behavior, because it’s his Belief that results in a Consequence.
Next, the rapper uses the language of low frustration tolerance (LFT) by declaring, “Racism, I can’t stand it or tolerate it.” The narratives we tell ourselves matter.
When convincing himself that he literally cannot allow differing racial perspectives to exist, the rapper deceives himself into believing he must eradicate that which should not be. Consider the following examples of things the average person literally may not be able to stand or tolerate:
· A gunshot wound to the head from a shotgun slug
· Surviving a fall from atop the Burj Khalifa (currently the world’s tallest building)
· Remaining outside of a space shuttle in orbit without any protective gear or oxygen
· Slapping Chuck Norris in the face (ever)
· Withstanding 240 dB without any protective measures
While the rapper may not like or love, or appreciate or prefer what he perceives as racism, one wonders whether or not he can actually tolerate it. When hearing clients voice LFT, I use Disputation to explore whether or not what they tell themselves is true.
As well, I encourage clients to consider their powerlessness over others and introduce the concept of unconditional acceptance. Without enjoying racism and all it has to offer, the rapper may be able to tolerate its existence without disturbing himself by demanding it must not exist.
Next, in the interest of Disputation, it may be useful to explore the Belief related to Zimmerman being a racist. Though Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted at trial, many people still allege that he is a racist.
One suspects that the barrage of media coverage, politicization of the shooting event, and personal bias shaped by how many view the case may lead to the Belief about racism in this instance. Personally, I don’t know the inner workings of Zimmerman’s mind.
I would invite a client who uses A-C connection justification for self-disturbance to consider whether or not the person is capable of mindreading. If not, is there available evidence—aside from commentators, pundits, journalists, politicians, and the like—to suggest that Zimmerman is a racist?
Again, I don’t know. I doubt you do either. Likewise, I doubt the rapper knows. When our irrational Beliefs are properly Disputed, we can free ourselves from needless suffering.
Lastly, and admittedly a minor quibble, when the rapper states, “I feel I’m obligated,” he misuses the word “feel.” Again, the narratives we tell ourselves matter. These narratives are constructed by words.
I work with clients to properly identify what they mean when describing feelings-based statements. Generally speaking, feelings relate to emotions (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, etc.) or bodily sensations (e.g., “I feel tightness in my chest.”).
Saying something like, “I feel I’m obligated to enact violence,” isn’t necessarily accurate or helpful. Commonly, if you can replace “feel” or “feeling” with “think” or “thought,” you’re likely not describing an emotion or body sensation (e.g., “I think I’m obligated to enact violence.”).
By properly understanding the error of an A-C connection, challenging narratives which lead to LFT, Disputing the irrational Beliefs we tell ourselves, and properly formatting the way we describe what occurs, we may not lose it on other people, because we can take ownership for our role in each event we experience.
Prior to learning REBT, I thought in terms of an A-C connection. Once I learned the ABC Model and better understood how I was disturbing myself with irrational beliefs, I challenged what I told myself and this experience afforded me an opportunity to lead a more meaningful life.
Some may say, “Deric, aren’t you just lying to yourself by choosing a different conclusion?” To this, I question, isn’t what I told myself in the first place what actually constituted the lie?
Understanding that my description of an event can be as wrong as the prescription to which I hold myself, others, and the world; I don’t necessarily have to view my belief as a lie or truth. I’m not beholden to a false dichotomy (this-or-that, either-or-or, or lie-or-truth).
Instead, I dispute the nonsense I tell myself and choose a more effective belief. In so doing, I’m able to adopt a healthier, more helpful narrative that better serves my interests and goals.
How about you? Have you used the A-C connection and found that doing so led to losing it on others? Are you prepared to make an effective and lasting change in your life?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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