The B-C Connection
The ABC Model
When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I use the ABC Model to demonstrate how the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection is at play when we disturb ourselves using irrational, unhelpful, or unhealthy Beliefs. This Model is depicted as follows:
(A)ctivating event – 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)
As an example, think of a time when someone didn’t return your call, respond to a text, or reply to an email. In REBT, this would constitute the Antecedent, Action, or Activating event.
It isn’t uncommon to think there’s an Action-Consequence connection—that some event occurs and results in what we think, how we feel, and how we react to the Activating event. This is termed as a Consequence. However, REBT recognizes the following formula:
Action + Belief = Consequence ÷ Disputation = Effective new belief
Someone ignoring your email (A) results in you saying to yourself, “People ought not to leave me waiting” (B), and as a result of this irrational narrative you feel bad—or, at least this is how I often hear feelings described. What does feeling “bad” mean?
When working with clients, I help to properly identify what feelings-based statements are associated with Consequences. 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 you didn’t return my call, because you hate me,” 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 you didn’t return my call, because you hate me.”).
Therefore, if feeling “bad” equates to discomfort associated with anger and tightness in one’s chest, I find value in assisting client with labeling the feeling. As well, I think it’s worthwhile to properly outline the chain of events which led to the Consequence of a Belief.
Though it may be convenient to blame others for our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and behaviors, it isn’t entirely helpful, rational, or logical to do so. Comprehending how the B-C connection works may allow us the opportunity to stop outsourcing our reactions to the world.
Ergo, people neglect to answer your texts (A), you believe, “People should respond within a time I consider appropriate” (B), and as a result of this unhelpful Belief you think, “I’m purposely not going to respond to their attempts at contact,” your palms become sweaty, you become angry, and you uphold your passive-aggressive stance of no-contact (C).
Describing the B-C connection, one source states, “Another way to think about it is that ‘our emotions and behaviors (C: Consequences) are not directly determined by life events (A: Activating Events), but rather by the way these events are cognitively processed and evaluated (B: Beliefs).”
When we properly understand the B-C connection, we can take ownership for how we respond to Antecedents. It is then that we may free ourselves from irrationally believing that others can push our “buttons,” “trigger” us, or “influence” how we behave.
Me for Life
Per usual, I receive blog content from shuffled songs associated with my workouts. I find that hip hop music provides rich opportunities for challenging should, must, and ought-type statements which comprise Beliefs and with which people disturb themselves.
Rather than simply pointing out the B-C relationship, I’ll post a verse and see if you, dear reader, can identify what Belief leads to a Consequence. Before we begin, it’s important to note that not all Consequences are unhelpful or unhealthy.
For instance, I Believe that working out can improve my physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health. The Consequence of my Belief is that I regularly engage in physical training. This is a healthy B-C connection.
Still, if I were to Believe that I must not ever miss a workout, framing an off day as failure to care for myself, the inflexibility of my rigid prescription would likely not serve me well. The unhelpful Consequence of such a B-C connection could lead to physical injury or emotional suffering.
When reading Tiff the Gift’s lyrics, see if you can identify which B-C connections are helpful, unhelpful, healthy, unhealthy, or perhaps something else. Without further ado, “Me for Life” is as follows (minus the chorus):
Verse one –
I know I said I’d take a while to think about it. Out of all my friend-friends, you are the one I think about. Now to all the nights we spendin’ with the pillows and the merlot, puffin’ Killa Kush, and sip that Henny, plenty purple. Lately I be feelin’ like we spinnin’ in a circle. Fuckin’ then we fightin’, baby, I don’t wanna’ hurt you. Temper tell me different, in my mind I feel like, “Fuck you!” I wanna’ tell you I’m in love, but I ain’t got the guts to. Plus, I got an ego and I see that’s what these ducks do. Coolin’ in the city, I be prayin’ that I duck you. Re-readin’ the messages you sent to me a week ago don’t help me when my kitty jump and you be what I’m fiendin’ fo’. Tell you how I feel, but with my guard, and what you need to know. Gotta’ walk away but then I swear to G-d, we people though. Could’a done it different, took a pause from the beginnin’. It’d a been a little different if the dick wasn’t addictive.
The first B-C example I identify relates to, “Lately, I be feelin’ like we spinn’ in a circle,” which is a Belief that could be translated as, “Lately, I’ve thought about how we’re wasting our time.” The implication is that Tiff and her romantic interest should not squander time.
The Consequence stemming from the Belief manifests in conflict (“Fuckin’ then we fightin’”), as Tiff admits, “[B]aby, I don’t wanna’ hurt you.” In this example, it very well may be that wasted time is perceived as unpleasant.
If working with the rapper in therapy, I would assess her values and the meaning of wasted time. In this blogpost entry, because I couldn’t possibly know Tiff the Gift’s moral, ethical, or principled stance that drives the prescription (should not squander time), I can introduce a technique one might use if relating to the rapper’s predicament.
Use of the elegant solution technique may be useful. Suppose it’s true that Tiff shouldn’t waste time on a romantic relationship leading to nowhere, could she accept her partner nonetheless?
Maybe Tiff arrives at the rational conclusion that she could tolerate remaining in a relationship that doesn’t progress further than the current moment, though she doesn’t desire to do so. The rapper reasons that she could unconditionally accept the partner as a person while not desiring to remain with the individual.
This approach could resolve the Consequence from an additional unhelpful Belief, addressed in the verse by Tiff acknowledging, “Temper tell me different, in my mind I feel like, ‘Fuck you!” If Tiff remains in the relationship, she does so as a rational choice. If not, she can leave by having reasoned she doesn’t want to move forward with the individual.
The second B-C connection in the verse is subtle. Tiff states, “I wanna’ tell you I’m in love, but I ain’t got the guts to. Plus, I got an ego and I see that’s what these ducks do.”
This Belief could be translated as, “I’m afraid to tell you I’m in love, because I may be dismissed like others who’ve done the same and not remained with you.” The Consequence of this unhealthy Belief is behavioral, as the rapper admits, “Coolin’ in the city, I be prayin’ that I duck you.”
Rather than confronting the matter of emotion driving her behavior—hiding from the person who Tiff loves, because she’s afraid to face discomfort by stating what she thinks and feels—the Consequence goes unresolved. In fact, it appears to worsen.
Tiff raps, “Tell you how I feel, but with my guard, and what you need to know,” indicating the contemplation of challenging the unpleasant Consequence of hiding and ruminating. Still, she concludes, “Gotta’ walk away,” which is a rigid prescription equating to, “I must avoid.”
How does avoidance serve Tiff’s interests and goals? Perhaps she’s interested in remaining connected to the person. Maybe she has a goal to end the relationship amicably.
The rapper acknowledges the possibility of a different option than the one she’s chosen, as she accurately describes, “Could’a done it different.” Regardless of her interests or goals, avoidance doesn’t seem to resolve the cause of Tiff’s inner-turmoil.
The B-C connection—Tiff’s Belief about the Action that causes the Consequence—is what produces conflict, anger, and avoidance. This is precisely what REBT may be used to address.
Verse two –
When I’m alone, I take the pain away with workflow. Nothin’ like a dolla’ can remind you what you work fo’. I ain’t got the time to try to show you that I’m worth mo’. Relationships ain’t makin’ shit, I worry ‘bout my purse mo’. Carin’ for a minute, then it’s like it makes my work slow. Actin’ like I’m leavin’, but it be more like a furlough. I wanna’ pay attention, listen, give you some assistance. But you don’t be consistent in the way you handle business. I carry out my days and leave you far back in my mind. I wanna’ fall on top of you, instead I fall into my grind. That day you started trippin’, should’a knew it was a sign. I saw all and it was clear, it was clear that I was blind. I let you occupy my time and make me think I was the one, and I did have some feelings. You know I ain’t one to front. All I did was take a minute, took a shot and hit the blunt. I ain’t neva’ really need you; I was stuck on what I want.
Continuing with avoidance and plunging herself into work, Tiff convinces herself about the unimportance of pushing through discomfort. She states, “I ain’t got the time to try to show you that I’m worth mo’,” and, “Carin’ for a minute, then it’s like it makes my work slow.”
In and of themselves, these statements may not indicate a Belief leading to a Consequence. Herein, it’s important to understand the subtlety of descriptive versus prescriptive statements.
Tiff the Gift appears to be convincing herself that the Action—self-imposed distance from the person she loves—is what she desires or needs. Her mind contests on behalf of the love interest by saying, “I wanna’ pay attention, listen, give you some assistance,” and, “I wanna’ fall on top of you.”
The inner-dialogue supporting desire is refuted in favor of advocacy for what Tiff thinks she needs. She states, “That day you started trippin’, should’a knew it was a sign.”
The listener isn’t privy to the intricate details of what occurred. What remains clear is that Tiff issues the prescription of pattern recognition. She somehow should’ve known that the relationship was in jeopardy, and because she didn’t obey the advisement, she was hurt.
The rapper adds guilt to her past behavior by stating, “[I]t was clear that I was blind.” Shame is then directed at her love interest by declaring, “I let you occupy my time and make me think I was the one,” admitting, “I did have some feelings.”
We’re now in the territory of complex emotional overlap. The potential of a romantic relationship failing results in fear, Tiff retains guilt for not recognizing warning signs within the relationship, and though she cares for the person, the rapper blames the individual—and not herself—for wasted time, equating to shame.
After use of escapism (i.e., “took a shot and hit the blunt”), Tiff justifies her avoidance by convincing herself, “I ain’t neva’ really need you; I was stuck on what I want.” Have you identified the B-C connection in the complexity of the second verse? Here’s what I observed:
(A) – The dead end romantic relationship occupied historical time with which Tiff is not appreciative.
(B) – The rapper may tell herself, “I should’ve left sooner, and because I didn’t, it’s awful how much time was wasted.”
(C) – Tiff retains guilt for her lack of self-advocacy, shame associated with blaming her former love interest for how things turned out, and fear drove the rapper’s decision not to use open, honest, and vulnerable communication before the relationship collapsed.
Tiff plunges herself into work, though her mind continues contemplation about whether or not she made the proper decision. All the same, she continues to practice avoidance and escapism.
Verse three –
And I don’t be up in my feelings like I be up in investments. That notion has patience but I be about progression. Tryin’ to save feelings, feel I shouldn’t have to stress when I’m givin’ you the most, and most of all I gave affection. Listened more than spoke, and it was all for your protection. I may not be the best in the pressure and aggression. You lookin’ for some shit that gets you closer to perfection. You can walk away and never look in my direction. I’m done. I say, “I’m done!” I never think about regrets when I know I gave you more than anybody could invest in. Saw some shady shit and very rarely had a question. Never been the type that wanna’ talk and make confession. Always been the type to find my wrong and make correction. I know I’ll never lose. I’ll either win or learn a lesson. And because I know that I can give you an erection, don’t know if you can love me in the ways I be expectin’.
The obvious initial Belief in the third verse is, “[F]eel I shouldn’t have to stress when I’m givin’ you the most.” The Consequence that follows is continued avoidance to forego “pressure and aggression.”
One may suggest that inaction through avoidance is healthier than action associated with stress and aggressiveness. This presents a false dichotomy, because a third option—perhaps even healthier—would be to Dispute unhelpful and unhealthy Beliefs which cause an emotive response.
The final B-C connection I’ve identified appears to be one that best serves the rapper’s interests and goals. Not always do illogical, irrational, or unreasonable Beliefs lead to unhelpful or unhealthy Consequences.
Recalling my example of physical training, suppose I Believed, “I’m a fat piece of shit and I can’t stand how I look.” Instead of self-pity and crippling agony, the Consequence of my narrative results in working out until I can tolerate my appearance.
A person could suggest that the unhealthy lack of self-acceptance would need to be addressed. Still, the result of my unhelpful perspective leads to a healthy or helpful outcome.
I suspect many clinicians will disagree with the case I’ve outlined. What may drive their disagreement could relate to the notion that one shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t ever to allow body-shaming narratives to exist. I disagree.
At any rate, not all prescriptions we set for ourselves are unhelpful or unhealthy. Tiff’s emotive discomfort, avoidance, and escapism could each serve as separate Actions. Still, if her behavior is meaningful to the rapper, it isn’t my role to shame her for that which leads to her desired outcome.
When practicing REBT, I assist clients with assessing whether or not their Beliefs serve their interests and goals. However, I don’t morally prescribe what is good, bad, right, or wrong, or by demanding what should or shouldn’t be.
Suppose I was working with Tiff the Gift and she maintained a Belief associated with the ability to influence an erection in her love interest as being dissimilar to relational satisfaction. Perhaps she says to herself, “I should be valued for more than just my sexuality.”
Because of this prescription, the rapper’s Consequence is that she leaves her romantic relationship. This may be something in which she’s interested in doing so she can find someone more in line with her goal of mutual romantic benefit.
Who would I be to tell Tiff she arrived to a healthy conclusion, though the method she used to self-advocate was wrong? I’d be guilt of using a should, must, or ought-type narrative, thus discrediting myself as an REBT psychotherapist.
Understanding how our Beliefs influence Consequences is an important component of the ABC Model. By knowing that we disturb ourselves with the narratives to which we cling, we can make necessary changes which may lead to a higher level of functioning and quality of life.
Each of Tiff the Gift’s verses on “Me for Life” offers B-C connection examples in differing ways. For verse one, I demonstrated two options of how the rapper’s perspective resulted in uncomfortable outcomes.
The second verse proved a bit trickier and represents how our minds can compound Beliefs which result in the Consequence of being overwhelmed to the point of avoidance and escapism. I suspect the reader has some familiarity with how the mind tricks itself in this fashion.
Finally, the third verse was used to demonstrate how some B-C connections may prove beneficial. Determined to leave a relationship, because expected interests and goals aren’t met, is arguably a helpful or healthy relational strategy.
Tiff the Gift ultimately concluded to self-advocate (i.e., the title “Me for Life” represents her primary interest) and this is what I offer clients—the ability to change what they can, influence where they can, and accept their powerlessness over the vast majority of matters encountered in life.
Would you like to know more about how to disturb yourself less in this manner? The process could be as straightforward as A-B-C.
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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