ABC Model Psychology
The purpose of the A-B-C model is to illustrate the relationship between situations and events you experience, your thoughts, and your emotional reactions. In particular, A refers to the situation or event you experience; B refers to your thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and expectations you might have about the situation (A); and C refers to your emotional state. It is important to recognize that the letters A, B, and C are merely symbols with no specific meaning other than the shorthand code for explaining the relationship between thoughts and emotions, which is based on the cognitive theory of emotions.
Let's consider one general example of the A-B-C model. In this example, the situation (A) is that a person is waiting for a friend who is running a half-hour late.
The important thing to note in this example is that the situation or event at (A) remains identical, but the emotional consequence (C) differs according to the content of the thoughts at B. The main point here is that, according to the cognitive theory of emotions, the emotional consequence (C) is the result of the content of the thoughts (B), not the event itself (A). Given the nature of the situation (waiting for a friend who is running late), there might be several positive and negative responses to this event. The same principles that apply to negative emotional states also apply to positive emotional states. That is, happy moods may be the result of positive or constructive thoughts about daily events.
Extending the A-B.C Model to Understanding Reactions to Tinnitus
The explanation for understanding emotional reactions to events that you might experience in your daily life (i.e., the cognitive theory of emotions, or the A-B-C model) can be expanded to deal with the problem of tinnitus. Let's consider the way in which people think about sounds in general. Most people hear sounds as part of their everyday routine – for example, the sound of birds in the trees, traffic, television, radio, wind, garbage trucks, heavy machinery, construction work, sirens, electric fans, computers, music, conversations, or laughter. People often do not notice the sounds until they focus on them. Perhaps attention is drawn to the sounds because they have changed in some way, because someone mentions the sound, or because they have a special meaning (e.g., hearing your own name in a din of conversation at a party or being called by a friend).
Characteristics of Automatic Thoughts
There are a number of characteristics of automatic thoughts that we would like to highlight. Automatic thoughts (1) seem to arise with little awareness, (2) are highly believable, and (3) appear to be out of direct control. That is, people are often unaware of the content of their thoughts unless there is an opportunity to pause and attend to them. People can be influenced by the content to have a certain emotional response without necessarily being aware of the content itself. They also tend to believe their thoughts without questioning the basis of such thoughts. Of course, people believe their own thoughts and do not normally question their personal ways of thinking. Their thoughts are their reality.
However, it would be surprising if everyone's thoughts were accurate perceptions of an event! You might be able to recall times when you have had a particular thought about an event, only to discover later that it was not correct. Sometimes, thoughts are accurate, and on other occasions, they may be partly or wholly in error. Perhaps you can remember a particular event (e.g., a remark made by a friend) and the emotion that you felt (e.g., upset), but not the thoughts that were going through your mind at the time (e.g., "He said that deliberately to hurt me!"). The emotion stays with a person but the thought evaporates like the content of his or her dreams.
Often, one thought will tend to trigger off another thought of the same type. The process can become a bit like a broken record repeating the same sequences. That is, one negative or unhelpful thought can lead to a series of such thoughts and with each thought there may be a deepening of negative emotional states.
Changing the Way You Think in Response to Your Tinnitus
Negative thinking in response to your tinnitus can produce detrimental effects on your emotions, behavior, and psychological well-being. If you have a tendency to think in a negative manner, particularly with regard to your tinnitus, then this destructive process produced by the negative thinking can be reversed by learning to change the content of your thoughts in response to your tinnitus. The tinnitus may still be present, but you can learn ways to react differently to the problem.
To learn to think in a constructive way in response to your tinnitus, there are seven essential steps that you need to follow:
- Acknowledge the impact of your thoughts about yourself and the situations or events that you experience, on your feelings, emotions, and behavior.
- Deliberately tune in and listen to what you are saying or thinking to yourself, particularly when feeling either (a) strong negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, or (b) strong positive emotions, such as excitement or happiness.
- Identify positive, constructive, or neutral thoughts. These thoughts will have positive or neutral effects on your thoughts and feelings.
- Identify negative, unhelpful thoughts – these will have negative effects on your feelings and emotions.
- Interrupt and stop negative thoughts. By doing this you can avoid allowing your thoughts to operate like a broken record, continuing on and on.
- Challenge the truth and validity of your thoughts – do not blindly accept negative automatic thoughts as true.
- Substitute constructive counter thoughts for every identified (and challenged) unrealistic or unhelpful thought.
To learn more, you can check out ABC Model Psychology.
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