Practicing Ellis's A-B-C's


This week, I was reminded of how controlling I am. I remember the first time I had that realization; it was horrifying! On one hand, I like to say that I am a planner and a doer. I like to get in there and get things done, have plans A, B, AND C. It doesn’t matter what this is. It could be planning for a test, planning childcare, or planning to paint my house and take down wallpaper. I like to know what I’m doing and when and then attack with full force. While this has its strengths—like being prepared and accomplishing lots—it can also create chaos and confusion when my ducks are not ready to go in their row. Try as I do to cajole them and align them, those little ducks have a mind of their own sometimes. So, this week, there I was trying to figure out my schedule, my client’s schedules, my sitter’s schedule, my husband’s schedule, and the unpredictable weather’s schedule. I quickly became quite frazzled and my mind whirled with questions. Why couldn’t I make it stop snowing? Why wouldn’t the title to our new used car come in so my day wasn’t impacted by my husband’s schedule as we shared a car? Why did people have to get sick? Should I have planned things differently? Why couldn’t everyone’s lives just mesh together a little easier? I had plans A, B, and C, but the harder I tried to align things, the more they got out of order. There were multiple changes to my well-thought-out plans every day. As time went on, and my knuckles whitened from the death grip I had on life, I knew there was a lesson I had to learn again.

Let it go. That was my lesson. Unclench my fist and hold with an open hand. I cannot control others, my circumstances, or the weather. I can only choose to accept what is before me and let the rest of the pieces fall into place. The more I try to control, the more things will feel out of control. I say I believe there is a purpose for all things and that they will work out for good. If I really believe that, then, my anxiety will dramatically decrease. I was reminded recently of Albert Ellis’s A-B-C’s. In this model, A is the antecedent, the precipitating trigger or event; B is the belief about the situation; and C is the emotional consequence, how one feels. For example, when the snow prevents me from getting to appointments, if I believe that these missed opportunities or commitments will leave me at a disadvantage that can’t be rectified, I will be anxious and moody. If I choose to believe instead that there was a reason and that the most important thing to do is what is directly in front of me, then I can be at peace and expectant for the good things to come next. I know, this is easier said than done, but it does beat the stress and worry that accompanies an irrational or faithless belief system.

So, next time the snow flurries down around you or your kids puke all over the couch and your entire day has turned over like a pancake, remember, unclench your fist, open your palm, and know there is something better around the corner!

#anxiety #stress #AlbertEllis #beliefs #spirituality #controlling

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