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When something bad happens, you can’t help but feel bad in response … right? As it turns out, that may not always be true. There is a link between what happens and how you respond. A closer look at the relationship between a hardship and your reaction to it reveals a hidden link. This link involves your beliefs about the hardship. And that can have a big impact on your reaction.

The ABC model can help you to better understand the link between what happens to you and how you react and feel about it.

  • Adversity: This refers to the hardship—or the bad event—that happens. This could be a poor review at work, a lost job, or a death in the family. You can’t always avoid adversity—it’s a part of life.
  • Beliefs: This refers to your thoughts and opinions about what happened. Your beliefs, even more than the hardship, affect how you feel and what you do. Beliefs that are rational and accurate are healthy. Beliefs that are not rational or not accurate can be unhealthy.
  • Consequences: This refers to how you feel and what you do after you are faced with adversity.

Here’s an example of the ABC model in action. Suppose your company is going through hard times and you lose your job. That is a serious adversity. But your beliefs about this hardship can have a huge effect on the consequences.

For example, if you believe you lost your job because your boss didn’t like you, the consequence of that belief is likely going to be negative. You’re bound to feel hurt and angry. You may irrationally blame your boss. And your anger may cause you to say something rude about or to your boss, making matters worse.

Now suppose you believe that you lost your job because the company is downsizing. The consequence of that belief is likely going to be more positive. Sure, you might still feel upset—and worried about finding a new job. But you may not be angry. And instead of lashing out at your boss, you may be able to leave on a good note. When you are applying for new jobs, you may be able to ask your former boss to be a reference.

While you may not be able to control adversity, you do have some control over your beliefs. With a little practice, you may be able to focus on beliefs that are more rational and accurate. And in this way, you may be better able to control your feelings and actions.

So the next time something bad happens, pause before you react. Try to figure out what you believe about that event, and then inspect those beliefs. Are they rational and likely to be true? Or are they not rational and likely to be false? Try to set aside any unhealthy beliefs and hold onto the healthy beliefs. Then, when you react to those beliefs, it will likely be in a more positive way.