The ABCDEFG Model
by Niki Anandi Koulouri
This journaling exercise, based on Albert Ellis’s ABC model, can help creatives work through the process of ABCDEFG questioning and help them challenge themselves by disputing negative self-talk. Doing this enables them to feel better and manage their unhealthy emotions (depression, anxiety, anger, etc.), become aware of their maladaptive behaviors (procrastination, addictive behaviors, etc.) and respond to situations in a more helpful and productive way instead of simply reacting.
As creatives, we are often flooded with negative emotions such as anger, fear, shame, envy, guilt, which hinder and block our creativity and quite often leave us feeling too blocked to create. Behind our unhelpful emotions and procrastination lie our negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, our art, and our relationships with others. It is important that the creator who wants to lead a conscious life, one with meaning and purpose and that serves her talents and creativity, develop her ability to ‘catch herself in action’ and observe her thoughts, her attitudes, and her behaviors so as to gain awareness and develop her ability to change.
One tool that can help creatives on this path of self-awareness and self-management is the ABCDEFG model, based on the ABC model. The ABC model was developed by the psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Albert Ellis, who was influenced by the Stoic philosophers and who developed rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). REBT is both a philosophy and a system of psychotherapy, helping clients minimize emotional disturbances, decrease self-defeating behaviors, and become happier.
According to both the Stoic philosophers and Ellis, it’s not adversity per se that causes our suffering but rather the beliefs we hold about what’s happening. In this view, events are “neutral” and what colors the events are the thoughts and beliefs that we hold. The fewer “irrational” beliefs that we hold, the more we can live a life of harmony and joy. In Ellis’s ABC model of emotional disturbance, A refers to an Activating Event or some Adversity, B refers to the Beliefs we hold, beliefs that are often irrational as we interpret events incorrectly or unrealistically, and C refers to the Consequences, both emotional and behavioral.
The ABCDEFG journaling exercise
Whenever an event occurs that leads us to irrational or distorted thinking and unhelpful emotions and behaviors, we can engage with the following journaling exercise using an ABCDEFG model. Here the letters stand for:
+ ?. Activating Event/Adversity–What happened?
+ B. Beliefs–What did I think?
+ C. Consequences–What did I feel? What did I do?
+ D. Dispute our Beliefs–How can I challenge them?
+ E. Effective New Beliefs—What new approach can I take?
+ F. Feelings–How do I feel right now?
+ G. Goal/New Plan–What is the goal? What is the new plan?
Let’s look at some examples of how we can dispute our self-defeating beliefs and negative self-talk and transform them into effective new beliefs or enhancing thoughts:
Example 1: “I cannot produce a piece of writing as good as X” can be transformed into “Everyone has their own talent and writing style. I can finish my book if I give it a chance.”
Example 2: “I can’t do it well enough” can be transformed into “I can do it as well as I possibly can and then I’ll ask for feedback on how to improve things.”
Example 3: “Others can do it better than I can” can be transformed into: “It’s no use thinking that others can do it better. What’s the point of this useless thought?”
Example 4: “It’s really hard for me to finish this project. I’m getting really stressed and it’s better that I give up. Besides, my art will not help me survive financially. And I will never be accepted or acknowledged by the art community.” All of these thoughts can be transformed into: “Yes, this is a real challenge for me. But I choose to do the best I can, as this is what I really want. There are colleagues who can make a living from their art and I can join them. My peers will understand my work and this is what I want to do, this is what makes me happy.”
Example 5: “I’m bound to fail” can be transformed into “I won’t know what will happen if I don’t make the effort. With a good plan, clear focus, and a positive attitude, I can do it. I just need to figure out what will help me stick to my plan.”
7 Steps to Mastering the ABCDEFG Journal Method
Step 1. Activating event. Identify what event triggered the distorted thinking and clearly hear and identify the thoughts themselves.
Step 2. Beliefs. What do these thoughts tell me about what I seem to be believing? What are my hindering or unwanted beliefs?
Step 3. Consequences. What emotions are emerging and/or what behaviors are flowing from these thoughts, beliefs, and feelings?
Step 4. Dispute. Is it really true what I am thinking? What evidence is there to support my beliefs? What is my reaction every time I think this way? What would happen if I think differently?
Step 5. Effective new beliefs. I am writing down in as much detail as I can my new thoughts, my new beliefs, the new approaches I mean to take, and the new attitudes I mean to hold.
Step 6. Feelings. I am writing down the feelings that are emerging from me thinking new thoughts, holding new beliefs, and taking a new approach.
Step 7. Goals. What are my new goals? What is my action plan? What will I do to implement this action plan? What personal resources will I use? What external resources will I use? Where can I ask for help? What can prevent me from implementing my action plan? How can I manage it and how can I monitor it?
Coaches can use this exercise with their clients in all sorts of ways, explaining to clients that they will naturally go back and forth among these steps and that the process is not as linear or straightforward as the exercise portrays it to be. This is a genuine process of self-inquiry that will bring up powerful feelings, but a process that is well worth the effort and that can help clients move from distorted or irrational thinking to a mindset that serves them and their creativity far better.
About Niki Anandi Koulouri
Niki Anandi Koulouri is a Certified Trainer and Coach with a broad portfolio of clients including entrepreneurs, executive leaders and artists. She is a member of the European Mentoring Coaching Council (EMCC), Creativity Coaching Association and the International Enneagram Association.
As a coach, she helps clients use their potential, creativity and talents, live a conscious life with meaning, purpose, and joy, and achieve their goals. You can find out more about Niki Anandi and her work at www.nikikoulouri.com and www.4peoplematters.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.