Want to Learn More About Using Music as a Therapeutic Outlet and Other Creative Therapies?
Just fill in your first name and email address in the box below, to join our exciting new newsletter, which contains all kinds of great information about using music in therapy
Anger ABCD Model
The A-B-C-D Model
Albert Ellis developed a model that is consistent with the way we conceptualize anger management treatment. He calls his model the A-B-C-D or rational-emotive model. In this model, “A” stands for an activating event, what we have been calling the red-flag event. “B” represents the beliefs people have about the activating event. Ellis claims that it is not the events themselvesthat produce feelings such as anger, but our interpretations of and beliefs about the events. “C” stands for the emotional consequences of events. In other words, these are the feelings people experience as a result of their interpretations of and beliefs concerning the event.
According to Ellis and other cognitive behavioral theorists, as people become angry, they engage in an internal dialog, called “self-talk.” For example, suppose you were waiting for a bus to arrive. As it approaches, several people push in front of you to board. In this situation, you may start to get angry. You may be thinking, “How can people be so inconsiderate! They just push me aside to get on the bus. They obviously don’t care about me or other people.” Examples of the irrational self-talk that can produce anger escalation are reflected in statements such as “People should be more considerate of my feelings,” “How dare they be so inconsiderate and disrespectful,” and “They obviously don’t care about anyone but themselves.”
Ellis says that people do not have to get angry when they encounter such an event. The event itself does not get them upset and angry; rather, it is people’s interpretations of and beliefs concerning the event that cause the anger. Beliefs underlying anger often take the form of “should” and “must.” Most of us may agree, for example, that respecting others is an admirable quality. Our belief might be, “People should always respect others.” In reality, however, people often do not respect each other in everyday encounters. You can choose to view the situation more realistically as an unfortunate defect of human beings, or you can let your anger escalate every time you witness, or are the recipient of, another person’s disrespect. Unfortunately, your perceived disrespect will keep you angry and push you toward the explosion phase. Ironically, it may even lead you to show disrespect to others, which would violate your own fundamental belief about how people should be treated.
Ellis’ approach consists of identifying irrational beliefs and disputing them with more rational or realistic perspectives (in Ellis’ model, “D” stands for dispute). You may get angry, for example, when you start thinking, “I must always be in control. I must control every situation.” It is not possible or appropriate, however, to control every situation. Rather than continue with
these beliefs, you can try to dispute them. You might tell yourself, “I have no power over things I cannot control,” or “I have to accept what I cannot change.” These are examples of ways to dispute beliefs that you may have already encountered in 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
People may have many other irrational beliefs that may lead to anger. Consider an example where a friend of yours disagrees with you. You may start to think, “Everyone must like me and give me approval.” If you hold such a belief, you are likely to get upset and angry when you face rejection. However, if you dispute this irrational belief by saying, “I can’t please everyone; some people are not going to approve of everything I do,” you will most likely start to calm down and be able to control your anger more easily.
Another common irrational belief is, “I must be respected and treated fairly by everyone.” This also is likely to lead to frustration and anger. Most folks, for example, live in an urban society where they may, at times, not be given the common courtesy they expect. This is unfortunate, but from an anger management perspective, it is better to accept the unfairness and lack of interpersonal connectedness that can result from living in an urban society. Thus, to dispute this belief, it is helpful to tell yourself, “I can’t be expected to be treated fairly by everyone.”
Other beliefs that may lead to anger include “Everyone should follow the rules,” or “Life should be fair,” or “Good should prevail over evil,” or “People should always do the right thing.” These are beliefs that are not always followed by everyone in society, and, usually, there is little you can do to change that. How might you dispute these beliefs? In other words, what thoughts that are more rational and adaptive and will not lead to anger can be substituted for such beliefs?
For people with anger control problems, these irrational beliefs can lead to the explosion phase (10 on the anger meter) and to the negative consequences of the postexplosion phase. It is often better to change your outlook by disputing your beliefs and creating an internal dialog or self-talk that is more rational and adaptive.
The A-B-C-D Model
*Based on the work of Albert Ellis, 1979, and Albert Ellis and R.A. Harper, 1975.
A = Activating Situation or Event
B = Belief System
What you tell yourself about the event (your self-talk)
Your beliefs and expectations of others
C = Consequence
How you feel about the event based on your self-talk
D = Dispute
Examine your beliefs and expectations
Are they unrealistic or irrational?