We disturb ourselves

“People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them,” said the Greek philosopher Epictetus 2000 years ago.  20th century psychologist Albert Ellis [1913-2007] said the same thing in slightly different words, “People disturb themselves by the things that happen to them, and by their views, feelings, and actions.”

It is facile to argue that Salman Rushdie or Wendy Doniger disturbs us with their books.  The fact is they don’t.  There are more people in the world who are not disturbed by their books than those who are.  What makes the difference?

There is a model in psychology known as the A-B-C framework.  A stands for activating agent, B for belief, and C for Consequence (emotional and behavioural).  A book may be the activating agent.  It creates a belief in us: that our religion or god is in danger or something of the sort.  And the consequence is anger, frustration, or some such reaction. 

The basic premise of this approach to psychological understanding of human behaviour is that faulty thinking, making incorrect inferences on the basis of inadequate or incorrect information, and failing to distinguish between fantasy and reality engender problems

In other words, how we feel and behave is determined by how we perceive and structure our experience. 

How to rectify our wrong or inaccurate perceptions and interpretations which lead to problems?

The A-B-C framework suggests that we should question our beliefs with a disputing intervention (D) which will have an effect (E) on our emotions and behaviour leading to a new feeling (F).

If we feel hurt by a book, we can questions ourselves why feel so?  Is the book factually correct?  If it is not, it need not disturb me since I can disprove the claims of the book.  If it is factually correct, it is my beliefs that need correction or modification.  This is just an example.  We may need to ask more questions than these.  Relevant questions.

This may appear too simple or even childish.  The fact is that this model is working wonders in psychological counselling.  It can work wonders in our lives too if we are genuinely interested in solving our problems.  If we want to take political mileage out of problems, then neither this model nor any other will work.  Psychological theories and frameworks are effective only if our quest for solution is genuine.  

Let me conclude with Ellis’ words: “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.  You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny.”

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  1. Very nice thought and wish if everyone start accusing theselves for their condition.

    1. I wouldn't use the word 'accusing', Hemant. It is taking charge of oneself. It is accepting one's own responsibility for his/her life and what happens in it.

  2. Great analysis, Sir.
    ABCDEF has so much meaning...

  3. Glad you found it meaningful, Anita. I have used this in my counselling sessions and found it absolutely useful. World over, cognitive psychology is being applied very effectively.

  4. Beautifully put: You realize that you control your own destiny

    1. Thanks, Pankti. In fact, the credit should go to Albert Ellis & Co.

  5. ABCD...
    Obvious truths have to be put out in such writeups to make ome realize it.


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