The ABC Model for Personal Growth & Self-Discovery
For those interested in experiencing a happier and more fulfilling life, overcoming challenging pasts and unhealthy patterns, I share several key tenants. The first tenant is the willingness to take that hard and deep look within and to make personal change. It is not easy, so without this willingness, it does not matter what model, concept, workshop or method is shared. Willingness states the needed intention to make personal change. Once you are ready, able and willing, we begin with a review of the second tenant which is the basic framework for personal growth and self-discovery.
An oversimplified model that can be used to identify the cause and effect nature of human behavior, and to create lasting change is known as the ABC model which is shown here.
What brings most people to the decision to make personal change are the negative consequences we are experiencing in life. In my case it was a history of struggles within relationships and an underlying feeling of unhappiness. This represents the “C” in the model, or consequences. This model suggests that a negative consequence we experience in our life (e.g., continual struggles in relationships), is best understood by first identifying the individual’s behaviors (“B”) leading to this consequence (e.g., jealousy, anger, push/pull, etc.). In order to understand why people behave as they do, one must go a step further into their unconscious psyche to discover their attitudes and beliefs (“A”) that drive these behaviors (e.g., “I am not worthy of love,” “Women who love me, leave me” or “I am not as good as others”). Furthermore, the model states that our consequences continue to reinforce our attitudes and beliefs creating a vicious cycle resulting in repeating these behaviors and outcomes, creating an “unhealthy pattern”. Broken relationships (“C”), only served to reinforce the unhealthy attitudes and beliefs (“A”), therefore continuing my co-dependent behaviors.
My first experience with this concept was in counseling. My therapist began asking questions regarding why I was there. What she was attempting to identify were the negative consequences I was experiencing in my life. Once this was clear (which can take several sessions), the questioning focused on understanding the specific behaviors. These can be challenging to identify because we are more likely to see ourselves as a victim for our negative consequence(s), and blaming this outcome on others. These steps are often difficult to complete on our own for this reason. We may need the guidance of a trained professional who can help us to realize what we are doing that is leading to these consequences. Once we acknowledge our behaviors and make the link, the next step is to peel away remaining layers until we begin to understand our underlying beliefs.
The most powerful link comes when we are able to associate our beliefs with our behaviors thus completing the cycle. Once again we need assistance from professionals who have an understanding of behavioral psychology. What we discover is that we create patterns in our life, based on how we view ourselves, others and life around us. These often originate as a result of experiences we went through in our past, particularly in our formative years as a child, where a negative attitude or belief about who we are is formed. These beliefs directly impact our self-esteem, self-image and self-confidence. Our negative consequences therefore are a result of the fact that we do not think positive about who we are, and therefore behave in a way that supports these beliefs. Whether we take it out in self-destructive patterns or by treating others negatively, we form a destructive pattern which will often repeat itself throughout our existence until we choose to confront the enemy within.
The great news is that we can stop this cycle. We do this by changing our beliefs, and forming new and more positive attitudes about ourselves and of life itself. Similar to a computer, the computer does what the software tells it to do. If we want a different outcome, we need to change the software code, providing new instructions, and achieving different output. For personal growth and change, we change our output or consequences, by overwriting our old unhealthy beliefs with new beliefs and then use our growing self-awareness to catch ourselves when we are slipping into our old ways.
The process takes time, perseverance, and courage similar to achieving any significant goal in our life. Once this is understood along with the basic framework, the rest is implementing what I refer to as the “Tools for Self-Discovery” to get there. Probably the toughest journey we can make in our life, but the one that has the greatest impact. I know!!!