Do you have thoughts that come to you uninvited as you observe life? When you are in line to check out at a grocery and the person in front of you is taking longer than you desire. Thoughts that might come to you would be:
- This person is inefficient and slow
- This person is inconsiderate and delaying my day
- This person is enjoying a relaxed day
Depending on your thoughts, beliefs and values you might conclude one or more of these scenarios. These ideas or perspectives, if unchallenged, are what I call involuntary thinking. They come to you without any effort or pretense. And if these thoughts remain unchallenged, you will conclude that they are accurate, true, and rational. And then your brain will respond accordingly. Let’s consider the idea that you believe the person in front of you is inconsiderate and unaware of your time demands. The result might be that you feel angry and anxious, and then you might react by expressing these emotions in some form of behavior.
In a chart it might look something like this:
|A Trigger Event||B Beliefs & Thoughts||C Feelings||D Behavior|
|Person in front is slow in checking out at the grocery.||My thoughts include that this person is inconsiderate and disrespectful of other peoples’ time demands.||I would feel angry and anxious.||I would become impatient and sigh heavily, giving obvious cues that I’m in a hurry, look at my watch, have my credit card in hand and tapping it on the counter. Or, I might even say something to rush the person along.|
However, you may not always like the way you feel and behave and would want to change. Since the battleground is in the mind you have to renew your mind to begin to voluntarily examine your thoughts and beliefs.
Voluntary thoughts are beliefs that you purposefully think about through research, investigation, critique, and spending time dwelling on them. You would voluntarily challenge them and ask “are they true and rational?” Standing in that line thinking the person in front of you is insensitive, but then ask, how do I know that? What if they are distracted or just being extra careful? I don’t know for sure what frame of mind this person is in. Maybe it’s their day off and is trying to enjoy every minute of their day?
All thoughts could be subject to this kind of investigation, but people often choose not to give them much consideration. Involuntary thoughts become embedded and that's why people feel and then react with inappropriate behavior. A person’s emotions were intended to bring their thoughts to the forefront for investigation.
|Involuntary Thoughts Can Be||Voluntary Thoughts Can Be|
|Started early in life||Usually later in life|
|Accumulated over time||Can be renewed now|
|Serve to hurt us||Serve to heal us|
|Keep us in bondage||Set us free|
|Cause us to react without thinking||Allow us to respond with rational thinking|
Unexamined thoughts result in an environment fertile for shame to grow.
The ABCD tool helps us take involuntary thoughts and voluntarily investigate so that you can take every thought captive.
A. Trigger Event
Anything that happens to initiate the question “Is this safe or is this a threat to me?” A person in line at the grocery checkout, spouse, child, co-worker.
Set of values, beliefs, thoughts, ideas, preferences accumulated over time to determine how you will feel and respond.
Mad, Sad, Glad, Hurt, Angry, Scared, Happy, Content, Peaceful
Your reaction to what just happened; sometimes it’s internal.
|A Trigger Event||B Beliefs||C Feelings||D Behavior|
|What specific event triggered your feelings and actions?
The person in front of me is slow
|What specific beliefs or values were prompted?
People should be considerate and respectful of other people’s time.
|What emotions did you have?
Angry and anxious
|What outward or inward reactions showed your beliefs and feelings?|
I tried to rush the person with passive-aggressive measures. My self-talk was very negative about the person in front of me.
|Event Check||Belief Check||C Emotion Goala||Behavior Goals|
|Describe the event, as a video recorder would have seen it.
|Intentionally challenge your values.
Slow people are not necessarily inconsiderate. All people deserve respect.
|What emotions would you like to have if this event happened again?
Less angry and anxious.
|What actions would you like to have if this event happened again?|
It all depends on how you want to feel and respond to people who seem slow and impeding your progress. You can choose to feel and then respond the usual way or your can choose to feel and respond differently. The battleground is in your mind!
Use this tool with a specific experience you encounter in which you would like to change your response, then spend time investigating your thoughts and beliefs. Voluntarily thinking is healthier for the brain and will result in a much happier life because you’ll be able to master your emotions.