Why we should try to always look on the bright side of life
Albert Ellis developed his ABC model in the 1950s but it is still widely used today as a cornerstone of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It is something I always use with my clients when identifying the causes of their issues in order to raise their emotional empowerment.
What is the ABC model?
The aim of the ABC model is to explain why two people can experience the same event but react completely differently towards it. For example, two students could fail a test and receive exactly the same score (activating event 'A'). However, they respond in totally different ways.
This is due to the students' belief systems and thinking styles (beliefs 'B'). Depending on whether these are rational/realistic or irrational/unrealistic leads to short and long-term effects (or consequences 'C'). As an empowerment coach as well as a teacher of psychology, I have seen this happen many times in my career.
Here is an example of the model in action:
The experience of failing a test can lead one student to the belief of “I am stupid and will never pass”, which could then cause them to avoid the situation by quitting or ceasing to try. This consequence would probably lead to a repeat of the failure, therefore, strengthening the original unhelpful belief. Consequently, this can have serious negative outcomes on their emotional health and well-being such as anxiety or depression in the future.
However, the other student may have the more helpful or realistic belief that “I did not revise enough” or “I still don’t understand how to answer those types of exam questions”. This can lead to them trying harder next time or working on the skills they feel they are struggling with and consequently passing the test next time. Again this can lead to huge psychological consequences such as increasing their feelings of resilience, self-esteem, confidence and empowerment!
So, what Ellis theorised was that mental health is not dictated by the event itself but by our beliefs and reactions towards it.
This is not to say that we should all be skipping around town every day ignoring negative things as let’s be honest, sometimes things can be bad! If a storm hits and your house gets flooded or you lose an expensive piece of jewellery this is not a nice experience and can lead you to feel upset or frustrated. Having this feeling is natural and some psychologists believe constructive! This is why we do not use words such as “positive or negative” belief systems, instead the key terms are rational/helpful or irrational/unhelpful.
Feeling annoyed or upset can motivate us into action to make the situation better! For example, the student who failed their test but had rational belief systems used the experience constructively, taking advice and guidance from their mistakes and shortfallings in order to take positive steps to improve their situation in the future.
The important thing is to be proactive and rational. Try to look on the bright side or silver lining of an event, such as after a flood think “At least no one was hurt” or when if your jewellery is lost maybe think “I can claim on the insurance as I am a well organised and conscientious person who covered it on the annual policy”. It can be difficult but the positive impact on our emotional health is incredible.
If you find it difficult to see the bright side of situations or change your perception, this is an aspect that empowerment coaching focuses on and the benefits are incredible!
I think Eric Idle puts it best in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when he sings 'Always look on the bright side of life'. It may be difficult sometimes but our psychological perception of events has an integral effect on how we think, feel and act due to them, so next time you are faced with a negative or stressful life event just remember…
If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten.
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
So always look on the bright side of life!