ABC Theory of Personality (A guide)


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Page last updated: 28/08/2022

ABC Theory of Personality

This article will give a brief idea of the ABC Theory of Personality and will also discuss CBT and it’s types of strategies.

Later It will focus on the ABC model. Then finally it will highlight treating cognitive distortions and irrational beliefs with the ABC model.


ABC theory of personality is a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and is central to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, the A stands for Activating Event, B for Beliefs which is mostly irrational beliefs and C stands for Emotional and Behavioral Consequences or Reaction.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps people by changing unhealthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

The two types of strategies CBT uses are-

  • Cognitive Strategies: It involves learning how to recognize automatic thoughts which ultimately have an impact on our feelings and behaviors and then change it into healthier ways.
  • Behavioral Strategies: It involves certain behaviors that help us alter the way we think and feel.

The main aim of CBT is not to ignore the negative emotions but to help in responding appropriately and rationally.


Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in 1953, which is also known as the ABC model.

It is a brief direct and solution-focused therapy and is the first form of CBT.

It focuses on resolving emotional and behavioral problems and the main goal of this therapy is to change irrational beliefs to more rational ones.

The ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs:

  • A- Activating Event:

It involves the event which triggers negative emotions and thinking.

For example, parents scolded a child for misbehavior in front of his siblings, this event can be the activating event for the emotions like parents don’t love him as much as they love his other siblings, etc.

  • B- Beliefs:

It is important to know that the event is not fully responsible for causing a reaction, it’s the underlying belief of the individual about himself and/ or surrounding which affects the person and the event adds up the confidence on the irrational belief.

The irrational beliefs include “musts”, “shoulds”, “absolutes”. Awfulizing and low frustration tolerance feelings like ‘I can’t stand it’ develops.

  • C- Consequences:

The beliefs lead to the consequences, which means rational beliefs lead to the health consequences and irrational beliefs leads to unhealthy consequences.

This leads to D and E which are added in the ABC model.

  • D- Disputation:

If the beliefs are irrational and have turned to the unhealthy consequences it will ultimately lead to the disputes in the thoughts, feelings, and actions.

  • E- New Effects:

It can be categorized into two types- Effective New Philosophies and Effective Emotions and Behaviors.

Effective new philosophies include evaluating badness, unfortunate and high frustration tolerance and changing it into more effective and rational philosophies.

Effective emotions and Behaviors again have two types which are- new healthy negative emotions and new constructive behaviors.

New Healthy Negative Emotions include emotions like disappointment, concern, annoyance, sadness, etc.

New Constructive Behaviors include the Behaviors which the person ultimately wants to change to work on the whole belief system.


REBT or ABC model is carried out by a mental health professional with proper instructions, and later it can be tried at home to oneself.

At least 3- 45 minutes sessions should be taken to reduce the dysfunctional thinking and increasing hope and self-esteem.

The ABC model has been found successful in treating Depression, Anxiety and Anger issues as well.

The therapy helps the person to confront his own anger triggers rather than simply avoiding the anger which ultimately helps in working on the triggers and beliefs which ultimately were responsible for the unhealthy consequences.

All in all, the ABC model helps the patients by turning their irrational beliefs about activating events into rational beliefs which then automatically changes into healthy consequences and emotions and doesn’t lead to any Disputation.


This blog has given a brief idea about ABC Theory of Personality and it has also discussed CBT and it’s types of strategies.

Then it focussed on the ABC model. Then finally it highlighted treating cognitive distortions and irrational beliefs with the ABC model.

Please feel free to comment below or leave a suggestion. We would appreciate your time.


What is the ABC theory?

The ABC theory is a type of CBT that works on turning the irrational beliefs of the events into rational beliefs in order to help in having happy and healthy emotions.

Who created the ABC model?

Albert Ellis created the ABC model.


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