5. Consequences of our Beliefs
As we said earlier, the psychological model we’ll be using in this course is based on the work of a famous psychologist, Dr. Albert Ellis. Dr. Ellis believed our feelings spring from our thoughts, opinions, beliefs and expectations about our world and not from the things that actually happen to us. This is important because we don’t always have much control over what happens to us, but we certainly can develop ways to control our thoughts and beliefs.
Let’s see how Dr. Ellis would frame what we’ve learned so far about where feelings come from, how they affect our behavior and, most importantly, how we might use this model to help us better manage our finances and realize our dreams.
Quite simply, the model works like this:
We experience an…
A = activating event
- This could be something that happens to us, something we do, an encounter with another person, or a mental event like a thought – just about anything in life. For example, driving down the highway is an activating event.
- This event appears to “cause” us to feel positive or negative emotions or just changes our mood. We then make choices about the event by processing the event through a system of core beliefs about the world.
B = belief
- It’s our belief about the activating event that comes next and determines our emotion. We often think our belief is truth. But, thoughts are not facts. They are just our interpretation of a situation. That interpretation is based on what we've learned and experienced.
- Remember, all of this happens very rapidly and often without our awareness.
- We describe a belief in several different ways – as a thought, an opinion or an expectation.
- It’s important to understand that we hold two very different types of beliefs, rational beliefs and irrational beliefs. Rational beliefs are balanced and based on factual evidence. For example, we believe we can drive safely down a road because almost everyone is following traffic laws. Irrational beliefs are unbalanced and based solely on our judgments and opinions. For example, if everyone else is obeying traffic laws, I don’t have to and I will still be safe. We will refer to them in shorthand from now on. A rational belief will simply be “rB” and an irrational belief will be an “iB”.
These core beliefs, both rational and irrational, perceive and process the activating event. The beliefs (not the event itself) result in feelings and behaviors or what we'll call "consequences."
- The consequences of our belief systems come in three forms: Emotion, Behavior and Thought. These three consequences are the way we feel (emotion), act (behavior), and think (thought) after processing the activating event with our rational and irrational beliefs. For example my rational belief when I am driving that almost everyone follows traffic laws causes me to feel safe in driving, to follow the laws myself, and to think I won’t get hurt driving to work. If I used my irrational belief that laws are for everyone but me, I would feel that I can drive however I want (emotion), not signal when I change lanes (behavior), and think the other drivers are dumb to obey the laws (thought). Ask yourself, what belief is more likely to result in an accident?