Man oh Man! If I had a nickel for every time I here someone falling prey to this one! Not sure what I'm referring to? Ok, let me clear this up for you guys. Your friend (let's call her Snooky, just for kicks) comes home from a date and she's distraught! Being the good friend that you undoubtedly are, you offer support. You ask what happened and Snooky tells you that her date treated her badly, making fun of her the whole time and being patronizing. He even went so far as to disparage her bump-do!! You think to yourself, "Wait, isn't that the way he always treats you?" However, because you're "supportive" you keep it to yourself and instead say, "Oh, I'm so sorry he was such a jerk to you!" Unfortunately, what's really happening here is that Snooky knew exactly how he was likely to behave, yet, she "blindly expected" him to behave differently! And when he didn't, that meant her expectations were not met, so she became distraught. So, being a really good friend, instead of saying you were sorry that he was such a jerk, you might have done better to say something like, um...I don't know...like, "Wait, isn't that the way he always treats you!?!" This happens far too often! We know that someone behaves badly, yet every time it happens, we respond with the same upset!
Why does this happen? You guessed it! It's because we are saying crappy stuff to ourselves about the situation! You might remember that our goal is to avoid saying stuff to ourselves that is unhelpful, distorted, or irrational. We say things to ourselves like, "He'd better be good to me this time!" Or "That coworker of mine never does her work! She had better get her job done today!" Or "My brother is always calling to ask for money! And I get pissed every time!"
Are we seeing a pattern here? Now you might be pempted to say, "Yeah, I see a pattern! People are a$$#@|£$!" But no, again, you'd be looking in the wrong place for the person to blame for your upset. For that, you'd have to look to your own self-talk! As I pointed out in a previous post, expectations are nothing less than implicit demands! And when our demands are not met...look out!
My question to you is, why do we expect people to act differently in these situations? And when they fail (unsurprisingly) to act the way we expect, why do we get so upset? We could easily apply our ABC model of rational self management here:
A (activating event) -- Brother calls on the phone, immediately asks for money.
B (belief; unhelpful, distorted, irrational) -- People should act the way I expect them to act! And if they don't, that's awful! TERRIBLE!
C (consequence/emotional) -- Depression, frustration, and/or Anger/aggression
C (consequence/behavioral) -- Withdraw from the world/stay in bed (and probably send him money anyway). Or, yell at your brother and call him names you know you'd have gotten in trouble for when you were a kid (and still probably send him money anyway)
Now that we see where the thinking error is, we can fix it! This is where the ABC Model becomes the ABCDE Model! The "D" stands for Disputes. It is here that we identify the irrational beliefs (B) that were activated (A) by this situation, and we dispute them! Finally, we come up with "E"' which stands for effective rational beliefs. We then replace our irrational beliefs (B) with these more rational ones! So,
D (disputes) -- Who says people should act the way you expect them to? Is it really awful (like a tsunami wiping out and entire city awful) when people don't act the way I expect them to?
E (effective rational beliefs) -- I would like it if people acted the way I expect them to, but I can handle it when they don't. Sometimes people behave in crappy ways! And when they do, it's not the end of the world!
Ok, I'm almost certain you guys'll have some challenges/questions for this one! Let 'em fly!
As always: ***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below!