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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Changing our negative thought processes- Part 2

In the last post we looked at changing our negative thoughts and we used the ABC- Model to help us understand how we can change our thoughts.

In this post we will focus a little more on the “B” of the ABC Model.

B- Belief system

Now according to Albert Ellis who put forth this model, “people largely disturb themselves by thinking in a self-defeating, illogical and unrealistic manner.”

He stated that within the B-Belief system people look at situations or events in 2 different ways:

1. Irrational Appraisals are made- or in other words, irrational thought processes or beliefs about a particular event or situation is used.

2. Rational Appraisals are made- or, rational thought processes/ beliefs about an event or situation are made.

When people make irrational appraisals their lives are more likely to be negative and they are more likely to feel the burden of the events in their lives.

On the other hand, when people make rational appraisals, then they are more likely to have positive lives and a positive outlook on the events that happen to them. (Weiten, 2005)

Below is an example to illustrate this:
Scenario A

Activating Event: You are walking down the street and you see a friend but she does not stop to greet you.

Irrational Beliefs: “She is angry at me”, “She’s being gossiping about me”, “She thinks she’s better”... etc.

Possible Consequences: You become angry at her and maybe tell another friend who might in turn tell someone else and if the person in question comes to hear about it, there’s conflict between the two of you, and since the other friends got involved they also become part of the conflict, have to take sides etc.. The gossiping and conflict continues and the friendship bond may even break.

Scenario B

Activating Event: You are walking down the street and you see a friend but she does not stop to greet you.

Rational Beliefs: "Maybe she didn’t see me, she may have been occupied with other thoughts. I should have greeted her instead of waited for her to greet me, It’s a small thing, she usually greets me I am going to let it go"...etc.

Possible Consequences: You remain friends, there is no gossiping, no conflict occurs and you continue having a positive friendship with this person, your friendship with your other friends also remain positive and your life in general is more positive and peaceful.

In the example above can you see the huge difference that our belief system about certain events can make? This is just one small example, see what happens when you apply this to your life.

Think about your life, are you more commonly making use of Rational or Irrational Belief systems. Think about some recent events in your life and whether your beliefs about these were rational or irrational. Consider how this is impacting on your life. What do you think would happen if you began to make use of rational belief systems more often? Do you think that this will be difficult to do?
It makes sense that we should be using rational beliefs and appraisals of things in our lives as this will help us to be happier and positive individuals.

This fits in with Islamic ideas of positive thinking as well. Suspicion of others is not good at all and we are told in a hadeeth something to the effect that a Muslim should make 72 excuses for his brother before suspecting him of doing things. Islam encourages us to always see the good in every situation and person!

May Allah Almighty make all our difficulties easy and help us to live positive lives!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Changing our negative thought processes- Part 1

There’s a branch of psychology that believes that people’s feelings, beliefs and actions, basically what people go through in their lives are shaped by their thought processes. So for instance, if somebody has negative thought processes then the events in their lives will turn out negatively and if somebody has positive thought processes then the events in their lives will be positive.

The model below shows us how this works:


A- ACTIVATING EVENT (events in people’s lives, events that might be distressing or troublesome for them).


B- BELIEF SYSTEM (person’s beliefs about the events that occur in their lives).

C- CONSEQUENCE (emotional and behavioural reactions which most of the time are dysfunctional or problematic if the event is experienced as distressing).

Image from:

We have no control over A, the Activating event, it will happen anyhow, however, our beliefs about events will determine the consequences and therefore if we change our negative beliefs then we will be changing the consequences as well.

Now in some cases we won’t have control over the ultimate consequence (like for example with a terminal illness, but we will have control over the smaller consequences related to this. This sounds like it may be becoming confusing so let me give you an example:


Safiya just finds out that she has cancer. She believes that this is the end of the world and that she can’t go on living so she ends up staying in bed all day, she remains depressed and she is angry with the people around her, she fights with everyone all the time and she remains lonely and feels terrible and sick all the time.

At the same time, Leila also finds out that she has cancer. Leila believes that this does not change the fact that life is beautiful and she believes that having a disease should not be a means for life to stop because life is more than just about the physical. She decides to live each day to the fullest, she spends as much time as possible with her loved ones, she is joyful and bright all the time as she decided to cherish each moment of her life. She does not believe that her diagnosis is a death sentence because she believes that anybody can die at any time. So Leila remains happy and pleasant, physically she does feel sick but she manages to pick herself up and carry on.

I hope this example helps you to see how our belief systems about events in our lives determine the consequences of what will happen to us after that.

So, if you find that many events in your life are negative, perhaps it will help to look at the beliefs you hold about things that happen to you, and if you start changing those beliefs to more positive ones, then perhaps this will have a direct effect on how things turn out- Insha’Allah.

Self-Reflection Exercise

Think about a recent event that occurred in your life, it can be a big event or a small one. Consider how you reacted to this event/ what the consequences were. Now look back at your belief system about this event and try to see how a change in your beliefs might have changed the consequences of the event. Write down what you come up with, or just think about this.

Practice using this model and see if there are any differences in your life.

Don’t forget that you are more than welcome to share your experiences with us!

Insha’Allah in the post we will take this a little bit further and discuss the B- belief system and how you can change it in some more detail.

Until then, May Allah (SWT) shower His Peace and Blessing on you always!!!

* The reference for this is: Weiten, W. (1995). Psychology: Themes and Variations (3rd edition). California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. This can also be found in any other Introduction to Psychology Textbook.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs;

When you change your beliefs, you change your expectations;

When you change your expectations, you change your attitude;

When you change your attitude you change your behaviour;

When you change your behaviour, you change your performance;                      

When you change your performance, YOU CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

(Author Unknown)
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