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The ABCs of REBT

REBT's ABCs of Emotions

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy’s Theory of Emotions (A+B=C)

  • Garden will teach you an easy and effective system of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT & REBT).
  • REBT practitioners can update their practice for greater effectiveness and efficiency with Not.

“Resolve to dismiss thy judgment about an act as if it were something grievous and thy anger is gone.” —Marcus Aurelius

PHASE I: A + B = C


A = Activating Event

  • That is, what happened, the trigger, the incident, the start, the stimulus, the salient part of the experience, the pushing of your button(s), what you reacted to, what got you going, what got you started.

B = Belief

  • How you interpreted the situation, your shoulds and musts about it, your self-talk, what you told yourself it meant. How you judged the behavior, or what you judged it as. Your reactive thoughts about A. The area or part of the experience that we are responsible for, and so can control or change.

C = Consequence

  • That is, what feeling(s) and behavior(s) result because of your B’s about A. What do you do and what do you feel as a result of A + B?

REBT's ABCs of Emotions


  1. Learn to identify simply and clearly the event, A, that you reacted to.
  2. Learn to identify what you thought about A, in the forms of shoulds and musts, which is B.
  3. Learn to identify what you felt as a result of A + B, which is the first part of C, and also what you did as a result of A + B, which is the second part of C.
  4. Learn that A is not = to C, but only A + B = C.


The A needs to be stated simply and cleanly.

  • Examples: he or she pushed me, they called me a name, they looked at me disapprovingly, they were late, they were early, I didn’t get what I wanted (name it), I didn’t get what I deserved (name it), when they do such and such, whenever such and such happens, this or that happened, etc. Keep it to a behavior or action and don’t use feelings for now.

The B needs to be stated in a must or should sentence. You need at least one B for each part of your C, for each emotion and behavior. There can be more than one B for each part, and one B can be about more than one part.

  • Examples: I must be perfect, I must do better, You shouldn’t be that way, You should be nicer to me, They should treat me fairly, That shouldn’t have happened. Be specific.

The C needs to be stated in feeling words such as: glad, sad, mad, afraid, ashamed, lonely, hurt, guilty, distressed, contemptuous, surprised, disgusted, interested, joyous. You can have more than one feeling, but, for Phase 1, give no more than three. The C also needs to be given in a behavioral format, that is, what you did.

  • Examples: I hit her or him, I shouted at them, I walked away, my body went limp, I withdrew, my stomach turned over, I began to sweat, I just sat there and did nothing. Keep to the immediate behaviors, not what you did later.


  • Stop rating the self.
  • Stop judging yourself as your behavior. Accept yourself and judge your behavior.
  • Rate your behavior but not your person. Stop accepting yourself as thought.
  • Work to eliminate irrational beliefs.
  • Become less reactive.
  • Become freer.
  • Become more tolerant.
  • Become more accepting.
  • Have less violent emotions.
  • Have less extreme feelings and thoughts.
  • Have less buttons that people can push and manipulate you with.
  • Regain power over your emotions.

Extra Information

  • Compare the ABCs of REBT to STPHFR

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“Each of us does, in effect, strike a series of ‘deals,’ or compromises, between the wants and longings of the inner self, and an outer environment that offers certain possibilities and sets certain limitations.” —Maggie Scarf

“Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act.” —Claude Helvetius

“Happy is the man who early learns the wide chasm that lies between his wishes and his powers.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“‘I should not should,’ can be a healthy or unhealthy attitude. If you interpret it as a demand (should), then it will lead to emotional conflicts and likely also behavioral conflicts. If you interpret it as a guideline (should), then it will lead to your avoiding some of the emotional and behavior conflicts that arise from demandingness.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“What has always made a hell on earth is that man has tried to make it his heaven.” —Friedrich Holderlin

More & Related Information

  1. 7 Thinking Errors of CT
  2. 9 Fundamental Thinking Errors
  3. Albert Ellis: “New Yorker” Article
  4. CBT, CT, & REBT Cognitive Psychotherapies: List of Pages
  5. Cognitive Psychotherapy Quotations
  6. Musts: Friend & Foe
  7. REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy): List of Pages
  8. REBT Video Demonstrations Online
  9. REBT Website (www.albertellisinstitute.org)
  10. REBT’s 4 Issues As a System
  11. REBT’s 10 Must Scripts for Life
  12. REBT’s 11 Irrational Beliefs

For 99¢ you can purchase The Secret of Maturity, Third Edition, which explores, explains, and encourages emotional responsibility.

Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“A fool is only a fool because he won’t see he is a fool.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” —James Joyce

“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” —Hebrews 12:8

“By honestly acknowledging your past errors, but never damning yourself for them, you can learn to use your past for your own future benefit.” —Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 194

“Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” —Proverbs 15:5

“Failure doesn’t have anything to do with your intrinsic value as a person.” —Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 206

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” —Hebrews 12:6

“If we eliminated all errors, we would also eliminate much discovery, art, insight, learning, and creativity that results from facing errors.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” —Hebrews 12:7

“It’s so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to.” —Annie Gottlier

“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:” —Proverbs 3:11

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” —Wayne Dyer

“REBT exists to help when you think it is so horrible it hurts.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” —Norman Vincent Peale

“When receiving correction, the wise seeks to learn and the fool seeks to justify with excuses.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

Quotations from Scripture on Counseling

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:” —Proverbs 1:5

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” —Proverbs 11:14

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” —Proverbs 12:15

“Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace is joy.” —Proverbs 12:20

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” —Proverbs 15:22

“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” —Proverbs 19:20

“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.” —Proverbs 20:18

“Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.” —Isaiah 16:3

“Extol not thyself in the counsel of thine own heart; that thy soul be not torn in pieces as a bull [straying alone.]” —Ecclesiasticus 6:2

“As timber girt and bound together in a building cannot be loosed with shaking: so the heart that is stablished by advised counsel shall fear at no time.” —Ecclesiasticus 22:16

“Give not over thy mind to heaviness, and afflict not thyself in thine own counsel.” —Ecclesiasticus 30:21

“A man of counsel will be considerate; but a strange and proud man is not daunted with fear, even when of himself he hath done without counsel.” —Ecclesiasticus 32:18

“And let the counsel of thine own heart stand: for there is no man more faithful unto thee than it.” —Ecclesiasticus 37:13

“Let reason go before every enterprise, and counsel before every action.” —Ecclesiasticus 38:33

“Gold and silver make the foot stand sure: but counsel is esteemed above them both.” —Ecclesiasticus 40:25