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Investigating the ABC sequence

Video Type: In Practice

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  • Summary

David and Jacques “Investigating the ABC sequence” Scenario Background Jacques is currently separated from his wife Ali. They have three children: Ellie, 9, and Phil, 10, and Max, 14. Jacques wants to review what he calls “negative patterns” in his relationship with Ali and to some extent the children with the hope of becoming reconciled. The focus of his talks with David here is a scenario that repeats itself when he is with his family: he is in the middle of telling a story or holding forth on some topic and they tune him out, turn to each other, pick up other conversation threads, and leave him stranded. He says he sometimes responds to this by withdrawing and becoming silent, quietly hurt and angry. At other times, he becomes indignant about “his right to be heard” and challenges them angrily, which alienates them rather than promoting intimacy, and has ended at times in him storming out of the room. Video Introduction In this exchange, David and Jacques explore the sequence of activating event, belief, and consequence that has been problematic for Jacques in his relationship with his wife and children. How does David introduce the connection between activating event, belief, and consequence to Jacques? What does he ask to solicit a vivid picture of the activating event? How do David and Jacques move from the event, to the self-talk that accompanies it? What are the primary messages that take hold of Jacques in those moments? How does David help Jacques to name and clarify these? How does he introduce an examination of the consequences of these thoughts on Jacques? How would you describe the fallout of these thoughts as depicted by Jacques? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Video Analysis Jacques feels trapped by a pattern of interaction with his wife and children and is interested in responding differently in a familiar situation that often plays out poorly for their relationship. Note that this exchange is not about trying to determine the why of what feels for Jacques like automatic behavior, but more like laying out the what, so that he can make an active choice to respond in an alternate way more in line with his intentions. Notice also that the self-talk that arises in these situations has variations, but has a sort of thematic unity that leads to certain consequences. The consequences vary somewhat as well but share the quality of detracting from the relationship. Sometimes he goes silent; sometimes he storms out of the room. Both responses are associated with feeling hurt and angry, and neither helps to strengthen his connection to his wife and children. By the end of this exchange, Jacques is clearer on how this sequence unfolds, and David and Jacques are in a position to examine it in more detail in preparation for doing things differently.

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