Maybe it’s because I live in Nashville (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!), but I keep finding great expressions of positive psychology principles in country music. One recent example is Dierks Bentley’s What Was I Thinking. The song features a young man reflecting on a night out with a wild and crazy young woman and the things his emotions got him to do — a fight in a biker bar among them! The refrain is a rueful ”Well, I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” (As I write this, you can see the music video and hear the song here, but the link likely will not be valid for long.
Often, it is our emotions that help us realize, “Hey! Something’s going on here.” One of the key resilience skills is the ability to do ABC analysis. The “A” is an activating event (good or bad), though often we focus on “adversities” because how we explain such negative events seems to be very important. The “B” stands for beliefs, or how we think about and explain the situation. The “C” are the emotions and actions that come from those beliefs. Recently, Sherri Fisher, John Yeager, and I have been working with TEACH(tm), especially as we work in the education field. This acronym stands for Thoughts - Emotions - Actions - Consequences - Here we go again! Thoughts lead to Emotions which power Actions which cause Consequences which start either an upward or downward spiral. Some folks seem to work more easily with this representation than with with ABC.
Either way, the insight from the song is that our emotional reactions often are the clue that something important has happened — the “activating event.” As in the song, we can often work backwards from our emotions to the thoughts that preceded and facilitated them. The insight of cognitive behavioral therapy that’s captured and put to work in resilience training is that by working with out thoughts about a situation, we can also change our emotions. Changing our emotions helps change our actions, thus consequences, and makes upward spirals more likely!
Enjoy the song, and hopefully now it will have a hidden message for you, and you don’t even have to play it backward!
cross-posted from PPND -- see the interesting discussion in the comments there
For more on resilience:
The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, John Declaire, and Daniel Goleman