why i need other people to change myself
the purpose of a wish

saying no to negativity is as easy as ABC(DE)


Lately I've been reading The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, and, truth be told, it's been an amazing experience. I'm learning so much not only about the world of happiness from a scientific perspective, but also about myself. There are many great exercises in the book, but one in particular helps you identify what actions to take to make yourself happier. This is great because there are many, many things we can do to bring about the happiness that lies within us and it's so important to narrow the list down to a few things that will most likely work best for you.

After taking the test to figure out which four things would benefit me most in terms of being happier, I discovered that these tactics would be best for me: (1) doing things that engage me, (2) practicing acts of kindness, (3) learning to forgive, and (4) committing to goals. All of the options for increasing happiness sounded appealing to me, but when I found out these four would be best for me I realized that the test was really dead-on.

These four things really do benefit me when I do them. For example, I love writing and reading and participating in things that actively engage me in what I'm doing (#1). I also love creating projects for myself and committing to goals in the future (such as an ebook and, someday, a novel) which really relates to #4. As for #2, I've always been the kind of person (due to the rearing done by my wonderful mom) that loves to do kind things for others -- send cards, remember birthdays, cheer a friend up who's feeling down. Now I don't think I do any grand acts of kindness and I know I could certainly work on this more (where is that kindness hiding when I'm being sassy with my loved ones?), but I know that when I do kind things for others I really do feel a lot happier. As for #3, well, that is something that I know will ultimately bring me happiness should I really work on it (I'm going to try, I swear!). I have a lot of people to forgive and it's definitely not an easy one for me, but I do believe it will benefit me a lot in the long run.

Where am I going with all of these personal accounts, you wonder? Yes, I know it's probably not the most fascinating thing to hear about what works for me in terms of happiness activities, but I bet you it would be very interesting for you to see what works best for you. While I'm not going to review The How of Happiness here (I don't know how I could without rewriting the whole book in this post because it's all so fabulously interesting!), I would encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven't already.

It's so fascinating (at least, to me) and it's an easy read. I'd been hesitating about buying it for a long time because of the scientific aspect. I'm not a scientist. In fact, science was my very worst subject when I was a kid so I was a bit hesitant to read this book for fear that it would be -- god forbid! -- boring. I hate, hate, hate being bored. But I was far from it when I was reading this great book. I was engaged, taking tests (sounds not-fun but it was actually fun!), learning about happiness. It was (and still is -- only about half-way through) a great reading experience.

Since I'm not going to review the bookhere, I've decided to pick one element of the book that really stuck out to me and talk about it. I could go on and on and on about how great the book is, how much you can learn about yourself and the best ways to handle so many situations, but I'm going to stick with this one and very interesting topic: the ABCDE disputation technique. Sounds fancy, I know, but it's really just another way of saying "five ways to dispute negative thoughts" which, to me, sounds pretty awesome. So, here it is. I present you with five ways to get rid of negative thoughts. (The steps come from the book. The examples and explanations are my own.) Before you dive in, you should know that:

A stands for adversity
B stands for beliefs
C stands for consequences
D stands for disputation
E stands for energize

The ABCDE Disputation Technique (or, 5 Ways to Get Rid of Negativity)


  1. Write down the nature of the adversity, the bad event or problem you are facing. Okay, let's say you're facing a tough problem (or, what you think is a tough problem) and you have to deal with it. How you are handling it in your head might not be the best way, which is why you have to write it down ina single statement. An example of this would be, "I don't have a significant other." (We'll use this example throughout the exercise to provide concrete examples...I always do better with those personally!)
  2. Identify any negative beliefs triggered by this problem. Once you've identified what you think the problem is, note what the negative beliefs are that come from this problem. Using the example, using the situation above, some negative beliefs might be: "No one likes me because I am not good looking" or "I'm not an interesting person so no one wants to date me" or "I have too many problems to be a good significant other."

  3. Record the consequence of the problem, how you are feeling and acting as a result. What actions and feelings come from these negative thoughts? The thoughts are different than these feelings or actions so it's important to identify both. Some examples for this situation might be: "I feel very alone" or "I don't feel like I deserve to be loved" or "I'm not going to go out tonight because no one wants to see me anyway."

  4. Dispute the negative belief, challenging it, thinking of other possible reasons for the problem. After you've identified the consequences of the problem, challenge them! Fight 'em off by creating arguments for the beliefs you identified with. In this situation, disputing the beliefs might be something like, "Maybe I'm not being open to new people and situations" or "Maybe I'm still clinging to an old relationship and not making room for new people" or "Maybe I am putting out negative vibes and that explains why people aren't acting attracted to me."

  5. Consider the more optimistic explanations for your problem can energize you. Considering other possibilities in the situation will help you to realize that you've probably been looking at it from one (negative) angle. (I do this a lot.) Once you see that there are other possible believes that can be associated with your problem, you'll probably feel a lot more positive about the situation and realize that you have control over the way you view it.


As Lyubomirsky writes in The How of Happiness, "ABCDE disputation basically involves arguing with your own overly pessimistic thoughts rather than let those thoughts control you." The most difficult part, as noted in the book, is the disputation. Even when I was doing the example above, I had to pause for longer on that example than on the others. It was easy for my mind to think of the negative beliefs and consequences, but I had a harder time thinking about how I could view the situation differently. I had a hard time thinking of reasons why someone who wanted to be in a relationship might not have a significant other that weren't negative. Luckily, as I keep reading the book (after having written everything above) I come across questions you should ask yourself when attempting to combat your negative beliefs about a specific problem. According to Lyubomirsky, "Below are questions you should ask yourself and answer, preferably in writing and preferably when you're in a neutral mood." Below I've paraphrased the questions from the book so you can use them when tackling your own problem...

  • What specific evidence do I have for this belief?
  • What alternative explanations are there for the behavior of others?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it?
  • What is the best possible thing that could happen and what is the likelihood of that?
  • What do I honestly think is the most likely outcome?
  • What do I get out of having this belief? Is it useful?
  • What do I plan to do to address the problem?


I really believe that these questions are so important to ask yourself when dealing with a negative belief -- and I would know, considering negative beliefs used to be my specialty. Now that I found out about this technique, I'm going to put it to good use. Every time I find myself faced with a negative belief, I'm going to try to implement this technique and see if it works. I have a good feeling that it will...


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I really like how you broke that down into ABCDE... it's like something you can take away from the post and pop up on your fridge or mirror to jog your memory.. good stuff.

Kate - Thanks for the comment! It's from the book, but it was one of the things I loved about it. It was such an easy thing to read and remember. I'm definitely going to keep it in mind the next time a negative thought comes my way.


YAY YOU for tackling such a tough one - negativity. your ABCs... are wonderful. thanx. as i read them i was reminded of a book i read years ago and re.read often. i bet you've read it too. it's called The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. it contains all of the elements you've mentioned above.

one line from it hits me solidly "Granpa lived with the game, not at it." Chapter 4, p. 23

that line has always reminded me that there are times when i'm called to be in the midst of It and learn. those WPOs (worst possible outcomes) and BPOs (best possible outcomes)help me focus on my next best right choice.


may we all live WITH the game.

Lisa - Thanks for your comment! I've never heard of that book, but it sounds like a great one. I love the idea of living with the game and not at it. That's such an great idea and really fits with the idea that we can control how we think about a situation. We can take the negative thoughts and transform them so that we are living with the game.

An even quicker way is Byron Katie's 4 questions to turn a *should* or *should not* statement around to the truth. When we're in "should" land, we're at war with reality. And when we're at war, we're suffering miserable, and very unhappy.

By me believing that my husband's ex-wife "should" be a better mother, I had this mini world war going on in my head. You would have been blown away by my negative thoughts...and then, I found Byron Katie. My husband's ex-wife is who she is. She's a mom to the best of her ability right now. When I was able to accept that, my knickers unwadded and I crafted my game plan based on What Is...and not what I thought should be.


Dani, you would surely like a book called - Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive by Barbara Fredrickson.

I wrote about it in this article. http://www.ratracetrap.com/the-rat-race-trap/positivity-leads-to-a-flourishing-life.html

I apologize for linking to my article here :-)

I had the same reaction to it that you had to the How of Happiness which I have not read.

Thanks for another great article. It's the second one of yours I've read and I absolutely love your blog now.

Peggy - Thanks for your comment. Bryon Katie's book is next on my list of To Read. :) I'm looking forward to it. You make a great point with your story about your husband's ex-wife. Thinking negative thoughts doesn't help anything, but acceptance does. Great point!

Stephen - I'm so glad you recommended the book. I'm definitely going to check it out because it sounds right up my alley. Thanks for mentioning it and for linking to your article about it. And thanks for the compliments on the blog too. :)

Hi Dani,
It's kind of like working through the negativity to move beyond it - and that sounds so beneficial. As positive or happy as we can be, we all have moments where negativity seeps in. Having a method (which is easy) to work beyond that negativity is so good. And I'm really drawn into the "energize" phase - maybe because that takes us out of the negativity? Anyway, this sounds like a great method...

Hi Dani, great post! I was going to write about Byron Katie's exercise, which she calls "The Work" because it is very similar to the ABCDE approach--but Peggy beat me to it! :) This book sounds great. I will check it out. And definitely let us know what you think of Byron Katie when you get around to her! Enjoy your weekend! Jodi

Lance - I agree that the energize phase seems the best, but, as you said, it's probably because that's the one that takes us out of the negativity! Last night I was having some negative thoughts and then I realized, "Wow, I wrote a post on this today. I better try the ABCDE method!" and it worked! It was so easy and it really did help me move out of the negative state I was in.

Jodi - It seems like I need to hurry up and finish The How of Happiness and move on to Byron Katie's work. I've heard so much about it! I'm sure I'll be writing about it after I read it so I'll keep you posted! :)

Your wonderful post just provided umpteen journaling exercises - wow, thank you! And then all the book recommendations in the comments - ah, so many books, so little time! How wonderful that we can all share our discoveries and experiences here in the blogosphere! As always, glad to be here on your spot!

Hi Dani. Disputing IS difficult... because we... like to be RIGHT! Right? :-) We are so sure of ourselves, how could it be any other way? You've given us some great questions to move out of that mindSET; especially the first one: what evidence do you have?

Beautiful write up and there's a lot to be said for re-writing your automatic thoughts. Happiness isn't always easy by default, but at least you can achieve it by design.

It seems like once you decide to be happy, you can drive a lot of decisions and thinking from there ... it really is a mindset that goes well beyond just the glass being half full, though half full is a great start.

Suzen - You're welcome! :) I'm glad I could help out with some journal entries. I know what you mean about the books. I picked up the Bryon Katie book this weekend and started reading and it's great so far. Glad to have you here on PP!

Davina - You're so right. We want to be right and we don't want to challenge our mindSET, which is why it's actually pretty difficult to battle those negative thoughts. Hard as it is, it CAN be done and that's the awesome thing about this method!

J.D. - Happiness is definitely not always by default, but you can certainly achieve it if you work at it, which I really think this method can help us to do. It's more than a mindset. It's hard work!

Great post Dani. Sounds like an interesting book. I'll add it to my list of books to read.

Srinivas - It's definitely a great book. I'm almost finished with it and I would most certainly recommend it. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it on your site after you read it!

Rah, rah to # 5, of course!

You're giving me too much reading, lady...

I love how the ABCDE method is an excuse to argue - it may be with yourself - but at least the results are positive! ;)


Veronica - Yes, #5 is my favorite! :) I'm a big fan of reading and always have my nose in a book. I can't help but mention all of the great books on my site! :) I also love how this gives us a chance to work things out, to argue with ourselves, in a way that produces a positive result.

Hi Dani,

That sounds like a really good book. The ABCDE process is a really good one, and those are really powerful questions. They will help to generate a self awareness of how a lack of happiness is largely in our heads rather than in our lives. And that is so empowering!

Hilda - It's a really great book and I've tried the ABCDE technique and it really does work. As you noted, so much about happiness is in our heads. We have the power to control the way we view situations (even if we can't change the situations!).

Another great post. Today we talked about how to turn negative feelings into something positive at the Al-Anon meeting. It isn't hard when I think of just a few things that I am grateful for. And when I focus on doing a random act of kindness for another or doing service work. The Just for Today reading has some good thoughts on this as well.

Syd - Turning negative thoughts into positive ones definitely isn't easy, but I found that this method really works. I've tried it a few times and it always seems to help. Give it a go and see if it works for you!

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