Building Resiliency: Lessons from the Strong Resiliency program – Part 4

Posted on 05/07/11 by erynwicker

From a series I wrote for The Chilliwack Progress some time ago…

Week 4 of the Strong Resiliency Groups: The Power of Positive Thinking

My Strong Readers are now empathetic, non angry (because they’re counting and walking away), and reframing their thought errors away – essentially, you are mean, lean, self-aware, and emotionally sound individuals. And now that you’re thinking how wonderful you are we’re in a good place for my next Strong Resiliency lesson: The Power of Positive Thinking.

The objective of this week’s lesson is to help us change our negative thoughts and beliefs by understanding and utilizing techniques relating to positive thinking. My hope is that by the end of today’s article you will be able to distinguish between positive and negative examples of thinking, understand the model of learned optimism that I will present, and apply this lesson at different times and in different settings in your lives.

First things first, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with regard to relevant vocabulary.

Self-Control: the ability to control your own behaviour, especially in terms of your own actions and impulses.


Personal Control: believing that you have control over the important outcomes in your life


           Optimism: believing, expecting, or hoping that things will turn out well


           Pessimism: always expecting something bad to happen

The act of viewing the world from a positive perspective with expectations for pleasant and good outcomes and ready solutions is positive thinking. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s a desirable trait, not only for health and happiness, but it’s appealing to others as well. Of course, we’re all going to have negative thoughts once in a while, maybe even more so. Understandable given what life throws us sometimes – arguments with partners, rejection by friends, or poor work performance can all cause negative thinking. The crucial element here is that negative thinking should not (or we would like it not to) happen more than positive or neutral thoughts. Balance is key – positive thoughts should equal if not outweigh our negative thoughts on average. As the saying goes “One bad event should not ruin your entire day. “ Try telling my mom that. She was stuck raising a daughter who was the queen of “all or nothing thinking’ and letting one thing ruin her day. If I couldn’t find the perfect outfit to wear to school I didn’t want to go. If my homework wasn’t perfect I would get extremely upset and threaten to throw it all in the garbage. And this was when I was under the age of 8 – imagine me now.

Why might we have negative thoughts about ourselves, our abilities, or our potential? Can negative thinking occur when we place blame upon ourselves or when we think we can’t control what happens to us? Of course it can, and why shouldn’t it then if we leave ourselves open to that kind of attack upon ourselves by ourselves. What would be so wrong with us taking credit for our successes and not blaming ourselves for the negative things that happen, especially the ones that are out of our control? This type of thinking, positive thinking if you will, is a way to change up and stop those negative thoughts.

I would like to introduce the model that we use in this lesson from the Strong Resiliency curriculum – think of it as a helpful tool to remember how to achieve positive thinking. It’s called the ABCDE Plan:

A: Adversity: Think of it as any problem that I can’t control – possibly ones that might come up at work, home, or school.

B: Belief: Think of it as bad thoughts that make me think things are my fault.

C: Consequence: Think of it as a creepy feeling that I get in my head that makes me feel worse.

D: Disputation: Think of it as deciding not to accept the creepy thoughts, or deciding to argue against the negative thoughts and beliefs that make me feel small or guilty. Decide to look for and use hopeful and helpful beliefs that make me feel competent and able.

E: Energization: Think of it as enjoying the idea that I can control what I think about myself. Enjoy the feeling I get when I decide that everything is not negative.

It helps to think of scenarios that might elicit negative thoughts so that you can see the ABCDE model at work. For example: where might you be, with whom, what’s going on, what might be your response, and how do others respond that make you feel bad. To see learned optimism at work it might look like this:

A (Adversity): Eryn gets into another argument with her parents about her clothes – she wants to wear a dress to school in December and her mom says “it’s not a fashion show.”

B (Belief): Eryn thinks that her parents hate her, want her to be unhappy, and will never understand her.


C (Consequence): Eryn feels sad and angry that she cannot express herself the way she wants to.


D (Disputation): Eryn decides “They won’t change their minds right now so I have to remember that one day either they’ll change their minds or I’ll get to chose what I want to wear so there’s not point wasting my time feeling bad now for something I can’t control.”

E (Energization): Eryn proclaims “I’m still ticked off that I can’t wear what I want but in ten years when I ‘m eighteen I’ll be able to wear whatever I want and I’ll show them.”

As we wrap up today’s lesson think about the following questions to help remind you of the important points (I’ll even provide some of the answers to help you get started):

What is thinking positive? Learning how to choose a different way of thinking about things so that we don’t wind up feeling miserable or responsible whenever something doesn’t work out for us. 


What is one way to start thinking positive? By not taking all of the responsibility for bad outcomes, and not refusing all of the praise for good outcomes. Positive thinking has a lot to do with self control and about deciding where we have control in our lives, and over our thoughts.


How can we feel better about ourselves? By taking responsibility when good things happen and attributing good things to something good about you.


What are some ways you can make positive thinking work? By remembering that you are not entirely to blame for everything that goes wrong – some things may have been out of your control. Also, realizing that when things do go right you can and should take some of the credit. And there’s nothing wrong with learning a lesson and taking something positive from it when something does go wrong.


Is it ever okay to have negative thoughts? Of course, it’s only natural to have negative thoughts some of the time, especially in negative situations.


What happens if I have too many negative thoughts? This answer depends on you, your disposition, your lifestyle so I’ll let you guys answer this one for yourselves.