WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 26, 2014) – Heat-of-the-moment thoughts and emotions to a stressful event can be “productive or counterproductive,” depending on the course of action one chooses to take, said Master Sgt. Jennifer Loredo.
That might seem like a no-brainer, but people are not always self-aware of their own pattern of thoughts and emotions and ensuing actions when confronting stressful situations, said Loredo, who is a master resilience trainer and senior enlisted advisor for the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program.
She spoke at an Executive Resilience and Performance Training course for Department of the Army staff, today.
Attendees in the Pentagon Auditorium, where the course took place, suggested that people might want to count to 10 or take a walk when the adrenaline rush hits before saying or doing something.
But Loredo said there’s much more to it than that.
People need to train themselves to prepare for stressful events ahead of time, not wait for the stressful event to occur, she said.
“Patterns are key,” she said, explaining how to look for them in one’s own life. First, create a mental or physical list of stressful events: a boss yelling, a spouse doing something annoying, a child misbehaving, the dog barking, whatever.
Then, think about the feelings and emotions experienced immediately after the stressful event and what actions followed. Did the spouse do certain things that made you explode? Do you frequently scream at your child? Does the dog get kicked a lot? Are those feelings and emotions amplified when you’re tired or you’ve had a few drinks?
Then, look at the pattern of your actions and the consequences. Do you yell at a co-worker a lot and does that help the co-worker improve his or her performance as a result? Did those thoughts, feelings and actions make the situation more productive or less? Is there a pattern here or was the yelling an isolated incident?
People occasionally explode or do things they later realize they shouldn’t have done, she said, so that would not qualify as a pattern.
People in the audience didn’t have a shortage of stressful situations and patterns to share — some positive and some negative.
One female Soldier said she has an 8-year-old who is easily distracted and forgetful. She reminds her daughter all the time to remember to take her lunch to school and the little girl sometimes remembers, and sometimes forgets. In other words, there’s a pattern of the child making her annoyed. But yelling at her might not be the best solution, she admitted.
Understanding your patterns is the first and most important step in self-awareness and control, Laredo said. It’s not something they teach in school, but it is based on science.
Albert Ellis, a noted psychologist who is considered the founder of cognitive-behavioral therapies, first looked at the role of patterns in productive or non-productive outcomes.
He formulated the ATC Model, Laredo said, where “A” is the activating event, which could be positive or a negative. “A” is the part you can’t control.
“T” is the heat-of-the-moment thought or thoughts. “It’s how you interpret the activating event,” she explained.
“C” is the consequence, the “emotions and reactions” that follow the thoughts. Like “T,” these can be controlled to a certain extent and can result in productive or non-productive outcomes.
The order in which they occur is “A,” followed by “T,” followed by “C.”
Understanding how the ACT Model works and how patterns affect your own life, will contribute to more productive behavioral outcomes and will help better connect you and your friends and family and will also make a more ready and resilient Army team, she said.
Col. Kenneth Riddle, director of CSF2, who attended the program, agreed with the effectiveness of the ATC Model, adding that the scientific literature indicates that the model is especially helpful to young people in the 18 to 23 age group, the precise age group of many Soldiers and family members. It’s an age bracket where people are still in the process of maturing.