Recognizing and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

ABCDE Mnemonic Device for Overcoming Limiting Beliefs/ Irrational Thoughts

As you create and manifest your intentions, dreaming big to create the life you’ve always wanted, old thought patterns may begin to take over. These limiting beliefs present themselves as negative self talk which, if unchecked, may begin to ruminate in the mind. Recognizing negative self talk patterns takes time and practice. One helpful practice is the use of the ABCDE mnemonic device.

A = Activating event: The event that triggers stress or worry.

B = Belief system: The cognitive component in a person’s reaction to events.

C = Emotional Consequences of A and B: Irrational thoughts produce imagined bad consequences. These can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

D = Disputing irrational thoughts and beliefs: Challenge one’s own irrational belief system as directly as possible.

E = Cognitive and Emotional effects of revised beliefs: Answering the questions, “How would I feel if this (revised) belief were true? How would I act? What would be different?”

How Do I Know If I Have a Negative Self-Talk Pattern or Limiting Belief System?

Negative, irrational, and limiting belief systems are often accompanied by words which are demanding and absolute, inflexible or extreme. Some examples include words such as should, must, have to, and need to. One might also notice a demand for success, achievement, love and acceptance, or comfort (nearly no frustration).

A limiting belief may also be in combination with the following:

  • Awfulization – refers to 100% disasterizing beliefs signaled by such words as disaster, horrible or awful, and catastrophe.
  • Low Frustration Tolerance – beliefs signaled by words such as intolerable, can’t stand it, and too hard.
  • Global-Rating – beliefs in which you condemn or blame your entire self hood or someone else’s basic value in some important way. Global rating is signaled by such words as loser, worthless, useless, idiot, stupid.

How Do I Distinguish Between a Belief and an Irrational Belief?

The word belief means a conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something; A thought with an emotional component (conviction) and a factual component (truth, actuality or validity). Beliefs can be either positive or negative. Having a negative belief is not necessarily a bad thing. When one believes in something that is false, a negative belief tends to become an irrational or limiting belief. For example, one might believe being over weight is bad (emotional component) and they are over weight (factual component). This negative belief becomes “I am bad, unworthy of love, because I am over weight” or “I need to lose weight to be a good person, desirable, and loved”. Once a person has this belief, it is repeated over and over in one’s mind (negative self talk). The thought initiates a self fulfilling prophecy where one doesn’t receive love and acceptance because they don’t love and accept themselves. Irrational and limiting beliefs are not friendly to happiness and contentment and are unhelpful for getting one’s basic desires for love and approval, comfort and achievement or success. 

With the practice of mindfulness, journaling, or talking with a friend, one begins to notice these thought patterns and can develop the ability to recognize when they are present. Once recognized, one has the ability to choose not to believe them, disputing the belief by creating a new belief, and stating the revised belief clearly to oneself.

Depending on how deeply rooted the belief system has become, one may have to revisit this practice several times. Be gentle with yourself. Being willing to peel back the layers of the mind, recognizing limiting beliefs and transforming them into revised belief systems which serve your highest potential is a huge step toward healing and happiness.

It isn’t the finish line you are striving to reach, but the individual steps taken along the way.

Enjoy the journey.


Think of a known irrational or limiting belief you have had in the past or with which you currently struggle. Remember those signifying words: should, must, have to, and need to. After identifying the belief, go through the mnemonic device, being as diligent and honest as possible.

Printable Practice Worksheet: Recognizing and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs 2.0

Recognizing and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Personal Example

Recognizing and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs Example


Talk about turning irrational/ limiting beliefs, which aren’t serving us, into powerful manifestations of our intentions, greatly benefiting our lives! Who knew the first 5 letters in the alphabet could be so powerful?!

If you would like further explanation on how to use this mnemonic device as a tool to uncover and transform limiting beliefs, please join me in the Eclipse Activation Virtual Women’s Circle created by Sylvie Doré by clicking the link.

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A Brief History

Development of the ABCDE Mnemonic

Albert Ellis, an important contributor to the ideas behind cognitive-behavioral therapy and the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), discovered that people’s beliefs strongly affected their emotional functioning. In particular certain irrational beliefs made people feel depressed, anxious or angry and led to self-defeating behaviors. When Ellis presented his theory in the mid-1950’s (Ellis, 1962), the role of cognition in emotional disturbance had not been fully addressed by the field of psychology. Ellis developed REB theory and therapy in reaction to what he saw as the inadequate techniques of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. 



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Mindfulness: Being Fully Awake in Our Own Lives

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

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Author: Caitlin Hegwood

I create healthy recipes, share natural self-care tips, provide mindfulness practices, offer private and group yoga classes, and health and wellness coaching to my amazing community of wellness seekers. I hope you'll join me on this journey to wellness by subscribing below!

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