What is BTEA, and why does it matter to me?

BTEA is a concept introduced (to me) by Thais Gibson of the Personal Development School.

It is an acronym, and stands for: Beliefs – Thoughts – Emotions – Actions.

It describes the chain from the beliefs to the resulting actions which is build in our brains.

The chain is initiated by a trigger – a situation, which resonates with the beliefs you hold. The trigger is not part of this acronym.

Once initiated the chain will often run in a predictable fashion, and finally result you in taking the actions which are associated with it!

This is often the desired behavior – let’s say with a poisonous snake – you believe (correctly) that it is dangerous for your health. You will have thoughts like “I should get out of this situation ASAP, the snake is dangerous”. You will feel fear and possibly other emotions which are appropriate for the situation you are in, and which support you in reacting to the situation. Driven by the emotions, you will take a coping action. You might try to attack the snake to kill it first, you might try to run away, or you might freeze.

While appropriate with snakes and other dangerous animals, acting based on outdated beliefs can often hold us back in life. Watch as the chain gets built in my next example, public speaking:

Belief example

For example, in a public speaking situation, where you are required to give a talk (trigger), the belief that it is scary to speak in front of a lot of people will in turn create thoughts which are aligned with this belief.

Note: these beliefs in turn are driven by other beliefs, and so on – at the bottom of this are usually so-called “core wounds“. Learn more about core wounds here. (This is just a fancy name for some common very widespread negative beliefs which Thais Gibson in her work found to be behind most other beliefs people held). In our example, the core wound might be “I will be rejected” (by the audience).

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash: Public speaking situation

Thoughts example

Thoughts will pop up like: “Remember the time that you were speaking and your best friend told you that this is not your strong suit?” “I will probably make a fool out of myself.” “I can never compete with X, she is a genius at public speaking.”

These thoughts in turn will create appropriate emotions.

Emotions example

Some emotions which you might feel in this hypothetical situation might be:

  • fear
  • annoyance (at having to speak publicly)
  • resentment (because of you having to speak publicly)
  • feeling vulnerable
  • etc …

The emotions will in turn drive your (coping) actions.

Actions example

You might cope with the emotions (that is balance them back into neutral) by productive, and less productive means. It really depends on what you have learned, and seen in life – what used to work for you in the past, what is conveniently accessible. In times of great stress you will naturally resort to your favorite coping mechanisms.

For example, if you were historically able to calm yourself by drinking, you might drink (booze). This would be an example of a counterproductive thing to do (after all, alcohol has negative side effects, which are detrimental in a public speaking situation!)

Note: The BTEA equation will be slightly different for everyone – there are different beliefs driving your thoughts, emotions and actions. When in doubt, listen to what you emotionally resonate most with – what feels most painful to you. Your emotions are a compass, guiding you.

Why does this matter?

It matters if you want to have different outcomes than you are having today, if you want to develop yourself.

By understanding the mechanism of why you act the way you do in certain situations, and the points at which you can consciously influence and change the mechanism’s settings, you can achieve better outcomes – the outcomes you want!

Breaking the chain to get the result you actually want

Notice that everything started with a belief. The whole complicated structure stands on the belief – if you are able to get rid of the belief, then everything else will not arise from it!

The chain can naturally be broken in other places as well – at the end (action), at the thought and also the emotional levels.

The most powerful impact and fastest change will be if you work on all places at this chain at once.

I will present the required tools (all introduced to me in PDS, and published with the permission of Thais) in this blog. They will help you to actually execute the changes!

For now what matters is: for you to recognize the patterns as they play out in your head and your life. This is the first and important step to change!

BTEA this way is a tool for visualizing the status quo, and also understanding how all these components are interlinked. It is an important basic concept, please familiarize yourself with it!

The tiger in my dreams

I would like to close this post with a story.

I once saw a tiger. Naturally I believe that tigers are dangerous to humans – and I started to think immediately of ways to react to the threat. I felt fear, and a strong bodily reaction. I was reflecting about whether I should try to run to a tree and try to climb it. Or react in a different way.

Then I woke up. I was dreaming – in fact, I was in my bed all the time, and there are no tigers where I live.

I imagined (dreamt) the tiger myself – and scared myself with my own thoughts! Which led to the action / impulse to do something, which was to wake up in this situation.

A lot of situations in life are the same – we get scared of our own thoughts, based on our experiences, or experiences which are taught to us by other people.

If you hold core beliefs which are not based on reality, but anecdotes, you might be robbing yourself of a lot which life has to give.

Who says, that you are a bad public speaker? A bad parent? An unloving partner?

If you hold these beliefs, naturally negative thoughts, emotions, and (possibly destructive!) coping actions will follow.

Realistic self-appraisal is a skill. Most people are not capable of self-appraising in a really realistic, balanced way. Therefore be wary of tigers in your dreams – be wary of them so that they do not steal your happiness. After all these tigers are just stories you tell yourself!

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