Exploring Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Date: 30th April 2022 | By: Dr Lourdes Gaspar
This is a well written article on how ACT works. It also provides an account of a personal relationship with ACT by the author, some practical tips as well as giving some historical perspective on where ACT originated.
Some highlights include the following,
‘We are not our thoughts.’ The article helpfully explains what we mean by “defusing” from our thoughts. It gives the example of someone constantly hearing a voice in they are unlovable and offers the following advice.”
“So, rather than taking the thought, “I am unlovable and nobody likes me,” at face value, for example, we can train ourselves to think, “I am having the thought that I am unlovable.” Or, if it is part of a recurrent self-narrative, we may observe, “There’s that unlovability story again.” In that way, we create a crucial gap between ourselves and these thoughts.
Comment – It finishes saying., “It is in this gap and the act of “defusing” from our thoughts that our power to make wiser decisions lies” which is a helpful insight into where and how it is possible to bring about change in one’s negative thoughts.
Ancient wisdom- “ACT is an evidence-based psychological intervention that is proven to be at least as effective as CBT. But it also has an ancient, spiritual dimension, combining core insights from Buddhism, Stoicism, and Daoism. From Buddhism it takes its focus on the present moment, and the idea of the observing self that can watch our thoughts disinterestedly, without getting too tangled up in them. From Stoicism it takes the idea of understanding what we can control and what we cannot control (although the Stoics were more optimistic about the possibility of controlling our thoughts). ACT suggests that we cannot constantly control our thoughts and emotions, nor should we aim to do so. From Daoism, finally, ACT takes the idea of acceptance and letting go: ACT encourages us to notice unpleasant or unhelpful thoughts, neither to fight or affirm them, and then to let them go.”
Comment – ancient concepts which may help us in our day to day lives.
Creative Hopelessness- “It holds that we just have to accept that pain, discomfort, suffering, and negative thoughts and feelings are part of the human condition. If we spend all of our energy trying to repress these, we will grow tired or fail, and blame ourselves for failing, adding dirt to our pure pain.”
Comment – trying to suppress or fight a struggle, (chronic pain for instance) can actually make it much worse.
“Value-led action- As the name suggests, ACT is ultimately about committing to taking the right kinds of action. Its aim is preparing us for long-term value-led living, rather than short-term goal-oriented striving. It encourages us to live by the inner compass of our deeper values and tries to show us how to commit to taking value-led action.”
Comment – In our program, we explore from the outset what are the core values that are important to you and explore how we can live a life true to those values even when co-existing chronic pain may seem insurmountable.
“Mind metaphors matter. The final reason I love ACT so much is because it takes metaphors seriously. As a writer and literature scholar, I strongly believe that our metaphors matter, especially those we use to describe our inland empires. Mind metaphors are not just decorative ornaments, but actually shape our experiences and interpretations. ACT practitioners know that and mobilize the power of metaphor to help us think differently about our mind. Some of my favourites are the passenger on the bus, the unwanted party guest, and the Sushi train.”
Comment – Our program uses “passengers on the bus” as way of exploring how to deal with negative thoughts and “the unwanted party guest” as way of how you might view unpleasant sensations.