If you are struggling with thoughts and emotions that are hard to control, then ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) may be helpful. ACT cleverly teaches you to first notice, then accept and even embrace your thoughts and feelings. It helps to defuse the effects that stressful thoughts and emotions can have on you by showing you how resistance holds the entire system in place. The way out of this mind-looping trap is acceptance. When we stop fighting what is so unacceptable to us (our resistance in action), then with acceptance (not resignation, mind you), we free up more space to allow other options to exist. Make sense?
“Identity is maintained by never examining the belief that, “If I feel this, then I must do that.” – Cheri Huber
Cheri got it right! Change is difficult if we are fused with the belief that our feelings are somehow our identity. We can diffuse from these pervasive feelings and thoughts that have their hold on us, by first accepting and embracing them. ACT also teaches defusion as a technique.
A memorable acronym for ACT is:
- Accept your reactions and be present
- Choose a valued direction
- Take action
By using acceptance as a starting point, we open up space to develop a new skill of valued direction. We get the opportunity to move from our conditioned responses to making choices in directions we want to go. How fun is that?! To think you are not the sum of your parts, but evolving and moving all the time in the direction that you wish to go. Sounds like sheer bliss to me.
I’ve seen time and time again how acceptance plays a role in sessions with my clients. Watching this happen is like watching a balloon deflate its air. Acceptance can lead to additional groundwork for all other types of healing and development to take place.
Now for the bad news, you have to be willing. Yep, willingness is the key. Even if you are unwilling, you could begin right now and just accept all that is unwilling about it. Accepting any resistance to that fact that we resist is a great starting point – a compassionate, conscious choice to lead a better life.
If you struggle with distressing thoughts and emotions, then with practice, ACT can become an effective mindful and conscious way of being in the world.
Huber, C., (2003). When you’re falling, dive. Murphys, CA: Huber and Shiver.