ACT and mindfulness
ACT and mindfulness
« Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life » from Steven C. Hayes (Professor of psychology internationally recognized for his work on ACT) and Spencer Smith – 2005
ACT and Mindfulness
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy belongs to the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies (CBT). It is based on the Relational Framework Theory (RFT) and demonstrates that the mind, this formidable tool, can turn against its host and lead to dead ends.
The definition of ACT
Thus, the ACT challenges some deeply rooted psychological approaches.
– The psychological pain is normal, important, and concerns us all.
– we can not get out the pain, but only gradually learn not to amplify it artificially.
– Pain and suffering are 2 different states
– Accepting one’s pain is a step to getting rid of the suffering.
In conclusion, ACT requires a radical transformation of perspectives. It does not propose to get out of emotional shifting sands, but to learn how to live there. It does not believe that the « normal » human is happy.
Mindfulness, acceptance and values
Above all, mindfulness is a way of observing your own experience. Moreover, it has been used in the East for centuries in the form of meditation exercises. Mindfulness is seeing your thoughts from a new angle. As an observer.
Seeking to eliminate the pain, only amplifies it. The alternative is acceptance. For that you have to let go.
And focus on the values that matter most to us. Define and live out your goals in the present, by committing yourself fully. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Is suffering universal ?
You say, « why do not I get out of it? « Why is life so difficult? « And why can not I be a normal person? « Why am I unable to be happy? « .
And to dwell on each of your problems creates 2 sources of pain. Indeed, the direct pain of the problem, but even more so, this pain prevents you from living the life you want to lead.
From language to suffering
The principle of the RFT is that human behavior is largely governed by networks of relationships called « relational frameworks ». These relationships form the heart of human language and cognition, and allow us to learn without resorting to direct experience. For example, a cat will not touch a hotplate twice, but it must at least touch it once to learn. On the contrary, a child does not need this experience if somebody explains him verbally the danger.
These frames (RTF) are numerous. Here are some examples:
– Coordination frame (same as, similar to …)
– Temporal and causal frames (before, after, if / then, cause of, parent of …)
– Comparative and evaluative frames (very large, faster, better than …)
– Deictic frames (perspective of the one talking: I / he / you, here / there …)
– Space frames (near, far …)
To solve any problem verbally, the following items are required:
– Facts and properties
– Time and / or circumstances
So we can solve the future, evaluate and compare the likely outcomes. Unfortunately we can also cause psychological discomfort (uncertainty, doubt …).
To erase his thoughts
A thought annoys you? The « normal » strategy would be … no longer (not) thinking about it.
« Do not think of X ». But the rule contains X, and therefore tends to evoke it. Thus the thought that worries us tends to take on more and more importance. In the extreme, a severely obsessive person devotes more effort to chasing his thoughts.
What is true for thoughts, is also true for emotions. Emotions are related to thoughts. And this also applies to behaviors.
Each of us will apply his own techniques (Cigarette, sport, self-inflicted violence …). We are talking about coping strategies.
The mechanisms of thought are simple but rigorous. Our mind works in a binary way: true or false, okay, disagree. We must accept or refute. But that remains of the domain of thought. But to truly live, we can not just think: we must learn to experiment.
The temptation of avoidance
2 main factors condemn us to the avoidance of experience. The first is that if something does not suit you, think about how to change it and act. It works very well in the outside world. The second is that the effects of avoidance often seem positive in the short term.
Unfortunately, avoidance only reinforces the importance and role of what you avoid. In other words, when you run away from your problems, they only grow.
In fact the only solution is to take responsibility.
To let go
Acceptance and benevolence: The benevolence we are talking about is that of “wanting” in a « positively » way, to make consciously the choice to receive, to act and to be as we are.
The goal of acceptance is not to feel better, but to open up to the vitality of the moment, and to act more effectively in the directions that matter to you. In other words, the purpose of benevolence is to fully feel all the feelings that come, even the bad ones, in order to live more intensely. Thus, instead of trying to « feel better », we will now seek to « better feel ».
Why to try benevolence (or good willing)? Because it is the opposite of avoidance.
It’s a bit like a driver who, despite the autopilot, loses control of his car and goes off the road. As long as he does not understand why he exited this road, he will avoid taking back his car.
It is therefore with ACT to look for signs, stop the car and get off to remove or rewrite the signs, in order to not leave the road anymore the next time.
To stop autopilot, and objectively observe our thoughts (Aaron Beck (father of cognitive therapy) and ‘distancing’). The author proposes to look at his thoughts rather than look away. Not to follow them, to change them, or to resist them. But just to notice them, as we notice a graffiti.
Your mind’s mission is to protect you. For this, he continually categorizes events, links them to pre-existing analyzes and projections, and evaluates possible actions. Whether you like it or not, inside your skull is a « machine to produce words » that, from morning to night, puts all the events in relation.
The next goal is to start grasping your thoughts « on the fly ».
Eg : les virtues of saliva
In addition to moistening your mouth when it is dry, saliva has natural antiseptic qualities. It also helps us to predigrate our food. It’s a wonderful substance.
Now imagine that you fill a glass with your saliva. You spit in until the glass is full. And imagine, letting the sensations come, that you … drink it. Disgusting?
Yet we produce several liters a day of saliva and we swallow them without problem. But despite the innumerable virtues of saliva, the idea of drinking this glass disgusts us.
We are talking about cognitive fusion when we are unable to pay attention to the linking process (analyzes and projections) rather than the products of this one. To put it simply, cognitive fusion amounts to managing our thoughts as if they were reality.
If you think about your pain, you end up identifying yourself with your pain (« I’m anxious, » « I’m exhausted » …).
The cognitive fusion
We tend to flee anxiety, sadness, boredom, pain, insecurity … Cognitive fusion is the cause of experiential avoidance. We try to keep away from the slightest thought, the least emotion that could lead us to depression. This is how cognitive fusion leads us to feel nothing at all.
In the end, the mind creates pain: it remembers past events and anticipates those to come. This evaluation process, which allows us to solve our material problems, unfortunately also leads us to relive the negative thoughts and feelings of the past, and to fear that they will manifest themselves again.
In conflict situations, most people are unable to comprehend their thoughts in a coherent way. In these moments, we look « through » the thought. Concerning the problems of the outside world, cognitive fusion is relatively harmless. But this is not the case for the inner world, the world of your ego. In these cases, we must learn to look at our thoughts without believing them or rejecting them, without merging with them, without struggling.
The train of the spirit.
Imagine 3 trains going side by side.
To think and to believe his own thoughts
Of course, thinking is not bad in itself. Problems arise when we only manage to « look from our thoughts » rather than « look at our thoughts ». In some areas, considering literally what our mind is saying is not the best approach.
The thought « I am very anxious » is very different from thinking « I feel anxious ». The 2nd is more « demerged » than the 1st. So less anxiety. This awareness gives us a little more perspective.
It’s like wearing sunglasses all the time, to the point where you do not even think about it anymore. The demotion is to remove them and hold them a few inches from the face. So, we can look at how they color the world in « yellow », rather than see the world in yellow.
Thus we learn to change the relationship between words and our pain.
When you consider an external object, the distance between it and you is relatively clear. But when painful thoughts and feelings dominate, it can be difficult to look them in the face. However, we must examine them to know if it is necessary to fight them.
The 3 different shapes of our Ego
The conceptualized ego:
It is you as an object of categorization and summary verbal evaluations (I am .. it is …). Then it contains the story of your life and yourself. It fits into a story that justifies your actions.
The ego process of consciousness:
Self-awareness as a continuous process, is the fluid knowledge of our own experiences in the present moment. « This is what I feel right now. » Very linked to the conceptualized ego, because it has to fit with the dominant story (of your life). A person who thinks he is kind and helpful will have a hard time admitting any thoughts or feelings of jealousy of anger or reproach. Degradation and acceptance naturally help the development of the ego process.
The observing ego:
He is not an object of verbal relations. It inscribes the events in a constant perspective. The youngest children have difficulties with the notion « here ». Where is « here? « . This is not a specific place. This is the place where the observations are made. They are therefore related to an observation perspective. It’s like reviewing ourself having our breakfast of this morning.
The chess game:
Imagine that a chessboard extends to infinity, and that each piece represents an emotion, a knowledge, a memory or a sensation: yours. The author suggests that it is better to learn to leave the combat zone than to win.
Suppose none of these pieces are you. But you are the chessboard where to play the game. To see oneself as the chessboard is to come into contact with your observing ego.
The practice of mindfulness aims to help you get in touch with your own day-to-day experience. To be aware in areas of experience. One of the difficult aspects of mindfulness is that it uses will, which involves evaluations. But his goal is to learn to be fully aware and to “defuse”.
In fact there is no right or wrong way to be conscious. If assessments come up, watch them, but do not believe them or do not challenge them either.
In fact be open and without prejudiced.
One of the saddest side effects of chronic refusal to feel is that we end up losing our ability to perceive what we are avoiding.
It is known that avoidance is often done by people who actually tend to respond more intensely to events, either positively or negatively.
What is not benevolence: neither the will nor the conditional, nor an essay or to do its best, nor a question of belief, is not manipulation, nor is it feigned. The benevolence is to learn to jump.
Values are directions of life. But neither goals nor feelings.
Classify and test your values:
Choose one value per line (domain). Indicate from 1 to 10 its importance in the life you would like to lead. Then in the 3rd column, the importance in relation to your current life. In 4th column calculate the difference (p231).
The higher the gap, the more your life needs to change in order to be in adequacy.
If we risk loving someone, we run the risk of being rejected, betrayed and left. « If it does not matter to me, I will not have pain. » This is how our mind keeps our values at bay. Unfortunately, this behavior is more harmful than its opposite. Instead of the occasional, lively, and living pain of failure, we know the constant pain of not living our lives, of not being true to ourselves.
This chapter is dedicated to the action, commitment and boldness needed.
To forgive others is above all to forgive oneself. The consequence of forgiveness is the responsibility.
List of publications on ACT:
Français : association Française
English : www.relationalframetheory.com