“Thoughts are like lenses through which we look at our world.”
Steven C. Hayes, Get out of your mind and into your life: The new acceptance and commitment therapy.
Time we have, moments we share, days that gone and years that left, have many things in common but one that flag as “game changer” is choice. How we decide to do something is a process that lie in accordance with our values, experience that our brain will pattern match to. It is a very transparent statement that our behaviours are our thoughts materialise. Our thoughts are omnipresent in our brain and we need to accept it, as we can not unplug our brain. Thoughts patterns that are entrenched in our mind can be very disruptive and detrimental. Everything we have learnt and experienced will always be there, even if we think that its already gone. In our mind we are creating our own library, therefore some of the titles that are not being used or are not very popular are being store in a box down in the cellar. That does it not meant that they will not be used, as it might be situation in our daily life, that will demand from us certain answer and then we are going to dig deep and react.
Awake you see, feel and touch
remember and act so much
forget as it was just to much
change, evolve a new touchP. Kwiatkowski, 2021
Can we erase the things we have learnt? Can we change the thoughts that we have created? NO! So what we can do?? Frankly, we can do a lot and one of the major changes we can make is to learn how to shape, modify how our thought affecting us. One of the greatest modern psychologist Steven C. Hayes in his book – A liberated mind – is showing us how we can be more psychologically flexible, that is main target of ACT therapy ( Acceptance and Commitment). There are six core processes that produce psychological flexibility ( Steven C. Hayes, A liberated mind. How to pivot toward what matters, 2019, p.34 – 39):
- Defusion from cognitive fusion ( belief that everything your thoughts are telling you is true and allowing it to determine your action). We can do it by perception our thought as what they really are – constant tries of giving meaning. Defusion – perception of thought – is where we can distance ourselves from our thoughts.
- I – Requires step back from your own conceptual I ( or EGO), to I that looks from perspective. We need to evolve from being heavy concentrated on our own being to become an observer that is aware of surroundings. This kind of feeling will help us to see, that we are more than our history and more than our mind is telling us.
- Acceptance – Requires shift from avoidance of experience to acceptance. By avoiding of feeling certain experiences we are running away from ability to control our personal experiences. By avoidance we are creating more difficulties instead of making us feel better. Acceptance on the other hand mean that we are taking in our personal experience from the position of strength. By acceptance we choose to react more open and curious.
- Presence – It requires shift from rigid attention ( pointed at past and future) to flexible attention ( focus on now!). So often in our life we are focus on what could have happen if, why we have done that or that. We are lost in the puddle of our thoughts and feeling thinking about future and the past, forgetting that NOW is the only thing that exist. By being present in the moment we are considering experience happening now that are useful and meaningful.
- Value – requires a shift from goals orientated by social expectation to values chosen by you. We all find ourselves in situation that we are trying to achieve goals set by our partners, friends or parents because we think we have because if we don’t people that we care about wont be pleased – it links with very weak and ineffective motivation. Values are personally chosen qualities of being and acting. Life is a journey and with great motivation that flows within you values it can be beautiful – your values are your choice!
- Act – requires a shift from avoidance to active action. We are creating habits in our life, they help us to thrive and survive. To change our habits we need to start small as we cant reach top of the mountain only with one step. We should start by developing one small habit that will help us develop another and another. In that way we will be able to create a whole network of habits that will make our chosen value or quality part of our life.
your mind will see
your body will feel
your soul will rise
present beP. Kwiatkowski, 2021
It is hard to imagine that we will change our routine and habits in the blink of an eye, that is impossible. Funny thing is that when you close your eyes you still can see, feel or sense with your imagination – very powerful tool that can make a difference in our life. I would like to share a story with you. Story that I think is very much close to every single one of us, that we can recognize the same patterns of behaviour.
John is a family man, he loves his wife very much and adore his kids. Every day is picture to picture like day before – breakfast, coffee, drive kids to school, go to work, pick up the kids, eat dinner, watch some tv, shower and bed. Just ordinary life recipe but with no spices. John doesn’t sleep well, he is waking up in the middle of the night as something is bothering him. When he finally get back to sleep, alarm on his phone is dragging him out of dreaming – he is not happy but frustrated from the gate.
Tenant in his head once again strike and hijack his usual self. Simple things that make him laugh and passionate are now being considered as not good enough – you can do better than that, says Mr T. By not being himself his family can feel tension and how impactful his mood swings are on them, they want to help but don’t know how. Days are passing by and nothing changes, Mr T is drawing a picture of how his life is miserable – no clues of what to do. John wanted to change his job as he wasn’t satisfied and felt that he deserve to be treated better – you cant do that, you will not find anything better up there says Mr T. John decided to stay but for the wrong reasons and is still very demotivated. Every single time John want to change something and feels like he does have enough in him to do so, Mr T is always there to bring him down, not challenge him just simply put any positive thoughts out of his head. Mr T is a hijacker that doesn’t care about John and his feelings he only cares for himself. John is on the edge and knows that he need help to figure it how to get rid of Mr T. He have tried everything that he knows, he even google his symptoms but nothing seems to help. He wanted to give up but there was one thing that kept him going to try one more thing his family. He read a simple sentence on the wall while he walking his kids to school – “no person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow” – Alice Walker.
He did not realise it straight away but something in that sentence gave him courage to challenge Mr T. On that evening his wife asked him if he would like to do some meditation with her – just for 10 minutes she said – John was hesitant but he felt really good today and decided to go for it. They sat comfortably on the sofa, his wife turned on her favourite guided meditation podcast and the process started. It was really hard for him to focus on soothing sounds of nature while Mr T was screaming – What you doing, that is not going to help, lets go!!! He wanted to leave it and just do something else but his wife told him – just focus on your breathing, any thoughts that appear notice them but don’t act on them, let them sink – so he stayed while accepting voices in his head. After they finished he felt different, he did not listen to Mr T and nothing bad happened, he accept that certain things are beyond his control and you can only commit to your life as it is. His life wasn’t perfect before and after but the difference was he accept it and therefore he could channel his energy in direction that he really wanted.
There is no fairy tale ending to that story, Mr T was still around but John by accepting it, he devour him from all his power, he wasn’t a treat anymore, just another thought that can be dealt like any other one, by acceptance and focus on what is in your control.
We born from the dust
as we speak we create history
as we breath we last
as we accept we thrive
Our energy is eternal
so we never dieP. Kwiatkowski, 2021