What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) & How Does it Work?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is a mindfulness-based therapy developed by Steven Hayes. The aim of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is to enable us to live a more meaningful life that is congruent with and reflects our values and what is important to us. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps us do this by giving us the tools that allow us to move past whatever barriers we face as we travel along our path towards building a valued life.

To learn more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, please watch the video below, and check out my post on Cognitive Fusion and Cognitive Defusion.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Read More



You Can’t Control Your Emotions

emotionsIn a previous post we looked at what happens when we try to problem solve our emotions. It tends not to be very effective. So when problem solving our emotions fails, we often try to force ourselves to feel a certain way. We fight our emotions and try to control them to make ourselves feel the way we want to feel.

But fighting our emotions only makes them stronger. Next time you’re feeling anxious, try to force yourself to calm down and tell yourself you shouldn’t be so scared and see if that helps. It will likely just lead you to feel more anxious, and experience additional unpleasant emotions such as anger and frustration as well.

Next time you feel sad, tell yourself you are being stupid, that you need to cheer up, that you should be happy, don’t be so weak. Again, trying to control your emotions will only make them stronger.

Read More



Cognitive Fusion and Defusion in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

 

In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion. In my post, What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?, we learned why acceptance is so important in ACT. Cognitive defusion is a way of accepting our thoughts, allowing them to pass into and out of our minds, without getting stuck in our heads.

Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.

The opposite of “cognitive fusion” is “cognitive defusion.” Cognitive defusion involves taking a step back from what’s going on in our minds, and detaching a little from our thoughts. In this state of defusion, we can observe our thoughts and other internal processes without getting lost in them, stuck in them or fused with them. We can simply notice our thoughts, watch them, accept them and let them go if we choose to.

Read More



Watching Thoughts and Letting Them Go

 

In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.

Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.

Read More



Suppressing and Avoiding Emotions

emotionsIn previous posts we looked at what happens when we try to problem solve or control our emotions, neither of which tend to work. When we’ve giving up on trying to problem solve or control our emotions, our next step is often to try to suppress our emotions, or ignore them completely.
But this doesn’t work either. Maybe we can avoid our emotions for a while, but they keep coming back. Just like a child craving attention, our emotions won’t go away until we deal with them, and each time we try to ignore them, they come back louder and more intrusive.
In the Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression, based on Acceptance and Commitment therapy, Kirk Stroshal and Patricia Robinson note that:

Read More



Acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment TherapyIn an earlier post, we introduced the concept of acceptance and talked about some of its benefits. Acceptance is one of the foundations of a mindfulness-based approach to treating anxiety and depression called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

In the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based workbook, The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression, Kirk Strosah and Patricia Robinson explain some misconceptions people often have about acceptance. First, they define acceptance:

The word “acceptance” has a lot of different meanings, some of which we want to challenge. The type of acceptance we encourage you to practice is best thought of as a voluntary, intentional stance of nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations in the context of a triggering event.

Read More