ACT and Uncomfortable Feelings


Q:  What can I do with uncomfortable feelings?

A:  Accept them!

None of us like uncomfortable feelings.  Why would we?  They make us feel uncomfortable and nobody likes that!  Unfortunately, being human it goes with the territory.  We are going to have uncomfortable feelings, a lot of them and a lot of the time!!  How we deal with them?  That’s the thing.

The natural reaction, the human reaction, is to try to either get rid of them, avoid them or distract ourselves from them.  That might work in the short term, but it doesn’t work in the long term and there is plenty of research to show that all of these techniques tend to make uncomfortable feelings come back more often and with more vengeance.  So what to do?

Well in ACT, the approach is rather different.  ACT suggests that a more effective way to deal with uncomfortable feelings is to cease the struggle, to open up to them and to let them be.  Like thoughts, feelings will move through us if we let them.  If we can create a space and see our feelings as something separate from ourselves, something that we are experiencing on a temporary basis and not something that defines us, we will not be so much in their thrall.

In the first instance this means becoming willing to accept the feeling, as it is without struggling to get rid of it, avoid it or distract ourselves from it.

One of the most famous sayings in ACT is, “If you’re not willing to have it, you will”.

When I first heard this I found it very confusing, and I still can at times.  There is, however, a good metaphor, ACT is very keen on metaphors, to throw light on it.  More of that later!

But for now back to becoming willing.

I wrote the poem “BECOMING WILLING” to remind me that there is an alternative way to deal with uncomfortable feelings.


  • How do you deal with uncomfortable feelings?
  • Are you willing to open up to uncomfortable feelings and explore them?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.





Let’s stop fighting with our feelings, let us simply let them be,

We don’t have to try to change them, rail against them constantly,

We can just relax into them, find out where our feelings sit,

And if we will breathe into them they may soften just a bit.

It may be our stomach’s churning or perhaps it feels like lead,

Or maybe the feeling’s shifted and it’s pounding in our head,

Or perhaps our heart is aching or our back feels broke in two,

That’s our cue to start to struggle, but we could try something new.

For we could just become willing to accept whatever’s here

For whatever’s here’s here anyway and it won’t disappear

Just because we do not want it, we can’t make a feeling move,

Feelings will not do our bidding just because we disapprove.

And so what willingness affords us is the chance to halve the pain,

For a struggle is redundant if we from it now abstain

Which leaves whatever we are feeling as a something to explore,

Instead of starting up a struggle which will aggravate it more.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed, “BECOMING WILLING” please pass it on, and do leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

And just before you go …..

A final word from ACT ……….

Now back to that metaphor I promised you.

In their excellent book

Steven Hayes and Spencer Smith introduce the Willingness Scale.

In brief what we are asked to imagine are two radio dials, one easily seen, the other less visible and harder to see.  The easily seen dial is called Discomfort and it includes problems like uncomfortable thoughts, sensations or emotions, and has a dial range from 0 to 10.  This dial, although it looks like we can control it, has a mind of its own and sets itself where it likes rather than where we would prefer!

The second dial, the one at the back and less visible we’ll call Willingness and also has a range from 0 to 10.  This one we do have control over.  The more willing we are to be open to our experience as it is, directly without trying to manipulate it, avoid it, escape it or change it, the higher the dial is set.

In ACT terms the higher the Willingness dial is set the better!

As Hayes points out, “Finding that your Discomfort dial reads a high value and then setting your Willingness dial to a low value is a terrible combination.”

Learning how to reset these dials won’t necessarily make the initial discomfort go away, but it will stop us intensifying the original uncomfortable feelings and causing ourselves more suffering.

If you want to find out more about the dials and how you can make them work for you, READ THE BOOK!!

Which brings us to the ACTivation Point!

SO ……………………….


How about YOU?

What can YOU do just for today to ACTivate your life?

 Just for today I will ………………………

If you have read this far, please do leave your comments. How is ACT helping you?

I am a student of ACT.  I am on a journey.  I would love you to join me.

With all good wishes










Published by

Corinne Shields

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, erstwhile teacher for thirty plus years, and permanent student. I have long been interested in psychology and spirituality and enjoy writing inspirational poetry. Hence the publication of this blog at ACT Made I play golf badly, piano a little better and I love reading, writing, and all things French. I divide my time between Wales and France and enjoy travelling with my husband, Len and my dog Charlie.

4 thoughts on “ACT and Uncomfortable Feelings”

  1. What a great reminder!! I recently had thought about how we are often told to balance, and to keep in balance, which is all good and fine, but sometimes life isn’t balanced and part of keeping that balance is accepting the imbalance. I sound crazy, but this post definitely rang truth. I enjoyed it. Especially the way you just create poetry from this! Seems to come so natural!


    1. I know, it goes against the grain doesn’t it to just let things be. We are so used to trying to change stuff we don’t like that it seems almost counterintuitive just to accept uncomfortable feelings, but I am trying to work on it and I think it is true, if you don’t struggle with them they move through more easily. I find writing poetry helps me to deal with whatever is my current issue. When I write I never end up where I started. There is always a shift. And I always have plenty of issues to write about!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! I am trying to help my boyfriend with the accepting uncomfortable feelings as well. I forget how sometimes it may even be more uncomfortable for a male at times. I really thought this post was timely for me as I had just been thinking about writing on how to accept the imbalance in order to remain balanced. I think if we fight against those feelings, we end up not growing as you refer in this article.


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