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










ACT and Self Compassion


Q: Is Self Compassion more important than Self Esteem?

A: It would seem so!

Sometimes it happens, doesn’t it?  Someone says just the right thing at the right time, or you turn on the TV and there’s something showing that just resonates with you, or you go surfing the internet and there it is, an article just waiting to be read by you at exactly the right time you needed to read it!!  Spooky isn’t it?  Or fate, or karma or serendipity or whatever you want to call it!

Well it just happened to me!  I was just surfing around and I came across this great article in the Huffington Post written by Steven C Hayes, entitled “Is Self Compassion more important than Self Esteem?”. And it had me hooked, because it seems it is!

After years of trying to improve Mental Health by trying to improve Self Esteem, it seems that, to quote Hayes,

“What if the Self Esteem discussion is like the proverbial finger-pointing at the moon?”

“It seems that new research is suggesting this may be the case, and that a new concept – self compassion – could be vastly more important than self esteem when it comes to long-term mental health and success.”

I like the sound of that!  And do you know, I have an inkling he is right.  Why?

Well it happens so often doesn’t it?  Something goes wrong, something happens to hurt us, to upset us and what do we do?  We shout at ourselves, we tell ourselves that we are fools, idiots.  At the very time when we need to be kind to ourselves we are kicking ourselves, at the very time when we need to show ourselves some compassion we are harsh and cruel.  We don’t need enemies, we are our own worst enemy.

And so, ACT reminds us at such tricky times to be careful, to be aware.  Language is very powerful.  Because we are human beings we are verbal beings and we can use language to hurt ourselves or to help ourselves.  When we are hurting inside it is all too easy to turn on ourselves, to berate ourselves, to make things much worse.

Learning to accept ourselves, to be kind to ourselves is so much more effective. And we can start by replacing those harsh and cruel words with words of loving kindness.

I wrote “WORDS OF LOVING KINDNESS” to remind me of this!


  • How good are you at being good to yourself?
  • Are the words that you say to yourself words that you would like to hear?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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






Inside of us we’re children still, e’en though it’s buried deep,

For despite all our achievements early memories we keep

Of the times when we were vulnerable, uncertain and afraid,

So remember we are children still despite the strides we’ve made.

And sometimes a something happens that will trigger childish fears,

Our grown-up mask is slipping as the little child appears

And it’s time now to be gentle, and some soothing words to find,

Put our grown-ups to good use and to a little child be kind.

And so let’s not act all impatient or be critical or cruel

Turn a talk between a grown-up and a child into a duel,

But remember little children don’t take kindly to abuse,

It’s the words of loving kindness that will be of better use.

And so next time a something happens and we feel the child within

Is beginning to act childlike let’s set out their trust to win,

Not by urging them to actions that they can’t for now fulfil,

But by saying we’ll be there for them and that we always will.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed, “WORDS OF LOVING KINDESS” please pass it on, and do please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

And just before you go …..

A final word from ACT ……….

Well the final word belongs to that fantastic article that I read first thing this morning and which inspired this post.

Is Self-Compassion More Important Than Self Esteem?

If you are in any doubt then I urge you to read the article.  Sometimes Self Compassion has had a bad press.  It can smack of selfishness, egocentricity, narcissism and all those other things which many of us have been taught are not “the right thing”, a sign of weakness.  And yet, a lack of self compassion may well be at the root of our problems.

In the article Hayes quotes Dr Kirstin Neff, one of the premier researchers in this area, by defining Self Compassion as, “consisting of three components during times of personal suffering and failure:

  1.  Treating oneself kindly
  2.  Recognising one’s struggles as part of the shared human experience
  3.  Holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness.

Given this context, the negativity or positivity of your thoughts isn’t what’s important.  It’s how you respond to those thoughts that matters.”

For an in-depth analysis of the subject I really do encourage you to read the article, but for me the final paragraph summed it up and I quote it here:

“It’s time for us to put down the idea that we have to think well of ourselves at all times to be mature, successful, functional, mentally healthy individuals. Indeed, this toxic idea can foster a kind of narcissistic ego-based self-story that is bound to blow up on us. Instead of increasing self-esteem content what we need to do is increase self-compassion as the context of all we do. That deflates ego-based self-stories, as we humbly accept our place as one amongst our fellow human beings, mindfully acknowledging that we all have self-doubt, we all suffer, we all fail from time to time, but none of that means we can’t live a life of meaning, purpose, and compassion for ourselves and others.” – Steven Hayes, PHD

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










ACT and Committed Action


Q:  I don’t think my blog will ever be ready to launch.  What should I do?

A:  ACTivate your blog now!!

It can be very scary when we are on the brink of something new, can’t it?  In fact it can be so scary that we can look for any excuse not to actually take that final step.  We can always find something else to do, some other detail to tweak, something else not quite right, not quite perfect that we can play around with.

I feel a bit like that with this blog.  I am not very teckie, I am not at all social media savy, I struggle every day with some new aspect of WordPress.  There is so much to learn.  At this rate this blog may never get launched!!

I have therefore decided that it is time to ACTivate my blog.

What does this mean?  Well from an ACT point of view it means that I am going to accept the uncomfortable feelings that I am having, the inevitable uncomfortable feelings that accompany something new, something strange.  I am going to accept the discomfort, befriend and explore it even, and I am going to take action in a valued direction.

For me, that means that I am going to launch my blog even though I am full of misgivings.  I am going to feel the fear and do it anyway!!


  • Are you willing to “be ready for the strangeness and accommodate the new”?
  • Are you prepared to live with the discomfort that accompanies change?
  • Are you, like me, going to “feel the fear and do it anyway?”
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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




If something new’s approaching let us not bar fast the door,

Let’s be fair and open-hearted, welcome what may lie in store,

Let’s be ready for the strangeness and accommodate the new

Let’s not scurry back to safety before we have seen it through.

If discomfort overwhelms us let’s stand strong until it fades

And relinquish scepticism and reluctance that persuades

Us to turn our back on progress, it’s too late and we’re too old,

Let’s not buy into the story that’s the oldest ever told.

For it’s not a case of number, we’re as old now as we feel

You can put a label on us but that label isn’t real,

And for everyone who’s saying that old age is full of strife,

Let us tell them we are proudly silver surfing through our life.

© Corinne Shields, 2015


If you enjoyed “Silver Surfing” 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

ACT has a very special term for the excuses that we make to avoid the discomfort that goes with stepping out of our comfort zone.  That term is:


It is a term that embodies our suffering, not just once but twice.  We suffer the pain of presence and we suffer the pain of absence.  What does this mean?

Experiential avoidance is the process of trying to avoid our own experiences, our uncomfortable feelings, memories, bodily sensations, behaviours, even when doing so causes us long-term behavioural difficulties.  We don’t go to the party because we are shy and lacking in confidence, we don’t go the gym because we feel too fat or too depressed, we don’t launch a blog in case nobody visits!!

Experiential avoidance means that we suffer the presence of our uncomfortable feelings and we also suffer the pain of the absence of the things that we don’t do, the things that we avoid.  A double whammy!!

Learning to live with discomfort, to accept our uncomfortable feelings and to commit to valued action anyway is what lies at the heart of ACT.  It is what gives Acceptance Commitment Therapy its name.  It is the key to living a meaningful and valued life even in the midst of life’s challenges.

If you want to find out more about Experiential Avoidance then I recommend you dip into Steven Hayes’ wonderful book:

Worth learning how to deal with it!!!

Which leads us to the …………………………..

ACTivation Point!

SO ……………………………………….


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

I am on an ACT journey and I would love you to join me.

With all good wishes