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 Thought Defusion


Q: How can I get rid of troublesome thoughts?

A: You can’t, but you can learn to look at them differently.

Thought Defusion is another pillar-stone of ACT.  Learning to separate ourselves from our thoughts, to distance ourselves from our thinking is one of the key skills that we can learn to reduce our suffering.  For yes, we do cause a lot of our own suffering.

Sometimes our suffering comes to us from external events that we cannot change.  That suffering is part of the human condition.  Learning to accept it as such, as a natural part of human experience, is another dimension of ACT.

However, for now we are talking about our thinking, and how our thoughts can, and often do cause us to suffer.  Learning a different way to respond to our thoughts, what ACT calls Thought Defusion can be very helpful.

In a previous post, ACT and Worrisome Thoughts, we saw how our mind has evolved to err on the side of caution, to look for the negatives and to be on constant red alert.  This is the mind’s natural default position, if you like, and it is like that for a reason.  In evolutionary terms this kind of cautious mind helped us to sniff out danger and survive.  It is this mind-set that 21st century man has inherited, and sometimes it causes us problems.

One of the main aims of ACT is to help us to develop psychological flexibility so that we can learn to respond to the world, both external and internal, in more helpful and meaningful ways.  Thought Defusion is one of the tools that we can use to increase our psychological flexibility.

Most of us take our thoughts far too seriously.  I know I do!  I tend to think that because I am thinking something it must be important, it must be true and I must pay it a lot of attention!  None of that is necessarily the case.  ACT isn’t so much interested in whether a thought is true or false or right or wrong.  ACT is more interested in whether or not a thought is useful or not, or in ACT terms is it workable?  If it is hang on to it, if not let it go.

It helps me to remember that a thought is just a thought.  It is just a string of words, and I have made them up.  I am not my thoughts.  My thoughts are not me.  I had a lot of trouble with this, I can tell you, but learning to distance myself from my thoughts, to see that I am the thinker and not the thought has helped me a lot.





  • How do you cope with troublesome thoughts?
  • Can you create distance from your thoughts and see them as just bits of content passing through?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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




It comes from out of nowhere, it’s the thought we like the least,

It’s the one that most torments us, and once it has been released

It is spiralling within us, a freak storm out of control,

And we’re overcome with anguish as it seeps into our soul.

Where it comes from doesn’t matter, but the old familiar ring

Sets up the old familiar struggle, but it’s here now that’s the thing,

And we’re learning that the struggle doesn’t help us much at all,

It’s just fuel for the thinking we are trying to forestall.

And so let’s try another tactic, for we’re told another way

To respond to stinking thinking is to let it have its day

And be willing to accept it whilst it’s here, just as it is,

Maybe look at it with interest without getting in a tizz.

And it maybe that the thinking that disturbs us will abate,

Or maybe we’ll have to let it be and learn to tolerate

The discomfort it occasions, well we can do that you know

If we make a space inside and let our thoughts just come and go.

And we needn’t make them sticky, we need not with them engage,

We can stop the feeding frenzy that occurs when war we wage,

And we needn’t make them magical with powers from afar,

For our thoughts are only strings of words and that is all they are.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed “STRINGS OF WORDS”, 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 ……….

ACT suggests lots of techniques for helping us to defuse from our thoughts.  Some of them may seem outlandish, but if they work for you that’s all that matters. Amongst the more wacky ones are:

  • Singing a thought out loud to one of these well-known tunes

Happy Birthday

She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain

Jingle Bells


  • Saying the thought in the voice of someone famous, or a cartoon character like

Donald Duck

Homer Simpson

The idea behind these techniques is to try to take the sting out of our thoughts, to reduce them to just the bits of language that they are.  When we have difficult, troublesome thoughts it helps to notice how we verbalise these thoughts to ourselves.  I know when I am having these kinds of thoughts I am verbalising them to myself in a very dark and macabre way.  I am literally scaring myself to death.

If you take the same thought, the same words, and start singing it to Happy Birthday, and I have done that, the thought doesn’t seem nearly as frightening or important.  Try it and see, preferably not in public!!

For more Thought Defusion techniques Oliver, Hill ad Morris’ book

Product Details

is very illuminating, and has lots of useful worksheets. I am reading it at the moment and really enjoying it.

Which brings us to the……

ACTivation POINT!

SO …………………………..

Just-for-today-my thoughts

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