ACT and Thinkers and Thoughts

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – AN ONLINE RESOURCE

Q:  How can I develop a better relationship with my thoughts?

A:  Remember, you are the thinker not the thought.

If we needed reminding that, “We are the Thinker, not the Thought”, then Rodin’s wonderful sculpture, “The Thinker”, should do the trick!

When I first discovered ACT I can remember the Tutor saying this to the group, and at the time I did not get it at all.

I was so fused with my stories, with my thoughts, that I couldn’t understand that my thoughts weren’t necessarily true, not necessarily very important even.  To me my thoughts were very definitely true and important.  I was thinking them and so they must be!  I took my thoughts very seriously.

It took a long time for me to come to grips with the idea of a distinction between me, the Thinker, and the thoughts that I created.

These are not easy concepts and at times I still fuse with my thoughts and stories.  When I do that I know that I am in trouble.  That’s when the Thought Defusion Techniques of ACT are so important.

I wrote “THE THINKER NOT THE THOUGHT” to remind me not to take my thoughts so seriously.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • Do you take your thoughts too seriously?
  • Can you make a distinction between The Thinker and the Thought?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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

THOUGHT FOR TODAY

POEM FOR TODAY

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THE THINKER NOT THE THOUGHT

Let’s remember it’s our thinking causes problems, that’s a fact,

But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking thoughts we think are facts,

For they are only our imaginings, and every mind will know

It’s the thinker not the thoughts themselves that really run the show.

It’s so easy to confuse it, to believe our thoughts are true,

But they’re only bits of language, strings of words just passing through,

And it helps if we can label them, these stories we conceive,

Until they lose a bit of impact, we’re becoming less naïve.

For when we see ourselves as thinkers we’re less likely to succumb

To the thoughts that we are thinking, we can watch them as they come

And then go, if we will let them, just like leaves upon a stream,

And we’re not caught up in their eddies, we know thoughts aren’t all they seem.

So we can choose to treat them differently, detach as they float by

For now we have a fresh perspective with our skilful thinker’s eye,

And we are free to spring the thinking trap in which we once were caught

Because we’ve stumbled on the secret, we’re the thinker not the thought.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

 If you enjoyed, “THE THINKER NOT THE THOUGHT” 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 …..

Moving on from the Thinker and the Thought , ACT also introduces the concepts of the Thinking Self and the Observer Self.  These are not easy concepts to understand, and yet they lie at the heart of ACT.

This is the explanation that Oliver, Hill and Morris give in their book:

“In ACT, we talk about our “Thinking Self”, Self as Content,  and our “Observing Self”, Self as Context.  The Thinking Self is that constant stream of thoughts and images that runs through our minds, almost every moment we are awake; the Observing Self is the place from which we notice all that mind-stuff, as well as every other part of our experience – both the world inside us and the world outside.”

There are different metaphors that ACT uses to try to convey the distinction.  The leaves on the stream, the waves on the sea, the clouds floating across the sky.

When we can see our thoughts as bits of content passing through we will not be so attached to them.   We will be able to stand back and watch them come and go without getting so worked up.

Just as the stream is not bothered by a few leaves or the sea pays little attention to the antics of a few waves or the sky does not get into a lather about a few clouds, we too can be more relaxed about a few thoughts.  We are bigger than our thoughts.  We are the stream, the sea, the sky.  We are Self as Context.

If you want to find out more about Self as Context then check out Russ Harris’ book

Product Details

This is a brilliant book from one of the leading trainers and authors of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Russ Harris has the knack of making even complex concepts seem simple and understandable.  A great read for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.

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

Corinne

ACT and FEELINGS

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – AN ONLINE RESOURCE

Q:  How can I deal with my feelings?

A:  Let them come and go

ACT recognises that we have little control over our feelings.  Our feelings come and our feelings go, if we will let them.  Too often we hang on to our feelings, particularly our uncomfortable feelings.

Why we do this is a mystery isn’t it?  Why would we willingly hang on to feelings that hurt us when we could let them go?  Why would we deliberately think thoughts that cause us suffering when we could make a space, watch our thinking mind at work and recognise that we are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings.  They are a part of us, but only a part.  We are much more than our thoughts, much more than our feelings.

ACT encourages us to make that space so that we can defuse, defuse from our thoughts, defuse from our feelings.  If we reach a point where we can detach from our thoughts and our feelings we are making progress.  If we reach a point where we refuse to be defined by our feelings we are on the road to freedom.

When we look back on our lives it won’t be how we felt so much as what we did that will be important.  This is what ACT is all about.  Acting in spite of how we are feeling, not letting how we feel determine what we do.

I wrote “FEELINGS” to remind me of that.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • How do you deal with your feelings?
  • What do you do to ensure that difficult feelings don’t stop you from taking action?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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

THOUGHT FOR TODAY

POEM FOR TODAY

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FEELINGS

Let’s not be defined by our feelings, because feelings will just come and go,

So when one or another comes knocking, let’s be friendly and bid it hello,

And let’s make it a space at the table, for that’s what any good host would do,

But let’s not press it stay any longer, when it says it is just passing through.

For our feelings come by in procession, we can watch as they’re strutting their stuff,

Here comes fear who can make us feel weary, then there’s joy and we can’t get enough,

And it’s best that we stand back a little, realise they’re not meant to stay long,

Every day if we leave the door open, then our feelings can just move along.

For who wants to get stuck in a corner with a bore who just keeps droning on,

Maybe we need a gentle reminder it’s high time that this feeling was gone,

For no-one like to outstay their welcome so let’s give one another some space,

Then when feelings are ready to leave us, we can bid them goodbye with good grace.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

 If you enjoyed, “FEELINGS” 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 …..

I know how difficult it can be to defuse from difficult feelings and not let them dictate what we do.  One of the main benefits of ACT to my mind is the importance it attaches to defusion.

“Defusion involves distancing, disconnecting or seeing thoughts and feelings for what they are (streams of words, passing sensations), not what they say they are (dangers or facts).”

If you want to learn more about Defusion Techniques check out

getselfhelp.co.uk

There are some great examples of metaphors that help us to see things differently.

Passengers on the Bus, Playground Bully, The River, The Beach Ball …….

They all help us to understand thoughts and emotions in a different way.  If you are having trouble with troublesome thoughts and emotions give them a try.

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

Corinne

ACT and Self Compassion

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – An Online Resource

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 ABOUT YOU?

  • 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.

TIP FOR TODAY

 

POEM FOR TODAY

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WORDS OF LOVING KINDNESS

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

Corinne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT and Thought Defusion

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – An Online Resource

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.

TIP FOR TODAY!

 

Our-thoughts-are-only2

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • 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.

POEM FOR TODAY

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STRINGS OF WORDS

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

 

Corinne

 

 

ACT and MINDFULNESS

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – An Online Resource

Q: My mind is driving me mad.  What can I do about it?

A: Try a little mindfulness.

One of the things I love about ACT is the way it helps us to develop a different relationship with our mind.

If we have been inclined to be bossed about by our mind, which I certainly have, then it is really liberating to discover that there is another way of living with our mind, a different way of responding to it.

One of the pillar-stones of ACT is Thought Defusion.  Thought Defusion is a way of separating ourselves from our thoughts, learning how to defuse from them in order to observe them. It is a very helpful skill, enabling us to see the mind as a word machine, a creator of thoughts. We come to see that our mind is a part of us, but not the whole of us. When we see mind from this perspective it can help us to make different choices. We can choose not to be bossed about by it for a start!

Another pillar-stone of ACT is Mindfulness. ACT loves Mindfulness and Mindfulness loves ACT, and I love both!

Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment, of being here now. It is the antidote to the busy mind that loves to be here, there and everywhere.

Mindfulness is another way to develop a different relationship with our mind. It helps us to live more fully in the present moment, the only place where we can actually live our life.  Mindfulness springs the traps of the future-past.  It can, quite literally, help us to “come to our senses.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • How do you cope with your “bossy mind”?
  • Does Mindfulness play a part in your life?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

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

 POEM FOR TODAY

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COMING TO OUR SENSES

The past is but a memory, the future just a fantasy,

The present is the only place where we can lead our life,

It is full of possibility, a place to live creatively,

But all this is forsaken if our mind is running rife.

For our mind is such a strumpet, it just loves to gad about,

Loves to poke around the past, discover what it can dig out,

All those hidden old resentments, those regrets, that long lost pain,

Oh the present is no match for frequent trips down memory lane.

And the future is a magnet, how mind loves to fantasize,

All those lovely little worries it can’t wait to fertilize,

And imagination’s busy spinning horror stories so

Once again the present’s surrendered to a magic lantern show.

And we could live out a lifetime in the future and the past,

If we let mind have its way it would forever shadows cast

On each precious present moment, where our living must be done,

But it’s we must call a halt, tell mind it’s time is over-run

And we’re wresting back the present, and we’re doing it right now,

We are coming to our senses, for we realise that’s how

We experience the present, and we’re mindful from now on

That as soon as mind goes gadding off, the present moment’s gone.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed “COMING TO OUR SENSES”, 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 ……….

I found Mindfulness before I found ACT. In fact, I had been practicing Mindfulness for a few years before I came into contact with ACT. I stumbled upon ACT by chance, and I had no idea that Mindfulness was one of its pillar-stones. Mindfulness though, was different. I sought it out.

Mindfulness was not what I expected. I knew that it had its roots in Buddhist Meditation practices and, as such, I expected it to be very exotic, very eastern, very different and very difficult. It was none of those things.

Mindfulness devotees like to say of it:

Mindfulness is simple, but it isn’t easy

 

That is a very good way to describe it.

Mindfulness is simple. All it means is “Be Here Now!”

Mindfulness is not easy. Our busy mind wants to be here, there and everywhere. Staying in the present moment, being here now, is a constant challenge.

If you want to learn more about Mindfulness then I would recommend the book that I first read when I sought Mindfulness out.  Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book “Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World” is a comprehensive and marvellous read.  Enjoy!

Product Details

Which leads us to the …….

ACTivation POINT!

SO …………………………………….

just for today

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

 

Corinne