October 6, 2016
By: Kevin Rose
“Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” is a highly-recommended workbook written by Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. It’s also a helpful phrase to remember and remind us all to get out of our own way to achieve the life we want.
The workbook is a comprehensive and fascinating resource to work through concurrent to taking a course of therapy. My own counsellor suggested I check out this book (yes responsible therapists do their own therapy to help with needs and struggles!) and I found it extremely impactful.
The authors’ work is based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy, or ACT, and evidence-based therapeutic modality developed from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The central principle of ACT therapy is that our resistance to facing our struggles not only keeps those destructive patterns in place, but exacerbates them over time. We naturally reject uncomfortable feelings and long to experience freedom, joy and peace, and we perceive our ‘problems’ as being in the way of experiencing the things we desire most.
What gets in our way? Our depression. Our anxiety. Compulsive behaviors. PTSD. Phobias. And essentially we create a story about ourselves, a narrative in which we are in a conflict, a battle with these thoughts, behaviours and feelings. Sadly, the more we resist our problems, either by avoidance, or by over-focus, the more energy they seem to have!
ACT therapy helps reframe our problems in the light of acceptance, or non-resistance to our struggles. Instead of engaging unconsciously in a cycle of creating negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves and our perceived shortcomings, with practice, time and help we can mindfully bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings, our self-judgments and dysfunctional behaviours. From that awareness we can make new choices about how to respond to what life brings us.
The first step to realizing our goals is accepting where we are at, and learning to bring awareness to how we are coming to our decisions. A counsellor can help clarify and highlight those areas of stuckness, and encourage you with techniques for bringing this mindfulness into your life as a daily practice, using your personal values as a compass to keep you focussed.
ACT promotes a values-directed approach, so our principles and values guide us and become our compass when we experience upset. The workbook encourages us to discover and name these values so we can hold them in our consciousness as we move through difficulty. The book is easy to read and has lots of space to write in.
Getting ‘out of your mind’ is about stepping out of unconscious patterns and taking concrete steps to rediscovering your true self, your aliveness, in vivid colour and joyful music, and with a full heart!