Live the present moment
Act. Not just an acronym.
The Acceptance and commitment Therapy, or ACT, is a form of cognitive-matrix psychotherapy with good scientific background. It is part of the “third wave” of cognitive behavioral therapies. The ACT is based on Relational Frame Theory: a research program that studies the functioning of the human mind. This theory suggests that many of the cognitive tools that people use to solve problems, lead into a trap that creates suffering.
Every time a concern comes to our consciousness we begin to think about it. We start discussing all the potencial implications and solutions. We imagine scenarios in which our fears become real. We follow a course of thoughts that can stay with us even throughout the day. Sometimes it follows us while we are working. Sometimes, the course of thoughts becomes a mental rumination. It paralyzes us, stopping time in a unique and endless space of hypotheses and trials.
But at the end of all this, have we really solved something? Or is it just an attempt to avoid our fears, to control them?
Old-fashioned cognitiviism addresses beliefs with rationalism techniques. Restructuring, discussion, empirical evidence.
The third wave therapies, and ACT among these, adopt acceptance-oriented strategies of change.
The psychic discomfort emerges from the attempts to solve the problem, which become the problem itself!
Unconventional points of view:
First, psychological suffering is normal, it’s important and accompanies every person. Trying to avoid it at all costs will cost us more than simply accepting its existence. That doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to sorrow.
The concept of acceptance is very different from that of resignation.
Secondly, you cannot voluntarily dispose of your suffering. You can take steps to avoid artificially increasing it.
Third, pain and suffering are two different states of being. The range of emotions and states is wide, and should be crossed, without getting caught in a single moment of sadness, fear, melancholy etc…
Fourthly, we are not our suffering. You don’t have to identify with your pain. Rather, you are experiencing pain, or you are having a thought of fear.
Fifth: committed action. The smallest step towards ourselves is to make actions oriented to our most personal values. Starting from now, but to do so you will have to learn how to get out of your mind and enter your life.
Ultimately, what is required by ACT is a fundamental change of perspective: a change in the conception of one’s existence.
A call to the committed action: commitment, in the English language, means engagement. By changing the perspective from which we look at problems and suffering, it also changes their weight and the impact they have on every single moment of our lives.
The methods of Acceptance and commitment Therapy:
Mindfulness: It is a way of observing and participating in your own experience. Practised for centuries in oriental meditation. Recent research proves that the practice of mindfulness can have important psychological benefits. Through these techniques you learn to look at your pain from a certain distance. Different from seeing the world through it. You enter the perspective in which there are many other things to do in the present moment, in addition to trying to regulate your own psychological content.
Acceptance: Trying to get rid of your pain you only get to amplify it. You get trapped in overthinking. ACT instead makes a clear distinction between pain and suffering. By its very nature, language generates a tendency to address a problem through the search for a solution. One that passes for words. We hypothesize strategies, imagine speeches. Understanding how to deal with a negative event is inherent in human nature and is related to survival, so it has an important value. When we run into a painful internal event, we tend to do what we usually do: we organize it in a scheme and try to solve it. Internal experiences are not equal to the external events though. This is why the methods we use to solve a problem of a practical nature do not always work. They often become a double-edged sword. The acceptance of suffering does not want to be a passive attitude and resignation, but a real awareness that can alleviate it.
Commitment and value-based life: during the moments we are committed to solving and trying to contain the psychological problems we often put our lives on hold. Wes pend most of our attentive resources in the resolution of pain, to get rid of it. ACT instead aims to teach ways to get out of the chain of mental associations, and commit to live every moment by taking actions committed in the direction of our values.
In every istant of the present moment, which is the smallest step you could make to become the person you want to be?