Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one of the many amazing types of therapy out there and seems particularly pertinent during the current stage of uncertainty the world is experiencing.
“The ACT approach proposes that suffering and dysfunction arise from attempts to control or eliminate unwanted experiences. Attempts to control or avoid can lead to the paradoxical effect of greater suffering and a perception of loss of control of the focus for elimination. The aim of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility, which is defined as “contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values”.Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006
Using ACT as a framework for processing through this time can provide insight into how to increase our own ability to remain flexible and stay aligned with our values.
Our natural tendency when suffering occurs is to move away from it or avoid the things that are approaching us, but ACT teaches that as we move towards suffering our anxiety level will actually decrease.
This process often feels confusing and painful, but in time will lead to empowerment and strength as we conquer the painful things we try to avoid. ACT also emphasizes the importance of living in congruence with our values (the things that matter to us the most) which will ultimately lead us to true satisfaction and fulfillment.
Reflecting on these concepts, here are some questions we can all ask ourselves when we experience seasons of uncertainty:
- What are the things/areas in my life that I am actively avoiding?
- Are there areas in my life that I am not living in congruence to my personal values and is that where the stress I am feeling is coming from? If so, how can I make baby steps towards living out my values?
- What would it look like to begin loosening my grip on trying to control things outside of my control and begin moving towards the things I am trying to avoid?
When we hold tightly to the things that are outside of our control, it prevents us from being curious, open-minded, and flexible.
When we instead choose to stay present and face the things that cause us pain, we will then be able to move through those seasons of uncertainty with more freedom even in the midst of suffering.
These questions can often be hard to figure out by ourselves. Now can be a great time to reach out to someone supportive in your life or a therapist to better understand what this may look like for you.
Written By: Betty Gebhardt