An Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

“Acceptance asks us to recognise this paradox, to understand that it is part of being human to experience pain, that life requires it, and to exert endless effort towards always preventing pain is more than a full-time job that will never be accomplished. If, however, we can be open to experiencing pain and fear, to recognise their connection to things that are meaningful and purposeful, to give up the never-ending battle of avoidance, then we create room for our life to happen, even if things are difficult. So, acceptance is not just ‘sucking it up’, it is remaining open to our most difficult and painful emotional experiences so that we can move through them, all the while staying as engaged in our lives in meaningful ways as much as possible…

…Not getting dragged down by the past or weighed down by the future requires being grounded in the present. Our minds are constantly tugging at us, pulling us towards the anxieties of the future or the regrets of the past. When we focus intensely on the present moment – on what’s happening in our bodies, our minds and all around us – we increase our ability to be psychologically flexible. This is often referred to as mindfulness, which is really nothing more than just paying exquisite attention to the present moment.”

—Joseph Trento, “How to Live a Values-Driven Life in the Face of Dark Emotions.” Aeon. April 1, 2019.

7 thoughts on “An Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  1. Agreed, how about aiming for less and less traces…..a little every day (or even a bit every year). It’s all I can manage and I know I might/probably will never, get to the total non duality/fullness I desire but as with most things I desire it is the journey that gives the satisfaction.

    I do manage to see as the ‘Observer’ for short periods every day, have been working at this for a few years now. Mainly just gratitude for being a thinking, feeling conscious being.

  2. I went back and reread the article and my response to try to better understand your comment. It is good for me to think this through and try to put it in words.

    “the back and forth of people’s agendas” I think I know what you mean but I could be missing something. I am speaking of times (liminal space) when for whatever reason involving loss,change or just a wholesale upheaval of some kind we find ourselves no longer where we were but not where we may be heading (which changes depending on how we ‘process’ our time in the space) the in-between space that we find so uncomfortable or painful.

    This does indeed sometimes involve other people’s agendas but that, to my way of thinking is only the catalyst for our own change. Is it ‘flight or fight’? or is it growth when instead of salving the pain with ‘someone, something, anything’ that we actually (mindfully, I know that word has become overused and annoying) sit in the space, feel the pain or whatever the emotion is and open ourselves to feeling and getting through it. No back and forth with ‘others’, surrender….arms open feel it, heal it and carry on from this new place you find yourself. Of course we are never ‘done’…just one more brick in the wall.

    Is it idealist and naive to think this is possible. I will let you know.:)

    1. I think the main difference in our perspectives is a function of introversion and extroversion. I don’t have any trouble with introspection and being with what I’m thinking or feeling. It’s my default. I prefer it.

      The difficulty, for me, is other people. This is usually the source of pain or uncomfortability that is often just easier to avoid.

      I understand that most people, since they tend to be extroverts, can hide from themselves by getting lost in interactions or the thoughts of others. It’s why some people always need to have TV or a radio in the background so they can drown out their internal dialogue.

      However, I tend to have the opposite problem. My internal dialogue is the radio drowning out other people. The idea that it may be necessary to be more present when out in the world has some validity. But, it has limits. Not all pain is growth. Some is just injury.

      1. hmmm this could be a long conversation…..
        there seems to be three layers here whether introverted or extroverted. The extrovert as you describe uses Others, TV or radio to drown out the internal dialogue. The introvert uses the internal dialogue to drown out other people.
        I think what I am trying to describe and get a handle on for myself is the third level, the level that is is observing the “Observer” of the inner dialogue and the “others”.
        You are correct “Not all pain is growth. Some is just injury” Perhaps if we can shut off the inner dialogue and see the “Other” for what it is, it is that third place, the “Observer”( whom I do not see as the originator of the inner dialogue) where some answers lie.
        Interesting thoughts and discussion, coming as we do from two different perspectives it hopefully gives us both some food for thought.

      2. From the perspective of the “Observer,” you are not your thoughts and thoughts are the source of dukkha, or the state of being dissatisfied. It’s one thing to understand this intellectually. It’s another to grok in fullness, where our thoughts and interactions with the world leave no trace.

  3. I love that “acceptance is not just ‘ sucking it up’ it is remaining open ….. ”
    This speaks to me on so many levels, like my discovery recently of ‘liminal space’ that painful place I had been many times in my life, instead of “remain(ing) open” just scrambled out and landed in an unresolved but less painful place only to have to face the ‘darkness’ in some other form.

    Remaining in the ‘present moment’ arms open wide, moving through, while staying engaged….appears to be the only healing way to move forward.

    Another interesting link. Thank you.

    1. There is merit to the idea of trying to get past out ‘flight or flight’ response. But, on the other hand, I generally don’t like the back and forth of dealing with people’s agendas. I’m not convinced sitting and embracing a process I find largely annoying is a growth opportunity. However, maybe I’m wrong.

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