I came across Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in 2011 and fell in love with it almost immediately. Since then I have been practicing it on myself, then subsequently learning it from books, and started to incorporate it into my daily clinical practices.
Now I’ve also completed the course with Russ Harris. I’m wondering if there’s any ACT therapists in Malaysia out there, and if yes, please get in touch (my email: email@example.com, my mobile 017-2757813) and let’s form a Malaysian ACT community together!
- It stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, pronounced as “act” (one word)
- It’s a type of psychotherapy, not a long-term treatment
- 3rd wave of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- It focuses on 6 processes, which can be combined into these:
- Being present
- Opening up
- Doing what matters
- As of late 2018, there are over 250 RCTs (randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of research) published in peer-reviewed journals, that show the effectiveness of ACT with many disorders, such as depression, anxiety, stress, OCD, chronic pain and psychosis.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.
They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms –
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
- Victor E. Frankl
This is a quote from the book “Man’s search for meaning”, a book written by Viktor Frankl published in 1964, the author recorded his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Just to, perhaps remind all of us that, even in the most difficult and challenging situation, there’s still one thing that we all possess – the freedom to choose. We might not be able to leave the situation, but we can choose how we’re reacting to the situation, how we are treating ourselves and those around us. And nobody can take this away from us.
Meditation Exercise: The Mind-Train
Following my favourite Leaves on the Stream (see here), I am introducing another mindfulness exercise. It is an eye-closed exercise (though possible to do it with eyes opened when you are familiar), so please read the instruction first.
Imagine you are standing at a railway bridge gazing down at three sets of train tracks. A slow mining train is on each set of tracks moving away from you. Each train is composed of a string of little coach/car. Seemingly endless, all three chug slowly along underneath the bridge.
Now, as you look down, imagine that the train to the left carries only ore composed of sensations, perceptions, and emotions (e.g. sounds you hear, hot sensation you feel, sweaty palms, sadness you notice, itchiness you feel etc). The middle train carries only your thoughts (your evaluations, predictions, and self-conceptualisation etc). The train on your right carries your urges to act (e.g. your pull to look away, your urge to scratch your face or stop the exercise, your efforts to change the subject). Looking down on these three tracks can be seen as a metaphor for looking at your mind.
Now, find a comfortable chair to sit in for a while in a spot where you won’t be disturbed and you can be quiet. Begin the exercise by thinking of something you’ve been struggling with lately, then close your eyes and picture the three tracks. Your job will be to stay on the bridge and gaze down at these three trains moving away from you. Take at least 3 minutes just to watch what comes up for you.
Mind train. (Forgive my very basic skills, it’s not as simple in my imagination!)
Try this simple exercise below:
- Firstly, think about a snack that you love eating. Write it down. Make sure the words that you use do describe the taste and scent of the snack.
- Spend some time to imagine how it feels like when you are salivating, pay attention to how the saliva tastes like, the smoothness at the back of the teeth. Now, think about what happens to the saliva when you eat this snack and digest it. Please write down your feelings and thoughts during salivating.
- Now, imagine there is a clean drinking glass in front of you, you split the saliva into the glass. Now, imagine you are drinking the saliva. Please write down your thoughts and feelings.
- Finally, imagine your favourite snack is right in front of you now, you are ready to eat it. But before you eat it, you spit some saliva on the snack. Do you still want to eat the snack? When you imagine eating this snack (with saliva spat), please write down your thoughts and feelings.
This is one of the famous ACT exercises, most people get the “effects” when they did this for the first time. Do you realize how words and language can change your feelings? And at any time, most of your thoughts are constructed by words, how often our experience are affected and changed by those words in our daily lives? Can you imagine if there isn’t languages? What happens to our thoughts and our struggle with thoughts if there weren’t any words and languages? Can you see a way of gaining some distance from your thoughts (from those words) instead of being fused in them, believing them 100%?
催眠 (hypnosis) 与去催眠化 (dehypnosis)
开始前，先说说关于英文 “dehypnosis” 这个字的翻译，让我纠结了好一下的一个词。面对广大群众，其实我会偏好＂反催眠＂（听起来比较酷？！），但却也因为＂反＂，它带有误导性，感觉像是抵抗被催眠，阻止人家给你催眠，阻止自己接受催眠师的任何暗示*？所以我还是选了＂去催眠化＂。
那怎么个＂去催眠＂呢？简单来说，就是认知行为疗法(CBT)里的认知解离／认知距离化(cognitive defusion, cognitive distancing)。注意到自己沉浸在这些想法里了，注意＂这些想法就只是想法，它不是事实！＂让自己走出来，反催眠自己（看吧，＂反催眠＂是比较适用的）。这也是我最爱的接受与承诺疗法(ACT)的提倡之一－－改变自己和想法的关系，而不是改变想法本身（因为为了改变一个想法，你可能更关注它，更沉浸纠结其中，最后更痛苦！）。