Tag Archives: Experiential Avoidance

Can you control your thoughts and feelings?

Many of the self-help books out there teach people how to change their thoughts, physical sensations, feelings etc in order to feel better (including traditional CBT which targets automatic negative thoughts), if you’re one of those who have tried many of these techniques, how workable do you think they are? Do you think you really have so much control over your thoughts and feelings?

Try these:

(1) Try to recall something happened in the past week, anything — a dinner you had, a movie you went, a talk etc. [continue when you've got one] Now try to remove it completely from your memory, get rid of it so you will never think about it again in your life… Can you do it?

(2) Now, do not think about chocolate. As you read this, do not think about how a chocolate tastes, smells; do not think about its colour and texture; do not imagine how it feels when it melts in your mouth and how it feels when your tongue and teeth contact with it. Is it possible? Try again with honey maybe?

(3) Think about past experiences, whether when you have to give a public talks and feel very nervous; when a loved ones passes away and you feel really depressed; when your results doesn’t come out as good as expected and you feel disappointed etc etc. You hope you aren’t that nervous, depressed, disappointed, you try to get rid of these negative emotions as how they’re labelled, was the attempt successful? Did trying to control your emotions make it even stronger, ironically? So you’re more nervous trying not to be nervous?

So why ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)? Because in ACT, we understand in life negative emotions, thoughts, experience, sensations are all just as likely to happen as the positive ones, they are all part of our life, they are what make our lives meaningful, educational and contented. So in ACT, people learn to accept them, to live with them, instead of struggling with them, challenging them, changing them, getting rid of them.

Metaphors (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

The PDF file below is one of the appendices from the book “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Psychosis” edited by Eric M. J. Morris, Louise C. Johns and Joseph E. Oliver.

It’s a short story of hopes, combining some metaphors commonly used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Definitely worth reading, and re-reading to understand more about ACT, and get a feel of the center approach and techniques used in ACT.

Click here: See the wood for the trees (pdf)


Related reading on huibee.com:

Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting?

Mindfulness and Acceptance Tasks 

Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting?

Which do you think is better or more workable? To challenge your thought or to accept it?

Traditionally, the psychologists of Cognitive Behavioural approaches emphasize that our thinking style is what causes us to respond emotionally to events, so it’s our thinking style that determines our feelings, our ability to overcome and steer through when adversity strikes (Reivich, Shatte, 2002).

However, the Mindfulness and Acceptance-based approaches suggest that it’s not so much of the content of our thoughts and attitudes that matters, it’s our relationship with them, i.e. how we respond to them.

So the former approach traditionally teaches people to gather evidence and dispute the logic of unhelpful thoughts, whereas the latter approach says we can simply acknowledge the thoughts and distance ourselves from them, without getting into an internal struggle.

Have you ever tried to control or avoid unpleasant experiences and later coming to realize that it’s affecting you even more and causing more discomfort? (e.g. some noise while you’re trying to sleep; your worries; some palpitation and fears)

Psychological suffering (feeling sad, anxious, guilty etc) is very common and so realistically cannot be avoided. Our attempts to avoid or control painful internal experiences can compound and prolong our emotional suffering, at the same time damaging the quality of our lives.

I’ll subsequently write more posts on how to practise and achieve that. But from now on, start to notice those unpleasant experience, acknowledge them and accept them, instead of trying to control or avoid them.

10/9/14: Check here for some tasks  to explore Mindfulness and Acceptance.