Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Let it go or Chuck it away?

I was looking at some psychotherapy worksheets and came across some exercises on “learning to let go“. Here are some of the exercises:

Exercise 1

On a separate sheet of paper, describe a problem that has been making you feel depressed lately. Write about it in as much detail as you can. Choose one of the methods below to physically let go of what you have written, and then do it. As you destroy your problem, tell yourself, “I am letting go of this. I will not let it depress me anymore.”

  • Rip up your paper into tiny pieces and throw it into the garbage.
  • Put your paper through a shredder.
  • Read what you have written to someone else and then give that person the paper and ask him or her to rip it up in front of you.
  • With permission and in the presence of an adult, burn your paper in a fireplace.
  • Write your problem on bathroom tissue instead of regular paper and flush it down the toilet.

Exercise 2

Sit quietly and comfortably where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and picture yourself in vivid detail doing one of the following:
You wrap your problem in a box and seal it very securely with strong tape and rope. Then you attach the box to a very powerful rocket. You take the rocket to an outdoor area where there are no houses, trees, or other obstructions. You light the rocket and stand back. You watch as the rocket blasts off into the sky with great speed and force. You watch it carry your problem quickly and powerfully away from you. You watch until it is completely out of sight, far off beyond the pull of Earth’s gravity, continuing to travel farther into space. As you watch it go, you say to yourself, “I am letting go of this. I will not let it depress me anymore.”


What do you think about these exercises?

According to thefreedictionary.com, to let (something) go has the meaning of

  1. to stop having something
  2. to stop trying to control something
  3. to not take action

Whereas to chuck (something) away has the meaning of

  1. to push or shove something out of the way quickly and roughly
  2. to throw something away
  3. to dispose of something

I think the person designing the exercises of “learning to let go” wasn’t quite able to differentiate between letting go and chucking away. By letting go, you don’t push things away, sometimes the thing that upsets you might even still be there, with you in the same room, but you just let go of the struggle, stopping the control… Because pushing it away, throwing it away involve a lot of control too. And most people do find that the more they try to get rid of something off their mind, the more likely the thing returns (have you tried the “try not to think of a pink elephant” exercise?).

In other words, let’s say you were holding on to your problems, if you want to let go, you open up your palm, whether or not the problems leave you, it’s not up to you, but at least you stop the struggle of holding on to it. So no, I don’t think the above exercises are helping people to let go, even if they succeed, the upsetting events are likely to bounce back (still, it works for the short terms, sometimes for the long terms). A good way of practicing letting go is being mindful, being in the here and now (you may learn how by reading this book). You may also try leaves on the stream (remember not to chuck your problems into the stream, but just let them go, let them flow down gently).

Introducing “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy”

Got this book from Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur in September 2015 (RM101.84).

By Steven C. Hayes

By Steven C. Hayes

I’ve been mentioning a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, see here for all the related posts), now finally, it’s an ACT workbook.

It’s written for the general public (especially those with pain and suffering), hence considerably readable though a lot of times it may go against your common sense. It talks about human suffering (why do we suffer? If we don’t struggle with the pain, is it still pain?), why and how language leads to suffering (do the birds or dogs think that they’re suffering? Or do they just feel it?), “experiential avoidance”, acceptance and willingness (how?!!), being the observing self (I really like getting in touch with my observing self, this is something that I tried to explain to my sister when we were much younger, it was a struggle because we didn’t have a term for it back then, but she got me), values (life direction) and committed action etc.

This is a workbook so there are plenty of exercises (meditation, mindfulness, getting detached from your thoughts/feelings, letting go, metaphors etc) in it, you will almost definitely find some that you like and some that you don’t quite like.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and especially to stick to and really hands on the exercises and practices (otherwise there’s no point to just “read” a workbook). If you have some suffering/pain that you’ve really been struggling with in your life (or in your mind, in a sense), it seems easier for you to practice the workbook. Nevertheless, if you’re like me – thinking you’re fine in general – it’d still be beneficial to go through and work on it.

Watch Your Thought Come and Go

Meditation Exercise: Leaves on the stream (by far my favourite and what I practice most)

This is an eye-closed exercise. First read the instructions and then when you are sure you understand them, close your eyes and do the exercise. (Or you can use the recordings at the end of this post)

Imagine a beautiful slow-moving stream. The water flows over rocks, around trees, descends down-hill, and travels through a valley. Once in a while, a big leaf drops into the stream and floats away down the river. Imagine you are sitting beside that stream on a warm, sunny day, watching the leaves float by.

Now become conscious of your thoughts. Each time a thought pops into your head, imagine that it is written on one of those leaves. If you think in words, put them on the leaf as words. If you think in images, put them on the leaf as an image. The goal is to stay beside the stream and allow the leaves on the stream to keep flowing by. Don’t try to make the stream go faster or slower; don’t try to change what shows up on the leaves in any way. If the leaves disappear, or if you mentally go somewhere else, or if you find that you are in the stream or on a leaf, just stop and notice that this happened. File that knowledge away and then once again return to the stream, watch a thought come into your mind, write it on a leaf, and let the leaf float away down the stream.

(It doesn’t matter how vivid or clear the imagery is, as long as the concept is there, that you notice your thoughts, and let go of your thoughts once you notice them)

Continue doing this for at least 5 minutes. If the instructions are clear to you now, go ahead and close your eyes and do the exercise.

(Continuing reading AFTER the exercise)

You can think of the moments when the stream wouldn’t flow as moments of cognitive fusion, while the moments when the stream does flow are moments of cognitive defusion. Many times we become fused to a thought without even being aware of it. Thoughts about this exercise can be especially “sticky”. If you thought “I’m not doing this right” or “this exercise doesn’t work for me,” these too are thoughts that you may become fused to quite easily. In many cases, you may not even notice them as thoughts. Other particularly sticky thoughts are emotional thoughts, comparative ones, and temporal or causal ones.

A recording of the exercise in English (starts after 5 seconds):

Leaves on the stream - 12 minutes

Leaves on the stream – 11 minutes (starts quicker, less guidance towards the end)

A recording of the exercise in Mandarin: 

“河流上的飘叶”录音I

“河流上的飘叶”录音II

(类似的内容,只是前面的指示稍微不同;5-6秒后指示才开始)

Introducing “Speed: Facing our Addiction to Fast & Faster & Overcoming our Fear of Slowing down”

Stephanie Brown Phd

By Stephanie Brown PhD.

I picked this book from the Big Bad Wolf for RM8 (under US$2), thinking that this is really something people nowadays are going to need. The content can be slightly outdated (as compared to the rapid advancement of the technology world these days), but definitely not the messages it is trying to bring.

For the past few decades, we’ve all been told to be efficient, to keep moving, to make full use of all our time, to be in control, to have more and more, to keep in touch every waking hours, not to stop, not to slow down, not to be left behind…

We keep adding activities into our schedules, and never take any out, thinking that as long as somehow adjusting them around, we will manage it all… We have the constant need to do something, to check the phone, to go on Facebook, to work harder, to get more, constant feeling of “never enough”. We think we are communicating better with the technology advancement, but we are no longer looking at each other and talking to each other when we dine together…

… …

The style of writing can be a bit boring to me, but repetition is needed to help people to face their fear of slowing down and to learn to live a more mindful and meaningful life.

So, whether or not you think you are so addicted to speed (or gadgets or something similar or related), take a look!

Learning Psychological Flexibility since Young

Our education taught us to work so hard to​ score 96 on maths, 95 on Chinese, 100 on moral, 90 on science etc. On top of that, it’s very common in Asian countries that children are​ sent to tuition classes, music, art​, martial art​ classes etc.

We’re a generation with blessings​(?)​, nothing much to worry about, parents,​ teachers, or the government will plan the route and do the worries for us, what’s better, problems are solved before we even​ realised it.

But what if we fall? Fall so badly​?​ ​Being in big trouble? Facing major life challenges?

​Sometimes we read in the news – A teenager of 17 years old committed suicide because “my girlfriend wants to breakup with me, life is meaningless”, the other one because she is one A short to make it a straight As in SPM. We see depression, mood swing, anxiety-related problems, OCD, insomnia in younger and younger age. We thought they are supposed to be having fun at that age​, but they don’t seem to be able to have fun?!

​Why never we learnt psychological flexibility since young? Why the environment was never created to learn that since young? Why English, Maths, Science, (even) Moral, Volley ball, etc, but never about how to bounce back, how to be emotionally resilient? ​Or in other words, how to stand up when we fall? Why for over 10 years we’ve been attending schools and universities, but the educational system never taught us this?

Prevention is better than cure, but we aren’t even preventing the happening of mental disorders, quite often people only start to learn about resilience after they suffer (like our patients who wished that they knew this and that long time ago).

How do we create that kind of environment for our next generations? Where (whether positive or negative) thoughts and feelings are taken lightly; where we understand negative and positive events, thoughts, feelings are just equally likely to happen as the positive ones, so we face them all and accept them all; where we allow children to explore their feelings and thoughts during difficult times; where even a young child understand what value is and changing or persisting his/her behaviour in serving of the values; where we are able to adapt to changing environmental and situational demands and get the balance in 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