Tag Archives: ACT

Book: Stuff that Sucks (2015)

This is my 300th post!!!!

I’ve been attending an online course and came across this book by Ben Sedley:

Stuff that Sucks: A teen’s guide to accepting what you can’t change and committing to what you can

It’s a small, easy to read book, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’d recommend this to any younger teenagers especially. Of course it isn’t and can’t replace therapy, but generally many parents and adolescents have found it helpful for general teens related struggles.

One criticism it receives is that there isn’t much of “practical application”, they said it tells you what stuff sucks, but didn’t tell you what you do about these stuff that sucks. I would disagree on that one, and would suggest those people to read again, because the answer/approach is in there… perhaps not obvious enough though!

Why Practise Mindfulness?

Do you feel unmotivated and find it pointless when you were told to practice mindfulness and/or meditation?

Do you think that it is a waste of time? Especially when you have such a busy schedule and so much to do, how can you still sit still and do nothing?

Do you sometimes feel like “I have to do something”, not “do nothing” to become better?

Over the years I have often received questions like this when I suggested mindfulness meditation practice. And people from all backgrounds, walks of and experience in life often respond in those ways mentioned.

So, what are the benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation?

  • Learning to become less reactive in your life and in your mind. You see that you do not need to keep thinking about those things that pop into your mind
  • Worrying less!
  • Usually sleeping better at night after starting to practice regularly
  • Feeling calmer in the day too if you are able to generalise it beyond the practice itself, i.e. becoming more mindful in life.
  • Calming and feeling peaceful after doing it. (but it’s not the purpose usually, the process is more important)
  • Helps lowering stress level
  • Feeling less anxious when you practice it more
  • Improving attention span, whether it’s for your learning or work! You don’t get distracted so easily as you used to be.
  • Helps memory and learning
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Better sense of coping in general
  • Developing a more open and non-judgemental attitudes towards most things in life (which might cause irritation and stress previously)
  • Developing a problem-solving attitude instead of a “worrier” habit
  • Helps regulating emotions (emotion doesn’t go out of control so easily)
  • Quite often helps feeling more connected too!
  • Increasing clarity in thinking and perception
  • If you have other illness(es), it aids recovery and enhances your coping abilities
  • The “I have to keep doing” could be the cause of your problems. Sometimes, “not doing” could be the answer!

Don’t you think that for these many benefits, or even if it’s just for half of those benefits, it’s worth to spend 10 minutes or so each day or every other day to just practice mindfulness meditation? Isn’t it much better than many other things that you are trying to do?

It might feel “boring” and “really uninteresting” and “not my kind of thing”. Believe me… I had been there too, being an active person and labelling this sort of things as the “elderly stuff”, just like many others. But no, just stay open and curious, notice those thoughts and judgments, notice those sensations and feelings, notice any changes and stillness…

Now I’m going to practice it myself after writing this!

Where the voices come from

Sometimes I get this question from patients’ family, asking why the patient is hearing voices, how did it happen and what else do we know about these voices.

Here I’m referring to auditory hallucination commonly seen in people suffering from schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.

Yes they hear voices in their head, usually talking to them, quite commonly saying harsh and mean things to the sufferer. Sometimes they hear a few different voices having a conversation, and it’s not difficult to guess, the conversation is about the sufferer.

“Look! She has no friend! She looks so ugly and stupid!”

“Indeed. I wouldn’t want to befriend someone like her.”

“She should just kill herself. Nobody likes her anyway. Why is she still living?”

I mean, who with a sane mind would say such things to others? Nobody. How was these produced?

In 1993, McGuire and Murray published a research article “Increased blood flow in Broca’s area during auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia“. Let me break it down a little for you… The functions of Broca’s area has a lot to do with “speech production”. As compared to another area of the brain, the Wernicke’s area, is responsible for the comprehension of speech.

Locations of Broca's Area and Wernicke's Areas. (NIDCD, 2010) | Download  Scientific Diagram
Locations of Broca’s and Wernicke’s. Picture taken from researchgate.net

So what does this mean?

When the patients are hearing voices, which do not sound like their own voices, the “speech production” area of the brain has increased blood flow, less so in the “speech comprehension” area. We can’t conclude anything from here obviously, but it becomes clearer to the researchers that those voices are produced by the brain itself, almost like their own’s thought processes (which we all do: talking to ourselves or having inner talks), but “presented” as somebody else’s voice.

So it seems likely that it’s their own thoughts. At least that’s what research has found. And I believe many clinicians would agree with me — often we see those voices are actually the patients’ core beliefs, worries, and are what they were told (by their parents, significant family members, teachers etc) when they were much younger. As a therapist, when I look at it this way, it opens up a lot more possibilities to help people who are suffering from auditory hallucination. And indeed, quite a number of techniques in mindfulness-based approach and cognitive therapy have been found useful.

Why people come for Therapy

There are many different types of therapy, and there are many reasons people approach those therapists for help. Here are some reasons:

In general, for any psychotherapy:

  • Feeling moody, low, and/or depressed
  • Feeling anxious
  • Lacking confidence
  • Worrying too much
  • Not able to sleep/rest well
  • Relationship related problems
  • Feeling hopeless and lost
  • In need to talk to somebody and get some advice
  • Combination of all the above (common!)
  • Obsession and compulsion related
  • Eating related disorders
  • Anger related problems, being irritable
  • Schizophrenia and psychotic related symptoms
  • Being diagnosed as Personality Disorders (e.g. Borderline is more commonly seen)
  • Being diagnosed as developmental disorders (e.g. ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, learning disability)
  • Wanting to be assessed to see if anything is wrong (just like when you go for medical check up; this is not common, but I’ve seen a few now!)
  • In need of guidance during their self-discovery and self-improvement journey (this is rare! But glad that I’ve seen a few too!)
  • In need of guidance after being diagnosed of cancer
Taken from google image.

For hypnotherapy:

  • Wanting to remove a piece of memory
  • Wanting to forget something or someone
  • Wanting to recall something or someone
  • Being in pain
  • Wanting to be more confident
  • Looking for the root cause of some recent problems
  • Feeling lost, uncertain with the future
  • Hoping to release some emotions
  • Hoping hypnosis is the solution to their problems that couldn’t be solved otherwise
  • Wanting to achieve something great
  • Wanting to increase motivation to… (e.g. work, study, lose weight, workout)
  • Wanting to focus better
  • Wanting to change a bad habit (e.g. smoking, not exercising, nail-biting)
  • Wanting to improve general wellbeing and sense of happiness
“… And on the way out, you won’t notice my car parked in a no parking zone.”

The Intention/Belief behind a Behaviour

I talked about letting go of thought VS chucking it away in a 2016 post: Let it go OR Chuck it away. Now, let’s look at this:

Winnie the Pooh & Piglet

The behaviour that Pooh and Piglet do are the same, i.e. they both don’t think about the scary dream. But what Pooh is doing, is “letting go”, whereas piglet? He’s trying hard to chuck it away.

Quite often people overlook this key distinction, they think they copy the same behaviour, and will then achieve the same results. But the beliefs and intention behind the behaviour are important too. Are you worrying about the dream so you don’t think about it? Or do you not care about it so you don’t think about it?

Similarly, on anxiety, are you practicing relaxation because you think anxiety is bad and you can’t tolerate it? Or are you practicing relaxation because it helps you perform better when you’re less anxious? It’s the beliefs and intention behind that differ, the behaviour done or presented is the same.

It’s like on “acceptance” (a word I tend not to use with clients). Do you accept the pain because it doesn’t really matter anymore, or do you accept it because you have no choice (is it still acceptance?)?

Life Coaching

This young lady approached me around July last year, telling me that she didn’t think she has major psychological problems, but she needed help. When I first saw her, she said she’d like to resit some SPM papers, but really lack the motivation. And it’s been 2-3 years that she didn’t get this done.

I wasn’t used to taking clients/patients who are “well”. Normally my clients score really highly on any depression/anxiety or emotional distress scales. But at that time I thought I’d like a mixture of different clients, so we started to work together, on her problems like procrastination, handling negative emotions like anger and fear, handling worries and negative thoughts, setting up a routine and practice following it through, also some impulsive behaviour issues.

It didn’t take long or many sessions. Most of the therapy goals were achieved. I contacted her recently, she said she’s doing her barista work while waiting for the SPM results.

I realised this is like what I do with many clients towards the end of their treatment (when they are a lot more stable), or when they have been taking medication and are referred to me by the psychiatric consultants (so their symptoms had eased a lot when they first see me). I also think this is what a lot of people need, before they accumulate so many problems that they can’t solve, feeling worse and worse about themselves, and starting to fall into depression or other problems.

So I have decided to write this piece on “life coaching”, as it can work almost like a prevention, using hypnotherapy, mindfulness-based CBT and ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy).

Do leave a comment or get in touch (email hello@huibee.com or whatsapp 0172757813) if you’re hoping to achieve some of those:

  • Becoming more confident generally
  • Becoming more confident in a specific area/situation
  • More motivation to study/work
  • Clarifying your goals in life/career/future
  • Tackling procrastination!
  • Solving specific problems in your life
  • Becoming a better problem solver generally
  • Clarifying your life values/directions
  • Starting to take actions towards your goals
  • Becoming more emotional resilient
  • Handling negative emotions and thoughts and worries
  • More focus and better control on your attention (expanding your attention span)
  • Better communication
  • Better expression of emotions and feelings
  • Being accountable to your fitness and diet plans to maintain or lose weight
  • Tackling all sorts of fear (e.g. talking to boss/authority, darkness, height, dating etc)
  • Speaking up your mind & defending your rights
  • …and more