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?
(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.