DAY 47: Learning to ACT

17 Oct

ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy — except when it’ s applied to sportos and corporate types, when it suddenly becomes Acceptance and Commitment Training, because obviously people in those fields don’t need therapy. It updates the 7000-year-old practice of mindfulness with cognitive behavioural therapy exercises and other bits of Western psychology, and I’ve come along to a conference room in Melbourne with several hundred other curious characters to hear more about it.

ACT ties in with everything Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living is about: becoming more observant, present, grateful, fearless; developing a childlike curiosity and accepting the bits of the human condition — fear, depression, dread, pain — that we don’t like. It differentiates between our “observing self” and the “thinking self”. It’s the thinking self that has the mean streak, so ACT recommends you use your observing self — that’s who we’ve been from birth; call it your soul if you’re that way inclined —  to keep it in check.

As you might expect, there’s a fair bit of weird shit that goes on. Dr Russ Harris — who has variously been a doctor, a life coach, a therapist and a stand-up comedian — gets us each chewing a sultana for five minutes and gazing wonderingly at the back of our hands. Frequently I find myself succumbing to the usual thoughts I get when asked to listen for any length of time — one-track thoughts, with an R. Kelly soundtrack — but that’s okay. You just “thank your mind” for its diversion and drag yourself back to the here and now.

Unsurprisingly, there are acronyms and analogies aplenty to help us retain all this information. My favourite analogy: the observing self is the sky, while our thoughts and emotions are the weather. They’re transient, sometimes difficult, but will always change — and we need to go out and splash around outside regardless.

Keeper? D.E.F.O.

One Response to “DAY 47: Learning to ACT”


  1. DAY 140: Fearing heights really bad « Hey man, now you're really living - January 19, 2011

    […] you have a problem, it’s okay to back out should you need to. To get around this I’ll use an ACT technique, whereby you give an unwanted train of thought a name, and then whenever it comes up, […]

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