Name ‘em: major depressive disorder, panic disorder, compulsive behavior issues, schizophrenia. The missing piece to the healing puzzle for all of them is acceptance. But you don’t just flip a switch…
I mean, losing is a devastating option. And we believe unless we win the war, living a worthwhile life is impossible…
It’s a workbook actually, written by Steven C. Hayes, PhD with Spencer Smith. As the title tells, it’s grounded in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Hayes is one of its developers.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
ACT is a scientifically-based psychotherapy. In fact, it’s one of the “third wave” behavioral and cognitive therapies. And that means it’s relatively new and presumably more effective.
I have always believed acceptance plays a crucial role in healing from emotional and mental woes.
An effective approach to solving internal problems
Dr. Hayes asks if we’ve noticed that some of our most troubling problems have become more deeply engrained and out of control over the years – in spite of working our fannies off to fix them.
Hayes submits this isn’t surprising, as it’s the result of our all too logical minds being asked to do what they were never designed to do. And suffering is just one result.
So says Hayes…
…humans are playing a rigged game in which the human mind itself, a wonderful tool for mastering the environment, has been turned on its host.
How ‘bout that?
Hayes presents a cool metaphor in describing the distinction between the function of a psychological disorder and how it presents in one’s life. He says it can be likened to someone on a battlefield fighting a war. The war is going poorly, and we fight all the harder.
I mean, losing is a devastating option. And we believe unless we win the war, living a worthwhile life is impossible. So we continue to fight.
Unfortunately, we never consider the option of leaving the battlefield and living our lives – now.
Sure, the war will continue for a time, and we may be able to see fire on the horizon. However, if we exit the battlefield and choose life, the outcome of the war will no longer be important.
That means we don’t have to have all of our problems resolved before we begin embracing life.
And so this is about the true substance of emotional and mental issues, not their appearance.
The quicksand maneuver
Dr. Hayes goes on to offer this brilliant take. When we step into something we want to get out of, 99.9% of the time the best course of action is to walk, run, step, hop, or jump.
But that’s a losing proposition when it comes to quicksand.
Stepping out requires lifting one foot and moving the other foot forward. Stuck in quicksand, that instantly doubles downward pressure.
Add that to the suction effect around the foot being lifted, and yet more downward pressure is applied. Getting out becomes a coin toss.
The very best thing one can do when stuck in quicksand is stop struggling and try to lie flat – spread-eagle – to maximize contact with the surface. Not only is it possible one won’t sink, one may even be able to log-roll to safety.
And so it is with how we’ve traditionally tried to manage our emotional and mental woes. We flail about and frantically do all we can to “fix” the problem – not knowing there’s another strategy that would bring much better, and lasting, results.
Acceptance to the rescue
It’s natural to fight for the fix when we encounter a problem. And in the external world, it’s the only way to go. But when we try to force the fix for what we experience internally, we’ll fall flat on our faces – time and time again.
Trying to rid ourselves of pain only amplifies it, gets us more gummed up, and generates trauma.
The alternative is acceptance (screaming, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, I know).
According to Hayes…
Acceptance, in the sense it is used here, is not nihilistic self-defeat; neither is it tolerating and putting up with your pain. It is very, very different than that. Those heavy, sad, dark forms of ‘acceptance’ are almost the exact opposite of the active, vital embrace of the moment that we mean.
Make no mistake about it, acceptance has to be the first order of biz when it comes to extricating ourselves from the battlefield/quicksand of emotional and mental struggles.
Live our lives
If you’re enduring an emotional or mental health disorder, Dr. Hayes’ take on acceptance may have made your jaw drop.
Sure, there’s more to the healing process than acceptance. But nothing is going to get better if we don’t acknowledge and buy-in to what ails us – and move forward in spite of it.
What say we leave the battlefield and quicksand behind and live our lives.
Tons of Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration titles await your eyeballs. Give ’em a look-see.