This serves as a basic introduction to ACT, a mental health approach. What you will learn:
- What the hexaflex model is
- What psychological flexability is
- The 6 ideas behind psychological flexibility
- How to learn more
Believe it or not I did not make the term hexaflex up. It was developed by a man named Steven Hayes and his colleagues in an extremely effective approach towards looking at the mind.
Alright, without further adieu, allow me to introduce to you an invigorating and widely usable theory called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. If you read the name and thought, “Well… I’m no expert in therapy.” You don’t need be! This is a goldmine approach to helping yourself.
It all begins with a term called psychological flexibility. This is the underpinning philosophy guiding ACT. The key 6 features are represented in the image below.
I stand by these 6 ideas. They are dynamic, in every way, as there is a ton of overlap between them. These work together. Not separately. Also, they are a huge benefit if you find simple ways to apply them in your daily life. Some are easy to do while others take a tidbit of leg work.
Lets not get cynical here. Acceptance isn’t saying “that’s how things are!” In ACT, acceptance means your response-ability, not responsibility. It’s your ability to respond to things that happen. ACT calls this willingness. What should you be willing to do exactly? Mainly, and this might hurt some, be open to your distress and suffering. When you’re not, you’re avoiding it.
Avoidance, called experiential avoidance in ACT, is a major issue within psychological flexibility because it leads to inflexibility. When you are not able to cradle your suffering then you are at risk to succumbing to it. That’s icky. You don’t want to do that! Right?
This video provides a great example. However, it is 3 minutes long. Feel free to skip.
Hmmm, Defusion. Semi-hard to explain quickly. Your mind is tied to language. ACT informs you that while this is a wonderful thing when we do things like work or taxes, it can be highly destructive when we ruminate or doubt ourselves. There are 3 things to consider:
- Are you always right?
- Language is not physical.
- Language doesn’t represent reality accurately
You cannot hold language! Our minds need to learn how to separate from it, at times, to promote psychological flexibility. Here are some beginning techniques
- The first technique is to find a negative evaluation that you have about something and shave it down to one word. I’m picking the word “Failure.” Now, I want you to say the word you chose or “Failure” as fast as you can for 60 seconds without slowing down. What happens? It ceases to be the word you started with. Research shows it loses some of its secret power over you as a result. Try it!
- Secondly, this video demonstrates another technique you can do. It helps you separate from the language of your thoughts. Remember as I mentioned above, language does not represent reality accurately.
SELF AS CONTEXT
We are not who we think we are. Whoa, Matrix stuff right there. No, but seriously. Our self-conceptualization can be wildly inaccurate and holding onto it is kind of a rigid way to live. Psychological flexibility is learning the ways of self as process and self as context.
This is to say that we are not the same we were 5 years ago, and we will not be who we are today in 5 years. ACT accelerates this time frame and claims we go through changes in our daily lives and we are new each day. So quit thinking you are who you were yesterday. Life changes in a single second! Therefore, you can change your destructive habits in a single second. Have Faith and ACT.
Ah yes, the here-and-now. This is hard to do. You don’t think so? We spend much of our day in our past and future thoughts. Being present is difficult because our minds love the other two tenses more. But when we are unable to pull ourselves into the moment and really live, we miss way too much!
If you’re a parent and constantly thinking about future work you have to get done, you will miss out on key moments of your children’s life. If you get fired or laid off and continuously think about your past failures as a worker, your focus on the life you are living now will be lost. The ability to remain in the moment is another piece of the psychological flexibility puzzle. The following video goes into a bit more depth.
You have values and you love ’em. I know you do. However, sometimes you lose sight of what they are or, perhaps, you have never taken the time to verbalize them. ACT helps to clarify your values. It is key to note that values are unattainable and they steer the directions of your goals. Psychological flexibility encourages you to Love your values and value your love.
Now before you get cold feet around commitment, hear ACT out. Committed action can take place at any time. Values guide your path but your feet walk the path. Committing, in ACT is that first step towards your valued path. You can take a committed action right now.
Maybe you struggle with drinking too much alcohol and there’s a beer sitting next to you. Why don’t you skip this one and maybe drink beer later. There. Done. Committed action! You wanted that drink and you chose not to. Baby steps. Good work :).
THE INS AND OUTS OF ACT
Need more info? Go to the sources themselves!
The ACT workbook will set you on a journey of a lifetime. I have done it and it is awesome! Mental health workbooks, of any kind, aren’t for me but this one is very different and you can see the changes in your life in about every page you read and activity you partake in. Click on the image to get a copy. It is very affordable and one of the best things you could do!
Here is the 2nd edition of the ACT Clinician Text. This explains everything about ACT and how to apply it in your own life and in the lives of others. If you are a clinician or work with others in either the mental health field or medical field, this is a must read! A bit more pricey but a life changer for sure. Click on the image to get a copy
That’s all. Keep calm and ACT on! Please share if you were inspired and help spread the joy of ACT.