On August 27th, Steven Hayes’ new book “A Liberated Mind – How to Pivot Toward What Matters” will be released, and I couldn’t be looking forward to it any more than I already am.
Dr. Hayes is the originator of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), which has been a literal lifesaver for me – it taught me how to (finally!) recognize that my thoughts often don’t reflect reality, how to unhook from the unhelpful ones, and take action toward the things that I value.
It’s been a much better way to live.
This post isn’t a recommendation that you buy the book – how could I recommend a book that I haven’t even seen yet? But I can recommend ACT itself, and this promises to be a work that will both introduce people to it’s power, and help those who have already been using it continue to improve their psychological flexibility.
ACT is really big on metaphors, and this post is about one that Dr. Hayes talks about in a video he offers as one of the bonuses you can get if you purchase the book.
Imagine you have a glass of salt water. The water is undrinkable because, well, it’s salt water. So why not pick all the salt particles out of the water so that you can drink it?
Because that would be frickin’ impossible!
Wouldn’t it be easier to add more water, and add more water, and add more water, until the salt is at such a low concentration that you can comfortably take a sip?
The glass is your mind, the water is the ability to take action toward what’s important to you, and the salt is the unhelpful thoughts and emotions that get in the way.
Rather than trying to remove the “negative” thoughts and emotions, ACT takes away their power. They’re still there, but they stop getting in the way of you living the life you want to live.
And here’s the thing – this glass can hold more water (and salt!) and we can imagine. It is, for all intents and purposes, bottomless. You can keep adding water, and keep adding water, and keep adding water.
Yes, you’ll get a granule of salt from time to time. It’ll suck. Sometime it’ll suck real bad. And it never won’t happen again until you’re dead. Those unhelpful thoughts and emotions will always be there. That’s life. But you’ll be so full of water that you’ll notice them less and less, and you’ll know that the solution isn’t to try to get rid of them – but to just add a little more water and take another drink.
I apologize if the above metaphor isn’t exactly right. I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or any kind of mental health professional – just a guy who was really sick (still is in many ways) but has made so much progress with ACT it’s astounding to both me and the people who’ve known me at my worst.
If, like me, you’ve tried traditional CBT or other therapies and they just haven’t worked for you long term, maybe give ACT a try. My first real introduction to it was from the book “The Happiness Trap” by Dr. Russ Harris. I’m looking forward to learning how to add even more water to my from the creator of ACT himself.