A Week of Self as Context – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a community on Reddit I’m trying to get off of the ground to discuss the book A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week I focused on Chapter 10 – The Second Pivot – Self – The Art of Perspective Taking.

You can read the introduction to this project here, and last week’s focus on Chapter 9 – The First Pivot – Defusion – Putting the Mind on a Leash here.

I’m going to do this week a bit differently from last week. My post on Defusion was more of a copy-and-paste job than I’d like these posts to be. I’m here to express my own thoughts, feelings, and results of the practice of the pivots than just parroting what Dr. Hayes says in the book.

On another note, I do like the classical ACT descriptions of the self: self-as-context and self-as content, which is why I included them in the title of this post, even though they are not mentioned in this particular book. Here’s a short article that explains the terms better than I ever could: Contacting Self as Context

First, a report on my big three:

Nicotine – holy fucking shit. I haven’t smoked or vaped in 9 days. Still using the gum (and defusing from the super unhelpful “but you aren’t really successful if you are using the gum” thoughts). I keep on thinking that I need to start cutting down now, but I’m actually going to follow directions for once in my life and continue to use the recommended dosage for the week that I’m in. Remembering to “notice who wants to vape” and then “notice who is noticing” seems to help a lot.

Sleep – actually seemed to be *worse* this week. But thinking back, there wasn’t a lot of work in this area. Not too sure how to apply the self pivot on this – I probably need to hit up The Sleep Book again. Maybe recognize that I’m not the story of “being an insomniac”?

That other thing – half assed work, so half assed results. To be honest, these three things are ranked in order of importance to me, so I’m not too worried about #3 at the moment. It’s not illegal, some may consider it immoral, and it *is* getting in the way of my relationships, so I’ll deal with it.

And now, the highlights and notes. Less copy-paste, more OC:

Once we develop “cognitive perspective taking”, our Transcendent Self (Observer Self, Consciousness, Noticing, whatever you want to call it) emerges. This is self-as-context.

At the same time, “self-as-content” emerges. This is the self that identifies with thoughts and feelings. It believes it is the thoughts it is thinking and the feelings it is feeling.

My note at Kindle location 2732: I prefer “The Observing Self” – “Transcendent” seems a bit woo woo for me. (I took this note on my first pass though, and that changed at some point, as you’ll see coming up.)

I highlighted “story of our self” over and over and over again in this chapter, and throughout the week was really blown away by the stories I tell about myself – smart, stupid, funny, boring, inept, superstar… it’s really insane just how contradictory they can be depending on the context. (there’s that word again.)

“… belonging was literally a matter of life or death.” My note at Kindle location 2737: Sure can feel this way sometimes. Not so much anymore, but I’ve always admired the lone, strong man – because he is so much “better” than people who need people.

I just realized – there’s the reason that I need this pivot more than I realized. While I no longer admire the lone wolf mentality, it’s in there, and it always will be. I can’t delete the belief from my nervous system. I may not necessarily need others to keep me from certain death, I do need them to meet my psychological needs, and they need me.

“We lie about ourselves to defend our ego; we play the victim; we berate ourselves for failing to meet inflated standards that might please others; and we become consumed by worries about rejection and perceived slights.” My note at Kindle location 2739: I’ve ridden all of those rides multiple times.

“High self-esteem is a worthy goal.” My note at Kindle location 2741: Meh… no it isn’t. The ability to do, and then doing, “esteemable acts” is a worthy goal. A healthy self-esteem is a worthy goal. Yes, he says this later, but this one sentence is just wrong. I suppose what your definition of “high” is.

The esteemable acts idea is straight out of AA. We don’t build self-esteem by imagining convincing myself that we are great – it’s done by doing the right thing/best thing/most helpful thing as best we can.

I find it interesting that Dr. Hayes starts with the “High self-esteem is a worthy goal” idea, but then talks about how it can get too high. That I agree with – I might have said “A healthy self-esteem is a worthy goal”, but I think we are saying the same thing.

“We may also try to prove our worth by taking on tasks that are beyond our talents, suffering more damage to our self-esteem as a result.” My note at Kindle location 2753: Unless we base our self-esteem on the fact that we took on something beyond our current abilities, instead of the results themselves.

[More highlights about our “self stories” – I’m thinking this may be an important idea… :-)]

“… allowing that awareness alone to be at the core of what we take ourselves to be.” My note at Kindle location 2757: which is why we can safely call this aspect of self the “I” – it’s whichever we choose to be (conceptualized, transcendent, physical…) it’s up to us, and I choose “transcendent” (although I’m not a huge fan of that word.) Further note: Interesting that I wrote this a week ago and said that “transcendent” was fine… and I just took a note that says that I prefer “observer”. The label doesn’t matter. It’s still just a story.

“Which storyline will lead you forward to where you want to go? Which storyline seems most useful to you and under which circumstances? Who would you rather determines which storyline gets your attention? The Dictator Within, or your transcendent self?” My note at Kindle location 2911: I get to choose.

The exercises that helped me most from this chapter were I Am/I Am Not (I did this one a few times), Catching Self-Awareness on the Fly (picked up an Android app called Notifications of Mindfulness to help me out with this one), and Distinction Between Awareness and the Content of Awareness.

That’s it for now (and that’s plenty!!!). On to the third pivot, Acceptance.



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