[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 11 – The Third Pivot – Acceptance – The Art of Perspective Taking.
[Previous entries in this little experiment of mine (just typed “mind” instead of “mine” – ha!): Introduction, Chapter 9 – The First Pivot – Defusion – Putting the Mind on a Leash, and Chapter 10 – The Second Pivot – Self – The Art of Perspective Taking.]
I’m starting to see why ACT wasn’t seeming to work on some of my issues in the past – specifically the Big Three (vaping, sleeping, and the other thing) that I’m working on as I go through this project of mind.
I was only using 1/6th of it most of the time.
I had my first real introduction to ACT through Russ Harris’ “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT”. It’s a fantastic book, and may be a better initial intro to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training than “A Liberated Mind” – at least for the absolute novice. Of course, I can only say that because it was my path – YMMV.
Back then, and probably until I started this project, I was all about Defusion – it seemed to be the answer I’d always been looking for. For years before, I could see the rationality of looking at your thoughts and realizing that some of them aren’t helpful, then detaching from those that weren’t. But I just couldn’t do it – because I didn’t know how.
Enter defusion exercises – here was something that I could actually *do* to unhook from my thoughts. I could stop fighting them, see them for what they are (thoughts, duh), and decide if doing what they told me to do would be helpful.
And I had so much success with it, that I kind of left the others by the wayside, at least in a formal way. I still recognized the Transcendent Self (to a degree), I meditated regularly, I was already familiar with Acceptance (“Amor Fati.” “Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems.”), I kindof knew what was important to me, and *of course* I had to take action (“The source of my Personal Power (c)(tm)”). But when it came to day to day challenges, cravings, emotional upsets and downsets, defusion wasn’t enough.
But I can accept that. I wasn’t ready, and I’ve got a couple of years of practicing defusion under my belt as a result of that. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But in the month and a half since I read the book, my quality of life has freakin’ skyrocketed as a result of using the rest of the pivots (well, the first three so far in on a regular basis).
So anyway – here are my highlights and notes from the chapter on acceptance. Once again, a little different style than the past two times. I was spending too much on formatting the highlights and notes. I’m not going to waste as much time on that now. Just accept it :-).
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the first step in turning toward acceptance is admitting to yourself that the things you’ve been doing to cope with difficulties haven’t been working because their aim is avoidance.
[Close to everything I used was to avoid – avoid the cigarette cravings by trying to shut them down… and the best way to shut them down was to give in to them, as an example.]
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the next steps in acceptance—turning toward your pain and beginning to open up to experiencing it and learning from it.
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“You’re not strong enough for this” <—–That’s me! No it isn’t, it’s just a thought. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s not helpful.
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“This is too hard” <—–That’s me! No it isn’t, it’s just a thought. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s not helpful.
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“Who are you kidding, you’re just a failure!” <—–That’s me! No it isn’t, it’s just a thought. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s not helpful.
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You can begin probing into the underlying motivations of the behavior you want to change.
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our pain is due to a healthy yearning.
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We yearn for experiences that make us feel.
[I could never admit that in the past. Feelings are for pussies, feelings make you weak. No, feelings make you human, and dealing with them, recognizing their positive power, and using *all* them to my advantage and for the betterment of the universe is awesome. Killing the uncomfortable ones with alcohol, empty sex, nicotine, religion, personal development, meditation, or any of the other hundreds of methods I used just made my life worse in the long run. The first acceptance I needed to practice was the basic acceptance that I’m a human being.]
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Acceptance instead helps us spread our arms wide and take the bad (so-called) with the good (so-called) and open up our capacity to feel, sense, and remember.
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[It ain’t all about the intellect.]
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as we develop the skill of acceptance, we can keep doing a better job of feeling and experiencing.
[Never thought about acceptance like this. I’ve been familiar with the concept for a long time – AA taught me about it – but once again, even that can be used to (try to) kill off of the negative feelings I have about something.]
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Our problem-solving minds think avoiding painful memories and current experiences is eminently logical, but this shows again why it is an impossible task. Cold reminds us of hot; love can remind us of rape.
[This. Is. Gold.]
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“I’ve learned there is more to me than my intellect,” she says. “I’ve learned how to feel.”
[Thank you. Me too, slowly but surely (or not so surely.)
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I’ve been on an exciting journey of learning that it is OK to be me.”
[That’s where it’s at for me. That’s what I want to know in my bones, that it’s OK to be me, but the Dictator still gets me and tells me that it isn’t. But even that’s OK, because the Dictator is a part of me, so I’ll work on being OK with him as well.]
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“I know it will never be done. It doesn’t have to be. I’m not damaged goods. I’m not broken. I’m learning and growing, and that is enough.”
[It never has to be done.]
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The gift we receive when we choose to accept our experience, pain and all, is the wisdom of being able to feel and remember fully in the present, without disappearing into a negative thought network about the past.
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observe, describe, and accept
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fundamental to the process of exposure is the understanding that progress will be gradual.
[But I want it nooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwww.]
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That’s why ACT adds the practice of defusion to exposure: to quiet the Dictator’s commands to avoid.
[Again… it seems that using the pivots together rather than in isolation really increases their power.]
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The single biggest step in embracing acceptance is appreciating how dangerous avoidance really is.
[This really hit me. I’ll sometimes hear the excuse of “OK, I won’t smoke, but in that case I deserve to do this other not so helpful thing.” No. Planning to avoid, no matter how innocuous it seems, isn’t just a little less bad – it’s freaking *dangerous*. Of course, if it’s already happened, just move on. But I personally need to watch out for that “plan to fail less.”]
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An important modification that ACT made to exposure is to instruct that it take place in the service of valued action. Don’t go to the mall just to expose yourself to the anxiety of being in a mall; go with the purpose of buying a gift for a loved one.
[Again… the pivots together work a thousand time (approximately) better than in isolation.]
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attending to the present moment rather than slipping into avoidant thoughts and emotions.
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The point is not to simply distract them from their anxiety. It is to show them that they can be OK enough with their anxiety to refocus their minds.
[Distraction can be a temporary band-aid, but using aspirin to treat a brain tumor isn’t the best idea.]
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acceptance rather than avoidance
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Acceptance involves an abandonment of conscious control—you just open the valve in safe circumstances. You have to let the emotion be what it will be.
[The “abandonment of conscious control.” Using it as a method of conscious control just doesn’t work – I know from past experience.]
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Others can wait until you’ve developed greater flexibility.
[One of my Big Three is the vaping. I’m using the nicotine gum to help. It’s a process, a process that takes time. And that’s OK, no matter how much the Dictator is telling me that I’m no better off, and really a failure, for using it – even though I HAVEN’T VAPED OR SMOKED IN 2 WEEKS AND THREE DAYS NOW! NRT never worked in the past – combining it with the pivots has worked well.]
Thanks for reading – thoughts?