Category Archives: ACT

The Coming Year is Dedicated To…

Over the last couple of days, I re-read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

In it, he tells the story of William James, and his year of personal responsibility.

Here’s a blog post from Manson about it: The Prime Belief. Go read that before continuing on – the rest of this post will make a whole lot more sense if you do.

That’s where Imma dedicate most of my available fucks to this year – 100% responsibility for my own life – knowing that how I respond to everything is all Lyman, all the time.

No blame, no fault finding, no thinking that because of my genetics or my upbringing I suck too much to live a useful life.

Blame, fault finding, and woe is me are always options – they are responses that I’ve pulled out of my pocket in the past. Mostly the last one. I was (am? yes, am.) such a special snowflake that everyone but me has this life thing figured out. Poor Lyman, might as well just kill yourself. But wait, even that is asking too much of a scared and weak little piece of shit like you.

This doesn’t come up as much as it used to, but I still do it waaaaaayyyyyy too much more than I want to. Probably even more than I consciously realize.

This is about living the Serenity Prayer, with a focus on courage and wisdom. It seems to me that serenity is actually a by-product of acceptance, and I’m really good at faking that – dying on the inside with a bullshit smile on my face, and hiding from the world if I can’t manage that smile.

I’m going to work on developing:

  • acceptance (for really reals) when it comes to the things I cannot change (for really reals)
  • courage to change the things that I can
  • wisdom to know the difference

I’m not asking a god to grant me anything. I’m asking present Lyman to develop these things, so that future Lyman can live a richer, fuller life.

Just Do It! isn’t going to work here. The only thing to “just do” is point yourself in a direction and move. Here are the tools I plan on using to point myself if the direction of acceptance, courage, and wisdom:

Life gonna test my resolve here – that’s what life does. I’m gonna fail, over and over again. That’s what humans do.

I don’t give a fuck.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

 

A Week Focused on Action – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 14 – The Sixth Pivot – Action – Committing to Change.

Previous entries in this weekly exercise:

“… you’re not doing this to… conform to a new version of a conceptualized self.”

This is key for me. There’s a fine line between change in order to live a fulfilling life by “connecting to your deepest values”, and change in order to become something “better” than you already are.

I was always focused on the latter. It is for anyone who’s jumping off place is “I’m evil and deserve punishment.”

We also have to remember that perfectionism will kill any progress we’ve made. The commitment to change, followed up by the best action we can take in the moment, is inherently successful. Forget the results – it’s all about the process.

I also really like the question we ask of ourselves in order to make this pivot:

“Based on a distinction between you as a conscious being and the story the mind tells of who you are, in this time and situation are you willing to experience your experiences as they are, not as what they say they are, fully and without needless defense, and direct your attention and effort to creating larger and larger habits of behavior that reflect your chosen values? YES or NO?”

My highlights and notes from the chapter:

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,860
dance

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,861
commit to building values-based habits of action,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,864
committed action brings the six pivots together into a healthy, ongoing process of acting as you choose.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,865
It can’t be learned all at once, any more than how to dance the tango could be learned all at once.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,868
habitually pivoting toward what matters

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,871
It means moving forward with self-compassion, not berating ourselves for inevitable missteps, and buying in when our judgmental minds label them, or ourselves, as failures.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,873
you’re not doing this to impress others, bolster your ego, or conform to a new version of a conceptualized self.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,874
you’re committing to change because doing so is helping you connect with your deepest values from your most authentic sense of self.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,875
accepting the pain and risk

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,877
keeping our attention on the richness of making an effort and learning new habits rather than fixating on a static state of success and how far we are from it.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,879
we’re not going to be immediately competent in our new chosen actions.
Note: Defuse from perfectionism

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,880
We’ll backslide in our behavior and we’ll probably grasp again at avoidance.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,880
that is how change happens.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,882
the intrinsic satisfaction of developing competence.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,883
We yearn to be able to act effectively in the world; to live, and love, and play, and create skillfully. This is the yearning for competence—to be able.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,893
especially once you are the one determining how to motivate yourself.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,895
please others

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,897
serving others,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,898
We may become obsessive about trying to prove our competence or avoidant of the shame of not being perfect.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,899
Procrastination is one way we avoid these situations; we mistake it for a way to keep feelings of failure or anxiety about the prospect of failure at bay, but it only ultimately intensifies them. Of course, often we also just abandon the effort altogether.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,902
we’re simply not going to be immediately competent in building values-based habits.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,914
If someone tells me in the first session how they picture themselves being applauded for their great skill or how they want to be famous and play in a rock band, I know there is heavy sledding ahead.
Note: And there’s why my life has been heavy sledding – more about the image than the skill. Especially the image of not caring about the image

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,917
immediate consequences dominate over delayed consequences.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,924
we will enjoy playing the guitar once we are in a band,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,928
I will stop worrying about the future when I have a lot of money.
Note: Or out of debt. Or not even alot! Just more

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,930
including the learning we can gain from our stumbles,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,932
some forms of persistence are actually forms of avoidance,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,935
building habits of values-based actions that are authentically meaningful to us.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,937
we should develop SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,943
specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,949
A great way to think about the process of building new habits of living is embarking on a hero’s journey.
Note: Getting to bed at s reasonable hour is part of my hero’s journey. Gotta be as healthy as possible to be a hero!

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,960
through committed action the quest is accomplished.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,971
Passion without perseverance is a tragedy; persistence without purpose is a mockery of human potential.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,974
Based on a distinction between you as a conscious being and the story the mind tells of who you are, in this time and situation are you willing to experience your experiences as they are, not as what they say they are, fully and without needless defense, and direct your attention and effort to creating larger and larger habits of behavior that reflect your chosen values? YES or NO?

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,978
Life asks it of you over and over and over—without end, so far as I know.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,983
life affords us the potential to take committed action in every moment of every day.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,996
Also, feel free to draw on other behavior change science.
Note:This is one of the things that I love about ACT. It doesn’t claim to be a panacea.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,999
Advice without that rigorous scientific foundation is often misleading.

Yellow highlight | Location: 4,018
Make Small Adjustments

Yellow highlight | Location: 4,044
the thought stops being a bother.
Note: This is a key idea in ACT for me : he doesn’t say “before the thought goes away.” He says “before the thought stops being a bother.” Such a distinction!

Yellow highlight | Location: 4,077
our behavioral patterns don’t only affect us as individuals.

A Week Focused on Values – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 13 – The Fifth Pivot – Values – Caring by Choice.

Previous entries in this weekly exercise:

This week was an interesting exercise in really getting down to what Lyman wants and who Lyman wants to be.

It hurt. In a good way.

Like I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, I re-read the chapter last Sunday, did an exercise or two (the VLQ and Values Writing), and continued on with the week, looking for ways that I could incorporate what I’d learned into my daily life.

My depression, anxiety, cravings for cigarettes (and a whole bunch of other stuff) shot up like they haven’t in a while. It wasn’t debilitating like it’s been in the past – but it did suck. And I kept wondering “What the fuck is going on???”

I used the pivots to defuse from the unhelpful thoughts, observed them from the perspective of my Transcendent Self, grounded myself in the present moment, accepted what was going on… all the stuff I’ve learned and really practiced so far.

Doing these things usually helped me feel better. And when they didn’t, they helped me to *feel* better (love that!) and kept me pointed in the direction I wanted to be pointed in.

After re-reading the chapter again yesterday, I realized that there *was* a warning in there about getting emotional throughout the process of looking at values – it may happen, but if a person uses the skills they are learned they’ll get through it. I missed that the first (and second) time reading it, and the first (and second and third and fourth and fifth) time listening to the audio of the chapter on my commute.

Holy crap, could I actually be doing this stuff right? (Thanks, mind! Maybe “Could this stuff really be working?” is more helpful?)


Intrinsic values are not something I’m used to following or developing. I’m the child of two Christian ministers, and our values came from Christ and the Church – we didn’t pick them ourselves (but at least is was from a denomination that actually tried to practice what Christ preached.) When I broke away from that, my values came from my social group – sex, drugs, rock and roll. Then on to AA – get everything from the 12 Steps. Then Buddhism – the 4 Noble truths were what I should live by. OK, how about Stoicism? Let’s try that bad boy now. Now nihilism… might as well have no values if I can’t figure out the right ones, huh?

Really looking at what’s important to Lyman is difficult for me. It’s always been about what’s “right.” Never about what’s important to me, just because it’s important to me.

Marcus Aurelius said “what’s good for the hive is good for the bee.” I think that it’s also true that what’s good for the bee is good for the hive. The bees make up the hive. Fucked up bees equals fucked up hive.

I’m part of the hive. My values are important. To me.


Highlights and Notes from the chapter:

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,521
A clear sense of self-directed meaning provides us with an essentially inexhaustible supply of motivation.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,522
superficial gratifications

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,524
we don’t trust ourselves to make good choices,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,524
We fear we might pick a life course we don’t have the necessary qualities to pursue.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,526
We also worry that our values may be out of step with cultural norms, leading us to be looked down on, left out, or even ridiculed.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,529
our sense of self is fused with
Note: Defusion – Self – Values

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,530
Most commonly of all, we turn away from our true values because of past pain we want to avoid.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,532
all forms of psychological rigidity show up inside our mishandling of the yearning for meaning and self-direction.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,542
sensory gratification,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,546
The Values pivot allows us to redirect our yearning for meaning toward the pursuit of the activities that align with what we truly find meaningful.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,552
Pain is like a flashlight if we know where to point the beam.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,570
“What would I have to not care about for this not to hurt?”

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,572
In your pain you find your values, and in your avoidance, you find your values disconnection.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,583
defusing from judgment,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,602
“because I choose to.”

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,609
All choices are informed by our history.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,614
It will start berating us—“See I told you, you’re no good. You’re a hypocrite, a charlatan.” We may also get caught up in excessively evaluating whether we’ve chosen the right values, ruminating over whether they’re really our “true values.” With the ability to disregard these unhelpful messages, values work is freeing rather than punishing.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,619
living lovingly, playfully, kindly, compassionately, protectively, persistently, and faithfully.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,625
Values are always in the now.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,626
Living day to day according to our values is enormously rewarding.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,626
When people are focusing primarily on future achievement, or what they want or “must get,” they miss the richness of life in the present; the yearning for orientation is thwarted.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,659
feeling fully liberated him to do what he really cared about.
Note: *feeling* fully liberates us, no matter the tone – “good” “bad” “comfortable” “uncomfortable” – just fucking feel them to be free

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,755
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting unexpectedly emotional over the next few days, or cranky, or anxious.
Note: Oh yeah… actually missed this line at first – then I wondered “Why am I so damn depressed?” The other pivots seemed to have more of an immediate positive in the moment emotional lift. But now we’re getting deeper, and it’s getting a little more difficult. Totally worth it, though.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,757
we hurt where we care,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,761
Research has shown that values writing has more impact on behavior and health than just asking people to pick their values from a list or state them in a few words.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,787
Actual behavior.

A Week of Mindfulness – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 12 – The Fourth Pivot – Presence – Living In The Now.

The previous entries in this weekly exercise are:

My favorite thing about this chapter was how it took mindfulness out of the woo-woo and into the real world. It’s a real psychological flexibility skill that can have a dramatic effect on people’s quality of life – and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with meditation. Formal meditation just happens to be a tool that can be used to develop mindfulness.

Personally, I enjoy meditating, and I think that it’s brought me benefits. I’ve been doing it for a long time, really consistently over the past few years. At times, I *have* used it as an escape from the world, but my experience agrees with what Dr. Hayes says – you’ll get the most benefit from it if you use it to develop psychological flexibility.

One thing that really struck me about some of the techniques mentioned in this chapter was how similar they were to those taught by Shinzen Young, founder of the Unified Mindfulness system. UM can be a little strange to people who have only practiced “follow the breath” or mantra based meditations. Shinzen teaches people to engage with the world, not hide from it. Mindfulness of shit is just as important as mindfulness of flowers.

A quick personal note on my Big Three – still successful with the vaping, but no movement on the other two. And I’m good with that – one thing at a time.

Highlights and notes from Chapter 12:

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,296

It’s as if we’re playing tennis while wearing sunglasses with a lens that’s been rubbed with sandpaper.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,313

you missed it.

Note: And you’ll never ever ever ever get it back.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,315

pivot toward presence,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,318

not only from the impulse to avoid suffering but also from a positive yearning—the deep desire to know where we are in our life journey.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,321

our problem-solving mind tries to orient us by ruminating about what’s happened in our past and worrying about what will happen in our future.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,324

cognitive weeds

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,332

Jon defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Note: Shinzen: “Concentration, Clarity, Equanimity.” Purpose is outside the (his?) scope, since the “purpose” could be anything (at least that’s what it seems to me). But if our “purpose” is to be human, it’s already built into the definition.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,335

I think he is saying that our awareness should be directed toward being here and now so as to live the life we intend. Mindfulness is in no way an escape from the pressures and worries, hopes and fears of our lives.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,341

Practicing defusion, connecting with our transcendent self, and opening to acceptance all assist with being nonjudgmental and keeping our minds from slipping into rumination or worry.

Note: They’re all connected.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,346

not practicing mindfulness as a form of avoidance

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,349

selfish meditators

Note: That’s me!

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,349

avoidant meditators

Note:That’s me!

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,350

Some even become obsessive about their contemplative practice, turning into virtual meditation junkies.

Note: I’m glad I never had the stamina to push through the hard parts to get to this point. Always wanted to, though… so that I could avoid my life.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,350

Research shows that meditation is most fruitful when practiced with the aim of building flexibility skills,

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,352

Meditation’s benefits come specifically from using the practice to build attentional flexibility on purpose

Note: Again, Shinzen. The idea of “thinking” while meditating was so foreign to me, yet so beneficial. Then I stopped, because it got hard. I’m really glad I’ve started again.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,362

we need to watch out that our minds don’t turn this helpful process into yet another method of avoidance.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,370

several desperate years inadvertently using mindfulness practices as a method of avoidance or problem solving.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,373

girlfriend—“I hope that same thing happening in class does not happen here!”

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,377

“I was washed over with the relief of knowing that I could drop the search for the magic bullet.”

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,379

not ask it to change one bit.

Note: (the fear) – just notice it, don’t distract from it by “following the breath.” Not that that isn’t beneficial, but even that can be used to avoid.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,386

“There are days when it feels like my mind is just throwing the kitchen sink at me. But it’s easier to take it less seriously now.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,400

only about 7 percent of its benefits are determined by the sheer amount of practice.

Note: you don’t have to do 2 hour a day!

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,408

If you do not yet have a more complicated form of practice,

Note: It’s ok… you can use what works for you. You don’t have to back to the beginning. Use what you’ve learned in the past (even if it was being misused in many instances) to recognize the perfect now.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,410

Consistent practice is key to lasting results.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,411

call on them at any moment when you find your attention being unhelpfully pulled into the past or future.

Note: Micro Hits!

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,415

Consider sticking to a daily flexibility practice as your first commitment to living your more values-based life.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,467

Open Focus.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,469

focus on the physical or temporal space between the events:

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,479

I’M BEAT.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,480

Interpretations, Memories, Bodily sensations, Emotions, Action urges, and Thoughts of other kinds (such as predictions and evaluations).

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,484

Deliberately bring a memory to mind and then say to yourself, “Now I’m remembering that . . .,” continuing the statement by briefly describing the memory in one short sentence. For example, you might say, “Now I’m remembering that my boss told me I would never amount to anything.”

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,492

This simple phrasing “I’m having the thought that . . .” is a powerful means of bringing defusion into mindfulness, creating a little distance from our thoughts and emotions and impulses that allows us to be in the present moment with them.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,499

keep paying attention to what you’re doing but also shift some focus to what’s going on inside your body.

Note: Feel In/Out, See In/Out, Hear In/Out

A Week of Acceptance – 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 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 :-).


Yellow highlight | Location: 3,011
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,013
the next steps in acceptance—turning toward your pain and beginning to open up to experiencing it and learning from it.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,017
“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.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,018
“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.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,018
“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.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,021
You can begin probing into the underlying motivations of the behavior you want to change.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,024
our pain is due to a healthy yearning.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,026
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,038
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.
Yellow highlight | Location: 3,040
emotional flexibility.
[It ain’t all about the intellect.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,043
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,076
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,116
“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.)

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,118
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,119
“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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,123
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.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,141
observe, describe, and accept

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,145
fundamental to the process of exposure is the understanding that progress will be gradual.
[But I want it nooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwww.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,148
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,153
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.”]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,159
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,166
attending to the present moment rather than slipping into avoidant thoughts and emotions.

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,168
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,170
acceptance rather than avoidance

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,176
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.]

Yellow highlight | Location: 3,186
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?

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.

Thoughts?

 

A Note on the Self-Reliance Series

The Self-Reliance series hasn’t been abandoned – it’s on a hiatus for about four more weeks.

I’ve decided that this six-week study of the pivots from Dr. Steven Hayes’ book “A Liberated Mind” will add more value to our lives.

I’ve also decided that there’s nothing wrong with stopping something that is less valuable, no longer valuable, or going on a break. Emerson doesn’t care. I may be flaky when it comes to my interests, but that’s OK. More variety can be a good thing!

But I’m also keeping in mind that too much variety can keep us from going deep – which is why I’m focusing on one thing at a time, with a plan to return to my previous project in the future.

Just another example of my heart vibrating to that iron string.

Now you – go and vibrate the fuck out of today!

 

A Week of Defusion – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a community on Reddit discussing the book A Liberated Mind. Made sense to post it here as well.]


Like I said in my previous post, I’m working through the six pivots from A Liberated Mind over the next six weeks. And I said I would apply these both to everyday situations, as well as my specific issues related to nicotine, sleep, and the “other thing.”

Nicotine – holy shit! I haven’t vaped in 75 hours! WTFF! I am using the gum (4mg), but I’ve used the gum before with little to no success. For me, 75 hours does not constitute a “little” success. After 30+ years of Marlboro Reds, then about 5 years of ecigs (the last 6 months on the Juul), this is freakin’ huge. I have to constantly defuse from Ms. Mind (I’m a male, but calling my mind female gives me a little more distance) because she doesn’t think I’m really doing it since I’m using the gum – she’s just trying to be helpful.

Sleep – meh. Maybe a little change, but dropping the vapes is probably interfering with it as well. Not so much defusion on this one as some of the exercises from Guy Meadows “The Sleep Book.”
“The Other Thing” – No real application, so no real change.

I’m posting an edited version of my highlights and notes below. Hope there isn’t too much – the last thing I want to do is violate Dr. Hayes’ copyrights.


Highlight from pg. 178, Kindle location: 2,406
We learn to become more cognizant of the automaticity of our thoughts and to watch the ones that aren’t helpful from a distance, as if to tell the Dictator Within, “Thanks, but I’ve got this covered.”

Highlight from pg. 178, Kindle location: 2,407
The critical voice and its commands don’t go away, but we see them more as the products of our mental mechanisms, like the pronouncements of the contraption created by the Wizard of Oz. We don’t need to argue with our thoughts. It’s more like putting the mind on a leash.

Highlight from pg. 179, Kindle location: 2,415
This is the yearning to create coherence and understanding out of our mental cacophony.

Highlight from pg. 180, Kindle location: 2,431
Not only is the desire for coherence natural, but ACT can satisfy it if we stop expecting “untidy” thoughts and feelings to go away.

Highlight from pg. 180, Kindle location: 2,433
If we’re seeking to make our self-story coherent so that it conforms to social expectations, it’s time to stop investing in that goal.
My Note: Even if it’s too rebel against social expectations, simply for the sake of rebelling

Highlight from pg. 181, Kindle location: 2,435
But there is a constructive kind of coherence that is just a pivot away: that of paying attention to the thoughts that are useful to us for living in accordance with our values, and letting go of a focus on thoughts that are unhelpful.

Highlight from pg. 181, Kindle location: 2,439
trust function over form.

Highlight from pg. 181, Kindle location: 2,439
accept how chaotic our thinking can be and direct our attention and our behavior toward thoughts that are useful.

Highlight from pg. 185, Kindle location: 2,504
watching her thoughts from a distance with a sense of open curiosity.

Highlight from pg. 187, Kindle location: 2,516
function over form.
[“function over form” really struck me… obs]

[Since I’m using the Kindle version of the book, I highlighted my answers to the Cognitive Fusion Questionnaire (pg. 188) on my first read through. I’ll give it some time and take it again in the future. I scored myself at 5, 4, 7, 6, 5, 6, and 4, which gave me an overall score of 37… doh!]

Highlight from pg. 191, Kindle location: 2,552
Your thoughts seem predictable. You’ve had them plenty of times before, so much so that they seem to be part of who you are. Make a note of these thoughts, actually writing them down, and you can practice defusing from them over time.
My Note: “they seem to be a part of who you are” – highlight this one twice!

Highlight from pg. 192, Kindle location: 2,559
highly comparative and evaluativeH

Highlight from pg. 192, Kindle location: 2,559
When your mind is just noting what is effective—seeking functional coherence—once you notice it, the review quiets.
Note: again with the functional coherence – I think that concept has really helped me. My thoughts can be completely jumbled in the background – just develop the ability to be coherent in the foreground.h

Highlight from pg. 192, Kindle location: 2,564
overbusy mode

Highlight from pg. 192, Kindle location: 2,564
lots of contradictions

Highlight from pg. 192, Kindle location: 2,564
(“You are wrong, you do not need that donut! It will make you fat. Well, even fatter. That’s why people avoid you. Oh, come on, it’s just a donut . . .”).
My Note: replace “donut” with “hit off of my Juul.” replace “fat” with “sick and addicted and in chains to the man.” The man – lol.

Highlight from pg. 194, Kindle location: 2,594
The goal is not just to make the specific pivot, it’s to learn the dance.

Highlight from pg. 195, Kindle location: 2,597
literal coherence

Highlight from pg. 195, Kindle location: 2,604
The goal is progress, not perfection.

Highlight from pg. 195, Kindle location: 2,607
Disobey on Purpose

Highlight from pg. 196, Kindle location: 2,617
the mind’s power over you is an illusion

Highlight from pg. 196, Kindle location: 2,618
You can easily build this into your life as a regular practice (right now I’m thinking, I cannot type this sentence! I can’t!).
My Note: I can’t take this note. Nope, can’t do it. I can’t type this, I can’t form a coherent thought about this! And I especially can’t save this note…

Highlight from pg. 176, Kindle location: 2,624
Even Mr. Mind or Ms. Mind will do.
My Note: Since I’m male, maybe I should start calling it “Ms. Mind” just to provide a little more distance?

Highlight from pg. 197, Kindle location: 2,626
Appreciate What Your Mind Is Trying to Do

Highlight from pg. 179, Kindle location: 2,629
“I really get that you are trying to be of use, so thank you for that.
My Note: Ms. Mind is just trying to keep me alive and functional, the best way it knows how.
Add-on: Not an it!

Highlight from pg. 197, Kindle location: 2,633
Sing It
My Note: First one I started to use from “The Happiness Trap.” Really powerful for me, but I find that sometimes I’m trying to use it to push away the thoughts rather than defuse from them. Pushing them away is just another way of fusing.

Highlight from pg. 197, Kindle location: 2,635
My default is “Happy Birthday.”
My Note: My default is the Brady Bunch theme song – “Here’s the story – of a man named Lyman…. who was thinking that he was gonna fail again….”

Highlight from pg. 197, Kindle location: 2,637
The measure of “success” is not that the thought goes away, or loses all punch and becomes unbelievable. It is that you can see it as a thought, and do so just a bit more clearly.
My Note: Again – I was going for the “go away!” or “get weaker!” – sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn’t.

Highlight from pg. 199, Kindle location: 2,657
The Hand Exercise
My Note: I’ve tried this one a few times, completely in my imagination. Not a regular part of my toolkit yet, but I’m going to try to remember to use it more.

Highlight from pg. 199, Kindle location: 2,668
These words are an echo of your history.

Highlight from pg. 200, Kindle location: 2,672
The Little Kid
My Note: Tried this one a few times too – not a whole lot of success – I’m never sure what I should be saying to the kid.

Highlight from pg. 200, Kindle location: 2,674
You are not ridiculous.

Highlight from pg. 202, Kindle location: 2,709
quite a pile of these badges:
My Note: add “addict” in there, along with the highlighted ones. “lazy” too. and “stupid”. and “retarded” (sorry, that’s the label that comes up.) Add On: “Evil” just popped up too.
These are the badges/labels that I highlighted: unlovable, sick, shameful, untrustworthy, fraud, cruel, liar, pervert, anxious

Stop Trying to Pick Out The Salt

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.

Follow this link to learn more about “A Liberated Mind – How to Pivot Toward What Matters”.

 

Breaking it Down

I posted the following reply to a question in the Happiness Trap Online Interest Group on how to make a big move towards your values, when you can’t break it down into smaller goals:

“Thanks for asking this xxxxxx. I’m no expert in ACT, and not a therapist, just a guy for whom ACT has been a lifesaver (literally), so I should probably keep my mouth shut… but I’m not going to. 🙂 Plus, I have no idea what your situation is, so this is as probably more of a reminder to myself. I’ve never experienced something that couldn’t be broken down. Even when the depression flairs up and one of my values is to get to work, just asking myself “Can I move my right leg” will usually work. If I don’t want to shower, can I get undressed and turn the water on? From a non depression standpoint, if I’m afraid to ask for a raise – can I start walking toward my boss’s office? Again, caveats galore, and I hope I didn’t insult your situation with my petty examples.”

I thought it might help the poster, and it really was a good reminder to myself (I need a lot of reminders.)

It’s not the achieving of the goals that matter – it’s the movement toward them, no matter how small. Jim Rohn said:

“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.” (source)

It’s the movement that makes us who we are. It’s how we vote for the person that we want to be.