Today I would like to share some thoughts and some information about the concept of psychological flexibility, a basic part in the theory of acceptance and commitment.
Let's start by sharing some concepts:
What is the theory of acceptance and commitment all about?
It is an approach to psychotherapy that stems from traditional behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. | Source
What is psychological flexibility
Contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values. | Source
In other words, it could be defined as the capacity everyone of us has to be present in the moment, adapting to the situations that are presented in the environment, through the practice of complete attention and awareness. Being open to everything that happens (emotions, feelings, sensations, and memories). Everything, of course, to achieve a high level of efficiency on our actions, without violating our own values.
Lets imagine, for example, a young driver who enjoys to go out with his new car, but who has problems dealing with his emotions of anger and frustration every time he encounters something bad on the road. He loves to drive, but he can not avoid losing his temper every time he comes across drivers who make mistakes or drive slowly. The way he interacts at that moment with his emotion of frustration or anger is by responding with the behaviors he has learned to perform when he feels said emotion.
This the typical driver who screams in front of certain situations at the wheel, or who drives with rage and quickly to avoid being behind other drivers simply because they are slower This way of acting can potentially cause various problems, and can affect the person on various ways like for example:
Performs risky actions when driving.
Rushing and causing an infraction.
Among others, all of this can end up causing a really hard time, when in reality this is simply a guy who loves to drive, so there shouldn’t be so much bad emotions when actually doing the activity that he loves the most.
The same thing can happen in video games. We all know at least one person that tend to get extremely frustrated when they are killed playing COD, or when they allow a goal on FIFA. I had a younger cousin and a few years ago we usually joined together every other weekend to play COD. There were 4 of us with the split screen local multiplayer, and every time this cousin of mine was losing, his rage was so intense that there were some moments it was hard not to laugh when playing against him. This was clearly not healthy for him, so he started to get more relaxed as he got older.
If this driver instead of acting like that, started to adopt a more flexible manner when experiencing this type of situations (I mean, the anger and frustration caused by other drivers, that results in an intense discomfort), it would imply that he could respond to his thoughts and feelings of anger and frustration that he is experiencing at that present moment, in hierarchy with what really matters to him, which is the desire to drive and enjoy driving, focusing on the aspects he likes the most about the activity he is currently doing, and avoiding the negative aspects (and the reaction they cause) to take control. This would cause actions based on his likes to be the ones that end up manifesting themselves (enjoying driving despite what others do, driving safely, not stressing himself, among others)
What should we do if we feel trapped in a dynamic like this one?
When you feel anger and frustration while doing something that you should be enjoying, all you have to do is to consciously put aside all our reactions caused by those 2 emotions, and allow responses or actions that are coordinated with the activities that matter the most to us (and have a higher hierarchy) to emerge.
With hierarchy I simply mean things that when we think about them, matter the most. The most important it is, the higher the hierarchy.
There is a technique called Cognitive Defusion, that consists in 3 simple ways of thinking anyone can adopt:
1- Looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts
2- Noticing thoughts rather than becoming caught up in thoughts
3- Letting thoughts come and go rather than holding onto them. | Source
It consists on reducing the credibility and impact of negative thoughts, not by fighting them or disputing their logic, but by learning to see the thoughts as what they are, just thoughts. In other words, we can try to change the negative functions of the thoughts instead of their form, content or frequency. It is about not changing the content of the thought but the relationship we have with that thought.
What is the purpose of this technique?
- Notice the true nature of thoughts – they are words or images in your mind
- Respond to thoughts in terms of taking workable action – take action based on what “works” rather than what is “true”
- Notice the actual process of thinking – recognize that thoughts do not dictate behaviors. | Source
Our mind is the most powerful tool we have, capable of creating the most spectacular things but also of destroying everything there is. Being able to control it properly is certainly one of the skills that can change our lives for the better, no matter what age we have. Since we all have had situations where we seem to lose control of ourselves, learning this new skill will surely come in hand eventually.
Once you have faced and accepted your current issues, you make a commitment to stop fighting your past and your emotions and, instead, start practicing more confident and optimistic behavior, based on your personal values and goals. | Source
Controlling our emotions is not an easy job, of course its difficulty can change depending on the person , but it is a fact this will always require some level of mental discipline in order to achieve it.
In the end, taking the time to get ourselves better at this will be worth it, we would feel more secure about ourselves, more confident about our reactions, and an overall more balanced person.
Have you ever lost your temper while doing something you should be enjoying? Perhaps watching some sports?
If so, feel free to share your experience with the community.
Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
All images are from pixabay