Ever noticed how your thoughts can sometimes seem like actual cold-hard facts and truths about things that happen to us, rather than putting them in their place and recognising they are just a bunch of words strung together based on our perception of a situation at a given point in time?
I have started to be more mindful of this, in an attempt to untangle myself from my thoughts, to treat them as just that- thoughts – and to decrease the power they can have over me.
I’ll give you an example. Recently I decided I should start a blog and Facebook page, to try to gain some momentum for a health coaching practice I intend to work towards creating in the near future. Suddenly that all-too familiar feeling of dread overcame me, and I noticed myself thinking thoughts such as “who would want to read MY posts”, “what have I got to offer that doesn’t already exist”, and “I’m not good enough to do this”. Of course, I could’ve allowed these thoughts to become fused with my reality, and succumbed to feelings of incompetence, lack of confidence, and anxiety, quickly giving up my intentions to put myself out there.
However, my journey through both personal and professional development opportunities has led me to a psychological philosophy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. Rather than entering a boxing match with my thoughts, trying to grapple with and pin down my stinky thinking as perhaps the Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (CBT) would suggest, I now use a simple technique from ACT known as cognitive defusion.
When I notice these thoughts popping up in my all-too busy head, I pause, and then tell myself “I notice I’m having a thought that I’m not good enough to do this, AND I’m going to give it a go anyway”.
This highlights what’s at the core of ACT- acknowledging any emotions or thoughts arising from a situation AND deciding to move towards your goals regardless. Notice the use of AND not BUT. Too often we BUT ourselves out of things because we have become fused with our thoughts and hand them too much power. In this case, we might as well just take our boxing gloves off, remove our head gear, and just let our opponent unleash a barrage of attacks on us.
ACT doesn’t attempt to stop the thought, or replace it with a more positive thought, or pretend that the anxiety doesn’t exist. ACT is a gentle way to first pay attention to what’s going on for us, and then take small steps towards our values-based goals.
If you are interested in learning more about ACT or how to implement some helpful techniques, leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading!