Cognitive strategies- autopilot responses in our thinking, problem solving inappropriately applied to get rid of or avoid unpleasant private, internal events–thinking in the service of experiential avoidance. An automatic emotional control strategy which only adds dirty discomfort, in a sincere effort to seek relief these strategies often add fuel the fire.
Why am I feeling like this?
This question sets us up to run through all our problems to see if we can pinpoint what caused our feelings. This often makes us feel worse because it sets the illusion that our life is nothing but problems. We dwell on negative thoughts etc this question is often generated because the mind thinks if it can find the cause of the bad feeling we can then figure out how to feel better. Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires. And more importantly it doesn’t really matter why these unpleasant feelings arose what matters is how we respond to them. The basic fact is we are feeling what we are feeling so if we can learn to accept our feelings instead of analysing them we will save ourselves a lot of time and energy and will not be pulled into the endless struggle.
What have I done to deserve this?
This question sets us up for self blame. We rehash all the bad things we have done so you can figure out why the universe decided to punish you. The result is a lot of unpleasant feelings like worthlessness, inadequacy, depression, hopelessness etc. Does this help in any practical way or is it just another ineffective control strategy? Anything which keeps us in victim mentality just keeps us stuck with feelings of powerlessness.
Why am I like this?
We will search through our entire life history looking for reasons as to why we are the way we are. We will always find what we are looking for. Frequently this leads to feelings of anger, resentment and hopelessness. And often concludes with blaming parents or others and again does this help in any practical way?
I can’t t handle it!
Variations include ‘I cant stand it’ ‘I cant cope’ ‘I’m going to have a nervous breakdown’ your mind is basically feeding you the story that your are too weak to handle this and something bad will happen to you if you keep feeling this way. Is this a helpful story to pay attention to?
I shouldn’t feel like this
Here the mind is picking a fight with reality. The reality is you are feeling the way you are but the mind says reality is wrong! Its not supposed to be this way stop it! Give me the reality I want. This kind of argument never ends in your favour and does it help to change anything?
I wish I didn’t feel this way
Wishful thinking one of the minds favourite past times. This can keep us wrapped up for hours, imagining how things would be if we didn’t feel this way. Does this help us deal with the life we have now?
The list could go on and on. The thinking mind has countless ways in which to intensify our emotions, investing enormous energy and time brooding on them. In a sincere effort to seek relief, to get rid of that which is judged ‘bad’. This effort only intensifies what we think and feel. It is an autopilot response, problem solving inappropriately applied.
So from now on catch yourself in the moment these thoughts arise. Simply refuse to play the game. ‘Thanks mind but I’m not playing today’. Learn to look AT the thought rather than FROM it. Defuse.
Learn to foster and develop some distance from these internal experiences. Learn to observe them and you will witness, there exists within you, a safe, grounded centre. From this space energy movements within you, thoughts, feelings, sensations, have much less power over your actions and behaviour. With a clearer sense of direction you wish to take your life and skills to handle the journey.
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
This is ACT.