Are you ever in a situation where your ACT alter ego bullies you into making a values consistent move? You know, you get to the swimming pool, flabby and pale skinned, and your mind says to you:
‘Not today Nic, the people in this pool have no interest in seeing your pale, fat body struggling to move through the water’.
Now those people who don’t know ACT, they do the sensible thing. They go back to the changing room and put their clothes back on. Specifically, they avoid. Long term this strategy is going to get them no nearer to optimum health, but short term it does just the trick.
Those of us unfortunate enough to know ACT have a slightly different experience. We have the thoughts and feel the discomfort. And then, as we make that first step back towards the changing rooms, our ACT alter ego says to us in a mocking tone:
‘You’re listening to your mind; this is avoidance.’
When this happens you’re screwed. Option number 1 involves avoidance, and if we expect our clients to contact discomfort and still move towards their values, then we must do the same; effectively we must avoid avoidance when it stops us moving in valued directions. But option number 2 involves being figuratively blackmailed by this little part of us that is saying:
‘What kind of ACT person are you if you avoid?’
For those who know ACT, that little part will be there to reprimand us every time avoidance is even considered. Ironically, we take action in order to avoid being told off by our ACT alter ego.
Anyhow, why tell you this? Last year I sat in an office with a lovely representative from a worldwide publishing company called ‘Palgrave Macmillan’. The lady asked me if I was interested in writing a book that would detail the current state of ACT research. My mind immediately screamed:
‘Don’t do it! You’re not good enough, you would not do the project justice.’
So just as I was about to politely decline the invitation, up popped my ACT alter ego to remind me what was going on. In a somewhat smarmy voice it said:
‘I don’t think you should be making decisions based on your mind telling you that you are not good enough’
It’s a wonderful thing really, to be able to control ones behavior in the service of valued ends, to be able to catch one’s mind being unhelpful. But it’s also a pain in the arse because it essentially signs you up for loads of situations that are likely to cause you discomfort.
So here I am, I signed the book contract in February. Due to working commitments, the only development since signing the contract, upon the advice of Dr Todd Kashdan (man has some big arms), is the recruitment of a talented co-author, Dr Andreas Larsson, who I assume was also bullied into the project by his ACT alter ego. That’s us just below. As you can see, the project is in good hands.
Over the next 6 months Andreas and I are going to put together a book that details as much of the ACT research that we can find. I assume that our minds will have plenty of unhelpful things to say about this, but luckily not only can we spot those unhelpful thoughts but now we have told the whole world about the project (well, close enough!).
If possible, we would like to keep people from the ACT community involved in the project by uploading interesting blogs along the way. Until then, if you are an ACT researcher and have some papers that you would like to be included in the book then please email them to me. Once we have covered all the ACT research we can find, we will send the reference section to the list to ensure we haven’t missed anything out.
Right, my ACT alter ego is telling me that I’m avoiding starting the project so I better get to it. Any advice or well wishes over the next 6 months will be much appreciated. Until then let me leave you with the title (not agreed by the publishing house yet!) as proposed by Dr Joe Ciarrochi (thats Chair-Row-Key for those of you still struggling with that):
The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Journey: 30 years of Growth and Change