Hi, I’m Angela Mitten and I am The Act Counsellor.
You know, one of the amazing things about being a counsellor is getting to learn about how the mind works, how to work with tricky thoughts and feelings and how to help people start living more of the life that they have dreamed of.
Part of that work is about doing some pretty deep reflection on the self and for a number of years now I’ve been applying the skills and strategies that I learn through ACT in my own life.
What I love about ACT (or acceptance and commitment therapy) is that it likes to keep things real.
I’m a big fan of Russ Harris and I’ve always remembered this metaphor he used about we are all climbing our own mountain.
You see, I think that sometimes people think that professionals in my field have it all sorted out and are somehow perfect. Let me tell you, it’s not like that at all.
It is more of a case of I’m climbing my mountain over here, being human, facing my challenges: yes that’s right experiencing the full range of human emotion. Self doubt, worry, jealousy, heartbreak and pain and more – all these emotions show up. That’s what you get when you’re a human.
None of us get out of this life without experiencing the full range of human emotion – there are some we enjoy and are comfortable with and there are some that are challenging or very uncomfortable.
So here I am climbing my mountain and from my mountain I can look across at you climbing your mountain. When you’re climbing a mountain it’s kind of right there in your face isn’t it. All you can see is the cold, hard rock face in front of you.
Sometimes another person, can offer another perspective. That person can help you take a step back, view your mountain differently, maybe show another way to tackle this enormous challenge that you are facing.
In the meantime, I’m still climbing my mountain and maybe getting some other perspectives from other mountain climbers along the way.
What is life like for someone who practices ACT on a daily basis?
Things feel a whole lot lighter that’s for sure.
In my personal and professional experience I believe that most of us a dealing with a fairly vocal inner critic. The inner critic tends to be the voice in our head that tells us that we are no good!
It tells us that there is no point doing something because we will never be any good, let alone perfect.
It tells us that everyone else has their shit together, that no one else is as crazy, mixed up, fat, ugly or whatever.
You see the inner critic seems to know how to really hit us where it hurts.
It is the judging voice that gets in the way of us living to our full potential
It’s the dread that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning
It’s the thing that makes us procrastinate over getting stuff done
It’s the reason that we stopped expressing ourselves creatively
It’s the little voice in our head that makes us think we will never be enough
Where did it come from?
Somewhere along the journey of your life this inner critic seemed to jump onto your bus. We could spend a lot of time exploring how it came to be there. But the fact of the matter is that it’s now a passenger on your bus.
Now you might have spent a lot of time trying to get your inner critic off your bus. You might have tried positive affirmations, or changing your thoughts. You might have developed some strategies or habits that quieten it down for a little while. You might have spent your life working really, really hard to be ‘better’ (and I say that with air quotes) But that inner critic seems to persist. It can sometimes seem like the inner critic has taken control and is driving your bus. Keeping you trapped going around and around, stuck in old habits and patterns.
You have these ideas, aspirations and dreams. There is a different life that you have imagined, but every time you try and drive your bus in the direction of your dreams, that pesky inner critic stands up and starts mouthing off.
And the problem is, once we’ve picked up a passenger, we’re kind of stuck with them. With acceptance and commitment therapy we stop trying to turf the inner critic off the bus.
ACT offers another way to address the inner critic.
We’re going to start by noticing and naming the inner critic. You might want to give it a name, or imagine in your mind’s eye this passenger that is on your bus. Every time you’re trying something new it kind of gets up out of its seat and starts walking down the aisle. It’s kind of big and scary and it gets louder and louder in its criticisms.
Sometimes it stands right in the way of where you’re going, blocking your view.
Now I want you to tell your inner critic that everything is okay. That you’ve got this. That you know it’s only trying to help, and keep you safe. Tell that inner critic that you’re driving the bus now. Then tell your inner critic to go and sit down. Sure it will grumble and complain. It might call out from the back seat of the bus – like those tough bully kids on the school bus.
Occasionally, it might stand up again and start mouthing off but each time you put some space between you and your inner critic it gets easier – even becomes a habit with a bit of practice and eventually – a new way of being.
Now connect with what truly matters to you. Connect with your values and start heading in the direction of those values. Maybe it’s creativity, connection, belonging or contribution. Reconnect with the little part inside of you that has always wanted to give something a go.
Decide on how you can take a step right now in the direction of those values.
Continue to take small, but committed steps in the direction of these values.
This is acceptance and commitment therapy.
This practice makes a difference.
If you would like some more information about ACT you can download my free pdf guide called ACT in a Nutshell available here
You can listen to my podcast episode, here.