I went on some excellent experiential training recently. The speaker asked us to imagine that we wanted to learn how to surf and asked us what kind of instructor we would like to see....one who'd watched a lot of clips on YouTube, one who'd read loads of articles and studied the science, or one who'd had actually been on a surf board and learnt through experience. So what about when choosing a psychologist? If you've seen my website www.aheadpsychology.co.uk you know I've got the theory down, there's even a link to YouTube and 'Passengers on a Bus' but what about me? Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is about developing skills in becoming aware of, and open to, the internal experiences (thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations) that drive our behaviour that often gets in the way of the things that are important to us. These skills enable us to notice these obstacles and choose to continue to pursue our values. I want to be a good psychologist and help you, so I'm going to share with you some of my passengers, so here's 5 reasons to choose me:
1. I often feel different, like I don't fit in and that I'm an outsider and wonder what people think of me
2. I have thoughts about not being good enough and needing to do things perfectly
3. I feel driven to be always doing, and can feel that I'm chasing my tail as I go through my 'to dos'
3. I get cross with my daughter and then feel a failure afterwards and that I should know/do better
4. I'm lucky that people I love are still with me, but I'm dreading a time when they're no longer here
5. I've had experiences of being consumed by reactions to difficult personal relationships
You might recognise some unhelpful thinking and behaviour like your own in this list? You might even be thinking why would I want to see someone who struggles with the same stuff as me? Here is where I can offer you a different way to be with your experiences. Think about the things that you've tried to do to get rid of, control or avoid these experiences, and ask how they have they worked out? What I do differently, and what I'd help you develop skills in too, is to let go of this futile struggle, by learning to notice these passengers, make room for them, and even be kind to them (they're often based in fear and are only trying to help). Once we can unhook from these unhelpful inner experiences, and simply see them for what they are, we can stop reacting and start responding, being guided instead by who and what's important to us.