Conversation 6: Committed Action


Troubleshooting – a recording of Julian McNally (3:19 min) 

(Troubleshooting by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The first solution to these unforeseeable barriers is simply further practise of acceptance and commitment. In other words, the exercises you’ve already learned and practised from the previous conversations.

Now, this may sound a little simplistic to you, like someone saying if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. But I don’t mean that you should just try harder again, doing more of what already hasn’t worked.

The six phases of Acceptance and Commitment Training that we’ve covered here can provide a comprehensive solution to the kinds of struggles you’ve brought to this programme – but within the confines of this format, and a duration of less than three hours, we can’t possibly teach every possible strategy that ACT has to offer.

If the strategies you’ve learned here haven’t worked yet, then you could either continue applying them or learn some new ones. A good place to start doing that is with the two books I mentioned – Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steve Hayes, and The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. Within those books, and also in this program, you’ll find other sources for further ACT-style exercises.

The second solution may be something you weren’t expecting to hear: Forgive yourself.

This program is designed for human beings and human beings make mistakes. I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself making some every now and then.

The kind of mistake I’m referring to here is when you fail to complete or start an action you committed to. As we mentioned in Conversation 5: Values & Direction, when this happens, it’s very natural and easy to slip into despondency, hopelessness, guilt, or self punishment.

When you find yourself doing this, ask this question: How is this helping?
If beating up on yourself works to make your life rich, purposeful and effective, then be my guest!

a timber hand holding up a heavy tree branch.
Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

My observation – for what it’s worth though – is that these feelings of hopelessness or guilt are usually accompanied by constant thoughts of a despairing, blaming, or self critical nature.

The purpose of forgiving yourself your mistakes and failings is not to put a stop to these feelings and thoughts – though that may be a fortunate occasional side effect of forgiveness. Its purpose is to liberate you from their hold on you so that you can act effectively even in their presence.

In any case, we saw in the first two conversations how ineffective and counterproductive it can be to try to control or avoid your own feelings and thoughts.

Fortunately, to practise forgiving yourself requires only the application of three skills we’ve already practised in the earlier conversations.

Here are the three steps:

Exercise 4: Practising Forgiving Yourself

1. Defuse from thoughts of self punishment or blame – to do this, use the techniques we practised in Conversation 2.

2. Practise expansion from Conversation 3 and acceptance of feelings from Conversation 4, so that these unpleasant feelings have permission to be there.

3. Take actions consistent with your values, as we’ve discussed in Conversation 5 and this conversation.

That’s the end of Six ACT Conversations – I hope this program can contribute to building a more satisfying and productive life!

Of course, please feel free to revisit any of the conversations that might be of use to you in future.


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