Conversation 6: Committed Action

“Yes, but…”

Yes but… – a recording of Julian McNally (2:30 min) 

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

Now, you’ve planned for barriers that you might be able to predict will happen, and if the counter-strategies you prepared are effective in overcoming them, all well and good.

But what if you get ambushed by a barrier you couldn’t have predicted?

Or what if old habits of avoidance reappear?

What if your mind tells you you’re too weak, too unreliable, too anxious, or too tired to do the actions you committed to?

And then suppose that rather than expanding to include that thought as we practised in chapter three, you buy into it and stop or give up.

Or what if you find yourself overwhelmed by uncontrollable feelings so that you can’t think straight and don’t even remember any of the strategies from Six ACT Conversations, just at the very time you need to use them?

Well, surely that would mean only one of two things, either Six ACT Conversations is a failure, or you are.

Let’s just stop for a moment and notice what just happened.

Did you find it easy to go along with the problem-laden scenario I’ve just outlined? Perhaps you had already foreseen some of the potential problems I mentioned.

Houston we have a problem neon sign.
Photo by Dmitrii Ko on Unsplash

This is what your mind does all the time. If you’ve completed Conversation  1, this will be familiar. Your mind is a problem solving machine. So when someone (i.e. me) comes along with a possible solution (i.e. Six ACT Conversations), your mind tries to determine all the possible new problems that could be part of that solution.

Your mind isn’t going to drop its problem solving function just because the solution appears, especially one like acceptance and commitment training that is so counterintuitive. Rather, your mind will look for problems – even when there aren’t any – in order to protect you from the risk of future problems.

So when you have these sorts of thoughts, it doesn’t mean you’re stupid, naive, or cynical. I’m mentioning this apparent flaw in reasoning, finding problems whenever a solution is offered, not to belittle you or your commitment or your intellectual capacity, but rather to demonstrate how strongly-embedded in normal human cognition the habit of inventing potential problems is.

The examples I’ve given of having to deal with intense feelings or of being tired are real possibilities, so we do need to have a way of dealing with them. I’ll offer you two strategies, but by no means should they be seen as the last word. The last thing I would want to do is to place limits on your ingenuity or creativity.

So if these strategies don’t work, by all means feel free to try anything else you come up with.


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