“I recently read in the book My Stroke of Insight by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half. After that we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.” ~ True Refuge – Tara Brach
The greatest tool I’ve learned in recovery is called many things. It is learning how to take charge of your critical inner voice. I call it my observer self. Those who study Buddhism call it mindfulness. I found mine through Transactional Analysis (TA). I have written about it many times. Transactional Analysis in 2015 and the OK Corral and the the Blame Game. This is a link for other TA posts of mine.
ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) also helps to teach us how to stop out thoughts dead in their tracks. From The Happiness Trap:
“In a nutshell, ACT helps people to fundamentally change their relationship with painful thoughts and feelings, to develop a transcendent sense of self, to live in the present, and to take action, guided by their deepest values, to create a rich and meaningful life. ACT takes the view that most psychological suffering is caused by experiential avoidance, i.e. by attempting to avoid, escape, or get rid of unwanted private experiences (such as unpleasant thoughts, feelings, sensations, urges & memories). Our efforts at experiential avoidance might work in the short term, but in the long term they often fail, and in the process, they often create significant psychological suffering.”
“In ACT, we develop mindfulness skills (both traditional techniques, and many modern, innovative ones) which enable us to fundamentally change our relationship with painful thoughts and feelings. When we practise these skills in everyday life, painful feelings and unhelpful thoughts have much less impact and influence over us. Therefore, instead of wasting our time and energy in a fruitless battle with our inner experiences, we can invest our energy on taking action to change our life for the better – guided by our deepest values.”
From ACT Mindfully: “The Six Core Processes of ACT“:
- Contacting The Present Moment means being psychologically present: consciously connecting with whatever is happening right here, right now.
- Defusion means learning to step back or detach from unhelpful thoughts and worries and memories: instead of getting caught up in your thoughts, or pushed around by them, or struggling to get rid of them, you learn how to let them come and go – as if they were just cars driving past outside your house. You learn how to step back and watch your thinking, so you can respond effectively – instead of getting tangled up or lost inside your thinking.
- Acceptance means opening up and making room for painful feelings and sensations. You learn how to drop the struggle with them, give them some breathing space, and let them be there without getting all caught up in them, or overwhelmed by them; the more you can open up, and give them room to move, the easier it is for your feelings to come and go without draining you or holding you back.
- The Observing Self is the part of you that is responsible for awareness and attention. We don’t have a word for it in common everyday language – we normally just talk about the “mind’. But there are two parts to the mind: the thinking self – i.e. the part that is always thinking; the part that is responsible for all your thoughts, beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies etc. And then there’s the observing self – the part of your mind that is able to be aware of whatever you are thinking or feeling or doing at any moment. Without it, you couldn’t develop those mindfulness skills. And the more you practice those mindfulness skills, the more you’ll become aware of this part of your mind, and able to access it when you need it. (The technical term for this, in ACT, is ‘self-as-context’.)
- Values are what you want your life to be about, deep in your heart. What you want to stand for. What you want to do with your time on this planet. What ultimately matters to you in the big picture. What you would like to be remembered for by the people you love.
- Committed action means taking action guided by your values – doing what matters – even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable.