It is one of the ironies of life that verbal formulae are not quite the same as wisdom earned. That is why parents cannot quite save their children from having to make mistakes, and teachers cannot quite eliminate the exploration of dead ends by their students. But sometimes on the other side of actual work we find particular wisdom in words.
Hard Won Wisdom in Dealing with Anxiety
- What we pay attention to.
- How we pay attention; struggle or willingness: Am I willing to move “with” thoughts and feelings? YES or NO. Am I willing to let them be without either trying to push them away or pursue them? YES or NO. Will I “Leap”? YES or NO. Will I love? YES or NO.
- What we do.
Rather than disavowing pain, you can learn to just acknowledge it, let it be as it is (a temporary uncomfortable feeling), not as what your mind says it is (a bad, terrible, dangerous, solid thing), and bring kindness and a nonjudgmental quality to that experience. When you do that, there is nothing to fight against, nothing to eliminate. There’s nothing to be fixed. Nothing to resolve. These are not solid things. No need to be anything other than what you are experiencing. This stance is powerful, and cuts the suffering right out of anxiety and fear. This is critical to understand. Fear will keep you trapped so long as you are unwilling to have it, touch it, and let it be. Life is about pain once in a while. And, when we step in the direction of something we care about, we often risk experiencing something that we’d rather not experience — hurt, regret, sadness, loss, anger, abandonment, anxiety, fear, remorse. If we operate from the perspective that our pain is something that mustn’t be had, the trap is sprung. Pain transforms in that instant and becomes a problem to be solved just like other problems that must be solved. Yet, we cannot problem solve ourselves out of our own pain. All that effort to get a foothold on our anxiety can pull us out of our lives in a flash. ********* Various ACT writers seem to be in that distillation (myself, Russ Harris, Georg Eifert and John Forsyth) as well as Pema Chodron and perhaps others. But it is not the words that I want to recognize. It is the hard won wisdom from a life being lived that I honor here. I see in the words he holds dear a human heart being liberated. Steven C. Hayes, University of Nevada If you are a member of the public reading ACT self-help books (e.g., Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, or the Mindfulness and Acceptance workbooks, or the Happiness Trap and so on) and wish to join the conversation go tohttp://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ACT_for_the_Public/join