We have a real problem with staying the moment and for some, it is unfamiliar territory. For some others, it is dangerous territory where reality bites. We are often told in therapy that we need to stay more mindful of what we believe about ourselves and to work on irrational thoughts. Sometimes, in my opinion, the fact that we struggle to find solutions is frustrating enough to actually be the problem. Being mindful or “in the moment”, gives us a chance to respond appropriately to any situation.
On a side note, one of the best mindful-based therapies is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). The basis is an action-oriented approach to therapy (For me, action is a very important part of therapy) that stems from traditional behaviour therapy and CBT. Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. With this understanding, clients begin to accept their issues and hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behaviour, regardless of what is going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.
The theory behind ACT is that it is not only ineffective, but often counterproductive, to try to control painful emotions or psychological experiences, because suppression of these feelings ultimately leads to more distress. ACT adopts the view that there are valid alternatives to trying to change the way you think, and these include mindful behaviour, attention to personal values, and commitment to action. By taking steps to change their behaviour while, at the same time, learning to accept their psychological experiences, clients can eventually change their attitude and emotional state. In effect, it is accepting that we will have to face certain things in our lives and we have much more ability to work with them if we accept this and work with what we have. Scott Peck alluded to this in The Road Less Travelled:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Self-discipline is self-caring”
How do we learn to be an adult when we have not been taught? One exercise I really like to kick off the process is from the Inner Child Workbook by Cathryn Taylor. She quotes Dorothy Corkville Briggs from Celebrate Yourself “A responsible inner adult is that part capable of thinking, in touch with reality, that postpones instant gratification for long term gain. It estimates the probability of consequences of certain acts. It is the part of you that is responsible for you and to others”.