This Easter weekend, many families will get together – but some members of the family will be feeling pain.
It may be the pain of losing a job. The pain of embarrassment. The pain of losing a person.
These are all psychological pains we try to eliminate.
But there is a growing movement among psychologists which says that trying to eliminate the pain in our mind only draws more attention to it, resulting in more pain – in addition to a long delay in the ability to move on and live.
For millions of unemployed, most of whom suffer in silence, the pain can reach intolerable levels.
The key to making mind pain evaporate is to accept it for what it is. To treat it with growing indifference.
The battle inside your head
For many of us, a daily war is being raged. It is a battle inside the mind, fuelled by never-ending, relentless questions and frustrating statements.
- Why can’t I move on?
- What is wrong with me?
- I wish I could do better.
- Life is too hard.
- Nobody is supporting me.
- I need to destroy my thoughts but they will not go away.
- I am so sad and alone.
This self-talk serves to trap you. You are in a prison with no place to go. The answers do not come. The pain grows to the point of becoming traumatic. If we focus on our pain, it can turn to anger, resentment, even out-right hate. Eventually, a person can be completely disengaged and paralyzed.
A lack of honesty
Pain, once it takes hold, blinds us to reality. We begin to lie to ourselves.
The lie is that you’re not good enough, or that you are a lesser human being than others. That you don’t measure up. That you’ve never done anything truly meaningful or good. And that you are not capable of progress.
The pain imposes a false identity. You see yourself in the poorest light possible which is not a true reflection of who you actually are. Your belief, shaped by the pain, and what actually exists, are not the same.
ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (also positioned as “Accept” “Choose” and “Take Action”). While it is administered by psychologists – it can also be practiced by you, on your own. It is helpful not only to people who are depressed, but everyone.
Through ACT, we learn to accept things in life which are out of our control, then choose our values and the things that are important to us in order that we can act in spite of our anxiety and pain.
As a result, it is you who will be in charge of your life, not your pain.
You see yourself in the poorest light possible which is not a true reflection of who you actually are.
This form of self-therapy is practiced by a growing number of business leaders faced with global competition and a high degree of uncertainly, which can cause them to easily get discouraged.
The core of ACT is mindfulness. By this we mean the ability to observe our thoughts and feelings in the moment and understand why we are experiencing them.
Picture this. You are feeling bad about not getting a job you really wanted. You feel pain. But, in mindfulness, you acknowledge why the pain is there and you accept the fact that it is there.
Strangely, by being mindful, we take the power of the pain away. It becomes far less significant. It becomes just a thing that happened. We can then advance more quickly and take action to apply for another job.
I will be the first to admit that this is NOT easy. It goes against what our brain wants to do. That’s why mindfulness takes a lot of practice. While some psychologists recommend meditation – the truth is that most people hate to meditate or cannot do it at all, like me.
Strangely, by being mindful, we take the power of the pain away.
I have managed to gain mindfulness by pausing to acknowledge, accept and understand my pain: “I feel pain now, but I accept it and I know where it’s coming from.”
Don’t deny the pain.
Keep the pain but dismiss it
Through the principles of ACT, we do not try to eliminate pain. Rather, we accept it and render it impotent. This creates the room in our head to make a commitment to action. That, in turn, makes the pain even more futile.
Action will always crush pain. Always.
Pain will completely take over if we do not accept it.
The move to commitment
Once we have accepted our pain, we remind ourselves that it is not the pain that is important – but it is our values and the things we want to accomplish. This provides the impetus for a commitment to act – regardless of how we may feel.
This is true empowerment and freedom – to live your life the way you want.
Accept your pain and in so doing, take away its power. Remind yourself of what is important. Then act.
In this video, therapist Tom Lavin talks about why we should not try to control or remove our anxiety and pain.
Resources for ACT
The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science
4 thoughts on “This Holiday Weekend, Don’t Get Rid of Your Pain”
This is a very good description of ACT and Mindfulness. Why are you writing about it? What special meaning is there here for you? regardz Louise
Thanks for your comment Louise. This topic is very personal to me. Most of my family members suffer from depression and anxiety, and in some cases, it is very severe. In my past, when unemployed and searching for the meaning of my life, as many of us do, I became lost and in pain. ACT was my way out. Now, in my 50s, I see my purpose as sharing what I have learned in the hopes of helping others – even if only one person benefits from an article. Thanks so much for coming here and reading.
Thanks for your candid answer. I guessed it meant something more to you than just writing a post.
Your words convey feeling of a deeper understanding. Psychology and psychotherapy has bloomed in the last 10 years. It’s still going with current neuro research giving us more and more understanding of brain function, repair and resilience. I am sure lots of others will benefit from reading this regardless of whether they are exposed to depression/anxiety issues or not. Of similar age to you, when studying psyc as a mature age student, I realised I grew up in a culture of blame, having to be right, criticising outsiders and adhering to 1950’s social norms regardless of societal change. I became aware that I need to challenge myself, my thoughts and feelings to keep from becoming entangled in negative patterns. It’s a lifestyle choice. Glad you could make it!
Cory Thanks for this. Powerful!
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