Saturday, April 24, 2021

Helping our patients to be more psychologically flexible

In counseling, particularly in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), we talk about perceiving information through two ways:

1.  One way is in the "here and now" experience through our 5senses.  This helps us to experience the “outside world” in the present moment.  Some may term this as “extroverting”. 

2. The other way of perceiving information, is from inside our heads. The memory of the past and projecting this into the future.  Through our brain's ability to "fuse" with the stories and thoughts inside our heads, we can react to these physically and emotionally as if it is happening in the "here and now".  These stories and thoughts can seem very real and present. Reliving and living it so to speak.  Some may term this as “introverting”.  

Part of psychological flexibility requires us to navigate these two “mind spaces” consciously and mindfully. 

Sometimes we get stuck and distracted in the “outside 5senses world experience”, and lack inner reflection and grounding.  If in excess, this may lead to patterns like being highly distractable, ADHD or sensory seeking addictions perhaps. 

Sometimes we get sucked in and stuck inside our heads with our inner thoughts and feelings, and forget to live in the present moment.   This may show up as excessive worry, overthinking, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, or sadness. 

So how can we navigate between these two different “inner and outer world perceptions” in a more conscious, mindful and helpful way, without being  “stuck”, and “imbalanced”?

1. Awareness through better emotional literacy. 

2. Acknowledge our perceptions and experiences. 

3. Practice meditation, grounding to body sensations like breath, mindfulness and defusion, so that we don’t get excessively “sucked in, stuck, or fused” with our inner or outer world perceptions.  This will help us to hold our perceptions, thoughts and feelings more lightly when required, for better psychological flexibility.

4. Gain more clarity around our inner values to take action in a more helpful, thoughtful, consistent, and congruent way in the outer world.

None of this is easy of course, and will probably take a whole lifetime to practice. 

But it’s probably necessary. 

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