Acting through acceptance and commitment

According to the basic Human Givens principles, good emotional health is achieved by fulfilling our needs, both basic and complex. Those needs will usually include having autonomy over our lives, together with having both a sense of purpose and that taken overall, our lives have meaning.

Sometimes we can be distracted from these positive senses by life events or by our attitude, thoughts and emotions around those events. These are known as intrusions.

By moving forward in life with acceptance of what is happening and a commitment to respond in ways that are consistent with their values, we can be guided towards a greater sense of wellbeing, with less emotional disturbance.

To achieve this, the Human Givens have identified that one of the most powerful innate resources we all have access to is an observing self. That is the part of us that listens and makes sense of the thinking minds chattering and feels when the physical body senses. We know that the observing exists because we can hear and feel our internal processing. In other words, we are aware.

Mindfulness has become popular and is the tool which is best used to access and really engage with the power of the observing self. In this approach mindfulness is not just meditation, a favoured practice of the East, but also a whole range of simple and practical techniques easily accessible, but not covered in this article. 

All you need to know is that it can be kept simple and that it is possible to explore any blockages to your wellbeing, that can often result as a consequence of the private chatter and experiences, or the noise or intrusions like those unhelpful and negative thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations.

The proper exploration of those feelings is important because when we do work with the observing self, quietly acknowledging and noting the chatter of our private experiences, we can decide, choose and begin to transform them into something more helpful and useful. That is what Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is all about.

It achieves this through six key steps/processes:

1. Learning Acceptance means embracing and experiencing unwanted thoughts and feelings, without attempting to change or eliminate them.


2. Applying Defusion which teaches you to step back and let go of intrusions, allowing them flow without self-criticism, thereby freeing emotional space in order to respond more effectively to intrusions.

3. Becoming Present in order to become psychologically aware of what is going on right here, right now.

4. Engaging the Observing Self so that part of you can listen to the 'monkey chatter' in your head and can make sense of (and dispute) it.

5. Clarifying Values, i.e the things that matter to you, that give life meaning and purpose, which will guide you when things are difficult.

6. Fostering Commitment to action which brings appropriate self-control, through meeting clear goals that are consistent with the values.

Meeting your needs, engaging your innate resources through acceptance and commitment, brings improved wellbeing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stevenage SG1 & London W1G
Written by Keith Abrahams, MBA, MHGDip
Stevenage SG1 & London W1G

Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in psychology. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma.

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