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Tony shares 8 mental health lessons learned from a Christmas spent at Disneyland. 1) You’ll never really know something until you experience it. 2) Churros provide an immediate but temporary dopamine dump. 3) How to come back to the present moment, over and over again. 4) How easy it can be to find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms when triggered suddenly. 5) What it looks like to turn to a value-based activity or goal when feeling down, flat, off, or all of the above. 6) Radical acceptance, or the ability to accept situations outside of your control without judgment, reduces suffering. (from “What is Radical Acceptance https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-radical-acceptance-5120614) 7) Psychological flexibility, or “holding our thoughts and emotions a bit more lightly, and acting on longer-term values and goals rather than short term impulses, thoughts, and feelings” can lead to a greater sense of purpose and a stronger connection with the present moment (from “What is Psychological Flexibility https://workingwithact.com/what-is-act/what-is-psychological-flexibility/) and 8) From Virtual Couch guest Mike Rucker, author of “The Fun Habit,” https://amzn.to/3ClRTXG doing things, or “encoding richer experiences,” starts to light you up because you are creating an internal “tapestry of really cool stuff,” in your brain rather than simply passing time. 

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Transcript:

Tony: Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 355 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. Mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, and creator of the Path back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people turn into the amazing people that they were meant to be. But let's get to today's episode. First up, just sign up for my newsletter. Go to tonyoverbay.com. Plain and simple because so many things are coming now in 2023. New version of the Magnetic Marriage course is coming soon. If you're still interested in a discount on my Path Back Pornography Recovery Course, new year, new you, then email me through my website and The Magnetic Marriage Podcast is imminent, a true crime meets the Virtual Couch Podcast with one of my daughters is launching soon. The magnetic marriage workshop, which is different from the full fledged course, 90 minutes of what you didn't know that you didn't even know is still available for $19 at tonyoverbay.com/workshop. So, so many things, but let's get to today's episode.

So I am not sure what title I eventually went with, but the working title was, “It's the psychology of the churro, eight mental health lessons learned over Christmas break at Disneyland”. So, surprise. We went to Disneyland for Christmas as in literally on Christmas Day, and this is something that we have never done, and my wife essentially sold it as a bit of a bucket list item. Let's try it. Maybe it will be insanely crowded. Maybe nobody goes on Christmas. It might rain, it might be too cold. But let's jump right in. Psychology rule number one, you'll never really know until you, till you go. So spread that out in a broader sense. And how often in our lives do we just wonder and wonder and ruminate and ask other people what they think, what their opinion is? All the while that the answer lies in the doing. So curious what Disneyland would be like at Christmas. Well, there's really only one good way to know, let's go. And while we're talking about Disneyland, let's talk about churros, the psychology of the churro. Now, in episode 276, I had to go look that one up on the Virtual Couch, which was recorded about a year and a half ago. I talked about what I learned on my summer vacation on a trip no less than to Disneyland. And at that time I went with my daughter McKinley, my niece, Taylor, and my wife Wendy, and we traveled to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate. At that time it was Taylor's graduation from college. And McKinley's graduation from cosmetology school.

And in that episode I spent quite a bit of time talking about dopamine, the wonderful feel good, hyper-focused chemical in our brain, and how the true dopamine bump in our brain occurs in the anticipation of an event, which is so beautifully laid out in James Clear's book, Atomic Habits. And we had our dopamine neurotransmitters transmitting and anticipating that trip as well as throughout the trip as we moved from one ride to another. And I highly recommend you go back and listen to that if you're curious to learn everything you wanted to know about dopamine, because we talk about a lot of things. One fascinating thing there was the concept of the Coolidge effect, which is something where the more that you do this repetitive task, the more that you need to amp up that repetitive task in order to still have those dopamine neurotransmitters transmitting. And so that's especially true in the world of people who turn to pornography as an unhealthy coping mechanism. And why the more that they do that, the more and more they need to turn to, I don’t know, crazier or more extreme things to get that dopamine bump. But I digress. We were talking about so much, as I lamented, in episode 276 that I never attended Disneyland as a child. My first trip was after I was married and my wife couldn't believe that I had never been. So we went a few times before we had kids, but I had also never had a churro until, I don't even think I ate them at Disneyland, but I didn't have a churro until probably in my thirties. So, fast forward 20 years later now in my early fifties, and I've eaten my weight in churros many, many times. And one of the real treats of Disneyland are the churros. And just in case you're like most Americans, the Disneyland churro experience is not the game of chance that is the Costco churro or the churro from the random Mexican restaurant that you may stumble upon, where you're literally gambling on whether or not the churro is good, period.

And then even if it tastes good, is it fresh and is it hot? Oh no. The Disneyland churro cart will no doubt be lining, I think, the gold paved streets of heaven with never too long of a weight and the perfect freshness and heat, and we're not talking just cinnamon, over the holidays, the Disney churro carts feature, and I'm sure I'm missing a few of the following flavors of a churro. And yeah, I did have to google this. Berries and cream, blueberry, green apple. Now, I personally tried one called the Caliente churro that was covered in cinnamon red hot candy sprinkles, but there was also the cinnamon sugar galaxy churro where you're essentially, I think, eating cinnamon and sugar glitter. And I actually meant to follow up and ask about a couple of people in our party that had them if you noticed that glitter a day or so later, if you know what I mean. But anyway, there was a mango churro and a s'mores churro, and one called the bride churro, which was my personal favorite, other than just your original churro, but the bride churro was covered heavily in a bouquet of vanilla and sugar, according to the internet pires, where psychology lesson number two enters the story. So back to that dopamine, the I don’t know, the doggone but wonderful dopamine. So I was very aware during this. Of how, when I found myself with any of the following triggers, tired, feeling like a flat affect, bored, frustrated, angry, lonely, and I'm sure several others, my brain literally did think churro or a time or two a thought, beignet. But churro, yes, a churro would make me feel good. Or walking past a churro cart that was a layup. My brain would say, well, we have to get a churro. And I noticed in particular one, or I don’t know, seven or eight times where I was already incredibly full. But the trigger of the churro card alone signaled to my brain that we need churro almost in that Neanderthal speak, “must have churro”. And then I could remind myself that I had already eaten a meal or I'd already had a churro or two earlier in the day. And my brain thought, oh, okay. How cute. You know, two can play this game, so let's go. So then it would come up with all the “yeah, buts”.

Well, yeah. You're only at Disneyland every couple of years. Or what if a zombie apocalypse occurs in Disneyland and their churro carts are destroyed? And so you better have all the churros now, or it's the end of the year and you might want to dough up a little bit. So when you start the new diet and exercise regime come January one, then those transformation pictures and videos will be even greater if you put down an even two dozen churros over the next three days, so not to mention all the aforementioned flavors of churro, my brain telling me that, well, you don't want to miss out on the blueberry churro or the green apple churro. Or the fact that my watch showed that we walked well over 10 miles on day one, and so therefore, I deserve these churros, and on and on and on. So, my point being that our brains are really, really clever, especially when it comes to wanting their fix, or their high, and after a churro or two, I really didn't notice how my brain thought often about wanting one, especially whenever I was feeling flat or down or any of those other triggers that I mentioned earlier, which led to psychology lesson number three, which I'll just call being present or being in the moment. And this was a really important one that I was so aware of when I was aware of it during the trip. I once attended a mindfulness training and I remember the instructor challenged us all to go home and mindfully eat a piece of fruit. And what does that look like? Well, he said spend at least 15 minutes appreciating, savoring, taking in every sight and bite and sound and taste of whatever that fruit was. And I did try it with an apple and I lasted a few minutes, and it was a pretty good experience before I think I probably became distracted, but I've thought about that exercise often and I understand the point to being in that moment and appreciating every bite.

So I did try that a couple of times with the churro. And I would take in the smell and I would feel the heat radiating through the piece of wax paper used as a holder. And I would notice the granules of cinnamon and sugar. And then I would thank the universe for them, and I would bite down and I would hear this crunch through the perfect mix of solid and soft, maybe savoring the flavor and then I feel like at times, and I'm sure I'm probably going to humor here, I would enter almost some sort of sugar themed dissociative fugue state, where I would then almost in essence come to with noticing, I don't know, I'm gnawing on my finger or cinnamon and sugars all over my face like a child, and my family probably phones out filming my coming to from this, I don't know, sugar coma, wondering where I was, you know, until I could realize, okay, I'm in line. I can smell the rubber of the poncho draped over me as we're waiting in line for Splash Mountain. But my true point there is that it is fascinating that you can even bring yourself into the moment, the present moment, being mindful, all those wonderful therapeutic things that we talk about with mindfulness, and appreciating and doing. But then you can do that until you don't. And what I simply mean by that is one of these things that I love talking about the most from the book Buddha Brain, and I'll own that I have now completely butchered the author Rick Hansen's concept. But he's in essence talking about these four steps to enlightenment or four paths of awakening or something to that effect where I've boiled it down in my own brain to, you basically didn't know what you didn't know.

So before I even knew about mindfulness, I'm just, I'm just there. I'm just inhaling churros and I'm just trying to chase happiness or whatever that looks like. Then you start becoming aware, so you kind of know the things that you didn't know before. But that's a really difficult place to be at times, because I know, but then I don't always do. So I might have been in that moment recognizing, man, this is a moment, and I was noticing that I was feeling down or flat, and I come back to the present moment and let's say that I'm savoring that churro until all of a sudden I realize I'm not. So I went from not being aware of what I wasn't even aware of to now I'm aware I'm going to be in that moment until all of a sudden, I'm not.

And that isn't me doing anything wrong or bad. It just kind of is. And that's a tough place to be because there's a lot of things in our lives that we start to become aware of. But then we're not good at doing, you know, we might not be good at bringing ourself back into the present moment. We might want to stop yelling at our kids, and then we may be able to do that often, but we're not perfect at it. So then we beat ourselves up about, well, now that I know, and why did I still yell and what's wrong with me? But nothing, you're a human being and now you're aware. So that second phase or path of enlightenment or awakening is that we went from not knowing what we didn't know to now I know, and I do, sometimes, whatever this new thing is, and then that moves slowly but surely into the third step or path of awakening or enlightenment, where now you do whatever it is more than you don't. So now maybe you're not yelling at your kids very often at all, or maybe I'm almost finishing that churro and being so present and in the moment and eventually you just become. That is what it feels like to be you. You just do, now all of a sudden you are this calmer person around your kids, or you are a person that really is in that moment and savors and appreciates the entire churro. So that just being present and being in the moment is something that does need practice and to give yourself a tremendous amount of grace as you start to work on this path of awareness or enlightenment or as you start to make your way further down the churro.

But I really do recommend the exercise of trying to be incredibly present while you eat or drink, because that's just a good way to practice being present, being in the moment, or mindfulness in just your everyday life. But while we're on the churro, I would say that that would also lead to psychology lesson four, which is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to again, get that dopamine bump. Now if I go back to just part of the work that I do, I love couples therapy. I love helping people working through a faith deconstruction or journey. And I also work with a lot of people that struggle with turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as pornography, hence the Path Back Pornography Recovery Program. But I know when I was promoting my book, He's a Porn Addict, Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict to Answer Your Questions with Josh Shea, that at that time I had counted up and I had worked with well over 1500 individuals who have come to me wanting to be more present in their lives, wanting to be better marriage partners, better parents, improve their health, wanting to understand their relationship with the divine and their desires of a more fulfilling career. Now, they don't come to me expressing those things. They come to me because they want to stop turning to things like pornography, that it is absolutely zapping their motivation, their drive. They find themselves wasting a tremendous amount of time, which only causes them to beat themselves up even more.

And when it comes to things like pornography, it also probably can warp or dull their sex drive or make them have a more difficult time being present with their spouse, their mate, but, so that's what people come to me for, but you can replace, again, pornography with turning to their phones or gambling or food or work or even things like exercise or YouTube or TikTok. But when it comes to turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, that's where, I learned a long time ago, what I call these five voids. So I go back to when I said, people are coming to me wanting to be better marriage partners, better parents, improve their health, understand their relationship with the divine, desires of a more fulfilling career. Those five voids that I like to help people with when they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms are becoming a better marriage partner or just a better partner in their relationships or becoming a better parent, or that could even be a better friend or finding something that really motivates or matters to them with regard to a career or if they feel, you know, for lack of a better word, stuck in a career. How can you work your values into your current career? Or working on your relationship with God or the divine or your faith. If you feel like that is not a place that brings you strength or joy, then, these are all things that will lead or cause someone to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. And that fifth void is your health as well. So, there's an acronym in the world of unhealthy coping mechanisms or addiction called halt, where if you are hungry, if you're angry, if you're lonely, if you're tired, that those are times when you have to watch out cause your guard's down, and you may then turn to these unhealthy coping mechanisms. So if you can shore up parenting or marriage or faith or health or your career, then that siren song of the coping mechanism is not gonna scream at you as loud, which is a pretty nice transition into psychology lesson five, which I just call turning toward value-based activities. So, long lines at Disneyland. That was no surprise. Now, they weren't horrible. I think part of it was going in, and anticipating and accepting the fact that yeah, there were going to be some long lines. And so that was okay. That part was all right because there was already an expectation or an anticipation that would be the case.

Now, that does not cause everyone to just be happy and motivated and hyper presents for the two hours in the wait for this new Star Wars ride, which is pretty darn amazing. And I was a Star Wars guy however many years ago that the first three came out, which makes me sound so old. And over time have probably not kept up on all the different Star Wars vehicles and then the entire franchise in Star Wars Canon. But in that Star Wars line, there were nine of us. And it was over two hours, the wait. And I felt like that was probably the test, the verbal exam, the experiential exam on mindfulness and being present at Disneyland. I think it was day two. And so we were already getting pretty tired and this is where I go back to that when you are aware of what matters to you, let's just go with the, it's easier to state it as when you're in touch or in alignment with your values. So I have absolutely a certainty that my values are a couple of them. Authenticity. I need to be authentic. I can't just do something to try to make somebody else happy. And I have a strong value of curiosity, adventure, fitness, and knowledge. And so the curiosity and the knowledge are things that I return to.

So, I could tell the mood everybody was starting to just get a little bit flat. People are getting on their phones. We're not communicating as much when we've been in this line for a while. And at that moment when you notice, you know, I notice that I'm starting to feel flat. I notice I'm starting to feel a little bit of anxiety around wanting to make sure that everybody's having a wonderful time, and so here's where I go big on there's three things I think that we typically do that are probably not the best when we find ourselves in those situations. The first one is to say, what's wrong with me? Again, nothing. You are a human being. You're the only version of you and check it out. That's how you think and feel at that very moment. First time I had ever been in that line on the second day of Disneyland on that day with nine people at hour number whatever of the day. And also experiencing temporary closures of the ride and trying to figure out if we should leave the line or not leave the line and managing a lot of people, helping people manage their expectations. So that is how I felt. And those were my feelings, and that was how I was showing up. So check that out. The second thing that I think we do along those lines, that is not the best is then when we, okay, so we don't do the, what's wrong with me, and then I feel like the next one's a layup where we also can't tell ourselves, well, don't think that. Because again, don't think of a pineapple right now. Don't think of a green polar bear holding a yellow umbrella, riding a unicycle because most likely your brain is following along with me because of that good old psychological reactance or that instant negative reaction being told what to do. Our brain is just hardwired. It's a defense mechanism at that point. It's a survival skill. And so I can't say, “what's wrong with me?”, because nothing, I'm a human. I have emotions and feelings and I can't say “don't think that” because I will think about it even more. And then the third thing I think is kind of tricky as well, is we will tell ourselves, okay, instead of that, just think something else is think, man, I'm so grateful to be here. And that can work for a minute, until it doesn't. Until then, all of a sudden I feel the pain in my feet and I feel the, I was going to say the lightness of my wallet and all these things where I can start to then notice that I am starting to feel flat or down or fill in the blank. So that's where I feel like the best thing that one can do is recognize and acknowledge that I am starting to feel flat. Check that out. I'm noticing that I'm starting to withdraw, to retreat, to feel flat. And then what is the story? My brain's telling me that people aren't having a good time or that I need to do something to make sure that everybody's happy, or these sorts of things. So those are stories my brain's telling me. Those are fascinating. I can make room for those. But then the key is then in that moment turning to a value-based activity. So a value-based activity of curiosity or of knowledge, I still have this in the cache of my browser. 15 random facts about Disneyland. And so at that point, now I'm turning to this value of curiosity and knowledge and then just sharing some facts.

And it led to some fun conversations. If I scroll through this, Mickey Mouse's name, did you know that Mickey Mouse was not the original choice of his name originally? He was to be named Mortimer. But later, it was turned into Mickey Mouse. California Adventure, which I love, I love that place, was a parking lot formerly. That one doesn't really make me think, oh my goodness, that sort of thing. There's a statue of Walt Disney on Main Street and it's seven inches taller than Walt himself was. Now it doesn't tell why, but as a person that is not towering over others. As I am not, I can see myself bumping that statue up a little bit. I might have gone a solid foot taller. And then, this website, which is actually called Everythingmom.com, but it also says the original design was supposed to have him with an ice cream in his hand, but that was rejected. And rumor has it that his hand is in the air and a celebratory “look, Mickey, at what we created.” You know what was almost Mortimer. Main Street. I thought this was interesting. The buildings along Main Street USA are built to create the effect of a longer street when entering the park and a shorter street when going back to your car. And then there were just a few others, the millionth guest of Disneyland was actually achieved within a month of the park opening, and there's a light in the window above the fire station and the apartment on Main Street. That's the apartment that Walt Disney would stay in. And that light and the apartment represented him working hard. He said he always wanted his employees to know that he was working just as hard as them. So since Walt Disney's death, it's been kept on 24/7 as a reminder of Walt Disney's dedication and hard work. And mustaches, Walt Disney did not allow his male employees to have mustaches. And then one more, one more of these fun facts, because we would see a lot of these different wishing wells, and they had money in them. They had dollar bills in them, they had coins, and we were continually playing the game of how much? And so in everythingmom.com, she says, did you know this random Disney fact with all the money that is thrown into the ponds and wishing wells, Walt decided very early on to always donate it to charity. And she says, could you imagine how much money is donated? Rumor is that every time It’s a Small World shuts down for refurbishment, they clean it out and it totals over a hundred thousand dollars each time. That's a lot of money, so turning to this value of curiosity, this value of knowledge, and then that will bring you more into the present moment.

Now, the reason why I want to share this is because what I thought was really fascinating, and I think this is such a valuable lesson, is that as soon as we would almost go through a list like that, and then you would notice that people were kind of done maybe talking. It wasn't like then I was locked in and the rest of the day everything was amazing and great and wonderful. No, our brain will default back to the “yeah, buts”, or I'm noticing my feet again are hurting or my wallet is light, or whatever that is. And I want to just normalize that because a lot of times I feel like people will bring themselves into that moment, be mindful, turn to a value-based activity, and then they will do that, be more engaged in the moment. And then when they stop doing that, then they will say, see, that didn't work. And quite frankly, it's the opposite. That did work because for that entire period of time we had a shared. And now we had some fun facts and we will probably remember some of those things at a later date and be able to share those with others but we had a moment there instead of just feeling down or feeling flat.

And I'll get to this in a little bit, I've got a quote from a former guest of mine that was on a few weeks ago, Mike Rucker, that I think will speak to this. So, that turning toward value-based activities. Another one that I thought was really fascinating was we played this game “Heads Up” and if you're familiar with that, you download this app on your phone and it's basically like charades. And we did that one, two or three times, and that was one where I can turn to my value of curiosity and look up fun facts at any point on any day. And that is just very fun. That is one of the things I really enjoy. But I don't always enjoy playing charades in a line where there are a million people around because my, “yeah, buts” in my brain will say, yeah, but it's going to be embarrassing. Or, yeah, but what if we hold up the line, and so on. But anytime I felt like anybody started to play this game, this heads up, then all of us were engaged and it was as if we all played a round of it and then it just felt like, okay, we're good. And then another 30 minutes would go by and then we would do that again. So I felt like by alternating between just some fun facts, some random things we were talking about, and then playing this game, that we made it through that line. And now I want to say we live to tell about it. But when I think about that experience in the line, I now think about playing heads up. I think about these fun facts with Disney, and I think about just having that experience rather than just sitting there and feeling bad and worrying and ruminating and getting angry. Which is almost what our brain will do by default. So it does take intentional effort to bring yourself into that present moment, turn toward those value-based activities. But I promise you that by doing that, whenever you can, I was going to make it sound pretty negative, do that over and over and over again, but eventually that becomes part of your implicit memory or what it feels like to be you, because that is based on this residue of lived experience, and it takes time. But the more that you are bringing yourself back into that moment, and taking action on things that matter, that it really does start to move this needle of what it feels like to be you as somebody who does, who does the things that they do, because you're aware and because you bring yourself back into this present moment over and over again, and that starts to feel like more confident, and more of a sense of connection and a sense of purpose, and just being connected with others and in the moment. So let me blast through a couple of others here. Psychology lesson six, and this is one that I want to spend more time on in the not too distant future, and this is the concept of radical acceptance.

So I noticed a lot of this opportunity to practice radical acceptance while we were at the park. And the reason is that the definition of radical acceptance is, I'm going to pull up a Verywellmind.com article, but radical acceptance is based on the notion that suffering comes not directly from pain, but from one's attachment to the pain. And it has its roots in Buddhism and the psychological paradigm by a gentleman named Carl Rogers that acceptance is the first step toward change. Radical acceptance. We often feel like if we accept the fact that maybe we are a bit powerless when we are walking through these large crowds that we feel like if we accept it, then that means that it is going to be horrible and I might as well just shut down and sit on the side of the road and wait for everybody to go by. And I'll engage again later that night. But I will say over and over again, acceptance does not mean apathy. So radical acceptance can be defined really as the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which in turn reduces the suffering that's caused by those situations.

So rather than being attached to the fact that, okay, there is a huge crowd here and everybody's going to bump into me, which I feel like was a theme often for a lot of people at Disneyland, and then letting them get frustrated or angry because people were going to stop in front of you. People were going to shift directions. People are going to talk loud, people are going to do a lot of different things there. I felt like it was an ultimate practice of radical acceptance. Again, that accepting situations that are completely outside of my control, it's outside of my control, whether or not somebody stops short in front of me and then decides that they are going to sneeze or cough or talk loudly to somebody beside them. Now I can get frustrated or angry, but to me that doesn't really feel very productive. It's a normal human emotion. I can notice that. But I need to accept those situations that are outside of my control without judgment, and that reduces the suffering that's caused by them. So at that point then, if I go back to this article from verywellmind.com, again, rather than being attached to a painful past, radical acceptance suggests that non-attachment is the key to overcoming suffering. So, non-attachment does not mean not feeling emotion. But it refers to the intention of not allowing pain to turn into suffering. So there was pain and frustration there by the crowds, by people stopping constantly, by people changing direction, by people bumping into each other, bumping into me. I mean, that can be frustrating, but it also means radical acceptance means watching your thoughts and feelings, and then just identifying when you're allowing yourself to feel worse than is necessary.

So instead I could be in that moment and notice and actually, bless the hearts of those people that were stopping short because I know that's something that I've done as well. Or I know that there are times where I have spoken up or yelled to get someone's attention in my party, and I'm sure someone was annoyed or I scared someone or surprised someone. So that lack of judgment is that important part of radical acceptance. And that doesn't even mean that I approve of this situation or that I love the fact that everybody stops in front of me and bumps into me. But instead it involves accepting reality for what it is and not getting caught up in an emotional reaction to that reality. So noticing that I have these thoughts, I have these feelings and noticing that I can have an emotional reaction but not getting caught up in it and not letting that consume me. So that's that concept of radical acceptance. And I feel like radical acceptance has a best friend and that best friend is psychological flexibility. And this is one that I've done an episode or two on because this is a real key part of acceptance and commitment therapy. And this is from a website called Workingwithact.com. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human based on what that situation affords changing or persisting in behavior and the service of chosen values. So psychological flexibility is more along the lines of what I'm talking about happening in that Star Wars line of contacting that present moment as a conscious human being based on what the situation affords, and then changing the behavior in service of chosen values. So, the author of this article says, so that means in everyday language, this means holding our own thoughts and emotions a bit more and acting on longer term values and goals rather than short-term impulses and thoughts and feelings. And then they say, why? Well, it's because thoughts and emotions tend to be unreliable indicators of long-term value because we have little control. And this is what I think is so key. Again, I think and feel the way I do because I'm a human being and I'm in that situation, and that's how I think and feel.

So we actually have little control over those immediate thoughts and emotions and they will tend to ebb and flow sometimes dramatically in just a moment's notice. And if we trust our thoughts and emotions and act based on them, we can often overlook more important sustained patterns of action, which bring true meaning and vitality and richness to our lives. So if we just say, man, I'm frustrated and angry, and now I take action on being frustrated and angry, then I can get caught up in being frustrated and being angry. But if I notice that I'm frustrated and I notice that I'm angry, those are emotions, of course, I'm going to feel that way. I'm part of the human condition, part of the human experience. But now I'm going to notice them, and now I'm going to take action on things that matter. There are these researchers, Cashtin and Roterberg. They define psychological flexibility as the measure of how a person, number one, adapts to fluctuating situational demands. And number two, reconfigures mental resources. Number three, shifts perspective. And then number four, balances, competing desires, needs, life domains. So then instead of focusing on specific content with a person, the definition of psychological flexibility has to incorporate repeated transactions between people and their environmental contexts. What that means is that it's continuing to adapt to the situations in front of you when what they mean by reconfiguring mental resources is just taking action on something that matters, shifting your perspective, and then starting to put into place your values. You're these competing desires, needs, life domains. I have a value of connection with others. I have a value of curiosity. I'm going to have feelings and thoughts. It's part of being a human. That's okay. But I'm going to take action based on the things that really matter to me, and that is being psychologically flexible at any given moment. So when you can really start to do more of that, and that starts to become the air that you breathe or what it feels like to be you, then when you find yourself in a moment of frustration, then you have this radical acceptance and you have this psychological flexibility, and those things just happen.

The event that you might be caught up in is happening. Check that out. It is, but now I'm going to feel like I have a little more control over that situation because I can now be aware of how I'm thinking and feeling, and that's perfectly okay. And I'm actually going to be able to take action on things that matter, even if it's just within my own brain. That's better than me just sitting in this reactionary state and then feeling like I am absolutely overwhelmed and that I have no control over the situation. Psychology Lesson eight, and we'll wrap this up. This is where I mentioned earlier I had a guest, Mike Rucker. He was on, he's the author of The Fun Habit, and I pulled the transcript because I want to read a quote that he said. He said, “Time is this really rubbery thing.” He said, “It becomes interesting where you don't realize you're wasting time,” he said, “because when you're in those moments that aren't really encoding new memories, they just fly.” He said, “It's not flow by any sense, but when we reminisce back on them, they kind of get condensed as one memory.”

So when we're just, and this is me now interjecting, when we're just thinking and just being, and not taking action on things that matter, it's almost like that just becomes part of this just gray area of our memory. We just remember Christmas, period. But then if we are doing things, he says, “So when we actualize them in a really strange manner where he said, where you think we're kind of led to through cognitive error that, oh, I'm just passing time.” But he said, well, when you start to encode richer experiences, those are the things that start to light you up because now you have a whole tapestry of really cool stuff.  He says, “The fact that we now know that the brain is a predictive engine. It's a predictive machine more than a cause and effect machine.” He said that allows us to make better predictions. “Like, I know I'm going to have fun, so I want to do the thing, whatever that thing is , that will allow me this chance to have fun.” And he says, rather, we want that prediction. I think that as I form these memories and encode these richer experiences, that more than likely I'm going to have a good time. I'm going to have fun. But he said, “Rather than the prediction machine of our brain predicting that, well, it probably won't be that great, so I'm just not going to do it.” Because then that becomes condensed into just this one memory, this just gray area and so we just feel like we just passed time instead of just creating this whole tapestry of really cool things that we do in our lives, because over time that's what it's going to feel like to be you. 

Okay. Taking us out per usual is the wonderful, the talented, the also on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's Wonderful”. Have an amazing week and we'll see you next time on the Virtual Couch.

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