Why Wanting To Be Happy May Backfire

Posted by tonyoverbay

Happiness, as one client shared, is like the carrot at the end of a stick, and you’re holding the stick. The more effort you take in trying to reach the carrot, the further it gets from you. In today’s episode, Tony discusses the article “Can Wanting to Be Happy Backfire?” by Emily C. Willroth Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-health-connection/202104/can-wanting-be-happy-backfire?collection=1169468 and he then spends some time discussing the 6 Core Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) from Dr. Russ Harris’ book “ACT Made Simple” https://www.amazon.com/ACT-Made-Simple-Easy-Read/dp/1684033012/ 

With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can't continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

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.

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Speaker1: [00:00:05] The.

[00:00:15] Come on in, take a seat.

Speaker2: [00:00:22] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode two hundred and ninety eight of the virtual couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay, and welcome aboard. We're going to get started right away. I was sent an article. It was probably two or three weeks ago,

Speaker3: [00:00:34] And it was one that I've had on my mind quite a bit and I have been wanting to get to this episode.

Speaker2: [00:00:39] It's an episode that we're going to talk a little bit more about happiness, and we're going to get to an acceptance and commitment therapy principle

Speaker3: [00:00:45] Called the choice point. And the choice point is something that I have wanted to

Speaker2: [00:00:50] Talk about for a very long time. And there have been so many times where I pulled up notes that I want to talk about with regard to ChoicePoint,

Speaker3: [00:00:57] And then I

Speaker2: [00:00:58] Just get distracted

Speaker3: [00:00:59] And I think

Speaker2: [00:01:00] I will do it later. I literally do the concept of experiential avoidance. I kick the can down the road, but

Speaker3: [00:01:05] Today they can is being kicked

Speaker2: [00:01:07] No longer because this is such an important principle, and I think it addresses this article that a listener had sent me. So the article is from Psychology

Speaker3: [00:01:15] Today, and the article says can wanting to be happy

Speaker2: [00:01:18] Backfire? And the article is from Psychology

Speaker3: [00:01:21] Today, and it's by Emily Will Roth, a PhD, and it was posted back in

Speaker2: [00:01:25] April of Twenty Twenty

Speaker3: [00:01:26] One, and I love the subheading. It says why wanting to

Speaker2: [00:01:29] Feel happy might paradoxically

Speaker3: [00:01:31] Lead you to feel less happy, which is something that I allude to in so many podcasts. And it really is a principle,

Speaker2: [00:01:38] A core principle underlying a lot of the things that I love about acceptance and commitment therapy. So if you haven't heard of acceptance and commitment therapy, or if it's been a little while or if you hear me talk often about it, we're going to we're going to

Speaker3: [00:01:49] Dig in a little bit deeper today and give you some of the principles of acceptance

Speaker2: [00:01:53] And commitment therapy. Address this article on happiness. And then we're going to lead to

Speaker3: [00:01:57] This concept called the choice point.

Speaker2: [00:01:59] And by the end, your life will be changed. That's that's all we're looking for today is a little bit of life changing experiences around happiness.

Speaker3: [00:02:06] So the key

Speaker2: [00:02:07] Points of this article are evidence suggests that the more you want to feel happy, the

Speaker3: [00:02:11] Less happy you may actually feel, which I think for a lot of people that might

Speaker2: [00:02:15] Actually normalize

Speaker3: [00:02:16] Some things. They also

Speaker2: [00:02:18] Say that a new paper explains why the paradox is not

Speaker3: [00:02:20] Inevitable.

Speaker2: [00:02:21] And then a third key point, they point out, is realistic expectations, effective strategies and accepting

Speaker3: [00:02:26] Both positive and negative emotions may be the keys to successful happiness pursuit. So Emily starts the article by saying most people do want to feel happy, but can wanting to feel happy backfire?

Speaker2: [00:02:38] In a recent paper titled The Pursuing Happiness. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Toronto explored this question, and evidence suggested that the more you want

Speaker3: [00:02:48] To feel happy, the less happy you may actually

Speaker2: [00:02:50] Feel. And fortunately, the paradox, they

Speaker3: [00:02:53] Say, is not inevitable. Many people

Speaker2: [00:02:54] Who want to feel happy are successful at attaining their happiness goal, and in their recent paper, the researchers, Zerwas and Ford, suggests that how you pursue happiness

Speaker3: [00:03:04] Matters. So I'm going to

Speaker2: [00:03:06] Needless to say, I'm going to read this article, and I'm going to give my own thoughts on here. And then that will lead us into the conversation around acceptance and commitment therapy. She starts out immediately by saying how pursuing happiness can go awry. So Tsawwassen, Ford and again, they are. The researchers proposed a three stage model of happiness pursuit. First, people

Speaker3: [00:03:24] Set a goal to be happy. Second, they

Speaker2: [00:03:26] Engage in strategy is to work toward their happiness goal. And third, they monitor their progress toward their happiness goal. And using this model, as there was some forward identified how the

Speaker3: [00:03:34] Pursuit of happiness can go wrong, as well as it can go right. And I

Speaker2: [00:03:38] Think right out of the gate acceptance and commitment therapy in the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, he

Speaker3: [00:03:44] Gives one of the best definitions I think of

Speaker2: [00:03:46] Happiness are there are two different definitions. So let me start by reading Russ Harris's definitions of happiness from the book The Happiness Trap. So early on in the book, Russ has a section where he says,

Speaker3: [00:03:57] What exactly is happiness? He says, We all want it.

Speaker2: [00:04:00] We all crave it. We all strive for it. Even the Dalai Lama has said the very purpose of life is

Speaker3: [00:04:05] To seek happiness. But what exactly is it? So he has two definitions.

Speaker2: [00:04:08] He said the word happiness has two very different meanings. The common meaning of the word is feeling good. In other words, feeling a sense of pleasure or gladness or gratification. We all enjoy these feelings, so it's no surprise that we chase them. However, like all

Speaker3: [00:04:22] Human emotions, feelings of happiness don't

Speaker2: [00:04:24] Last. So no matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time.

Speaker3: [00:04:28] And as we shall see, a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is in the

Speaker2: [00:04:32] Long term, deeply unsatisfying. In fact, the harder we chase after pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, which is part of this whole premise behind the happiness trap that the harder we seek happiness, the more we may feel anxiety and depression. He says the other far less common meaning

Speaker3: [00:04:50] Of happiness is living a rich, full and meaningful life. When we take action on the things that

Speaker2: [00:04:55] Truly matter deep in our hearts, when we move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy, when we clarify what we stand for in life and we act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full and

Speaker3: [00:05:05] Meaningful, and we experience

Speaker2: [00:05:06] A powerful sense

Speaker3: [00:05:07] Of vitality and that use

Speaker2: [00:05:09] Of the word vitality

Speaker3: [00:05:10] Comes up often in acceptance and commitment therapy. But he says this is not a. Fleeting feeling, it's a profound sense of a life well-lived, and although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, it will also give us uncomfortable ones such as

Speaker2: [00:05:22] Sadness and fear and anger.

Speaker3: [00:05:24] This is only to be expected because if we live a full life, we will live. We will feel the full range of human emotion, and I loved that

Speaker2: [00:05:32] Definition the first time that I read it, because

Speaker3: [00:05:34] If you really step back and look at it, that even the things that we do feel should make

Speaker2: [00:05:39] Us happy and bring us happiness or

Speaker3: [00:05:41] Joy sometimes don't. And when that happens, what do we do? We typically then say, What's wrong with me? I can't even be happy in

Speaker2: [00:05:48] A situation where I really want to

Speaker3: [00:05:50] Be happy. So we have

Speaker2: [00:05:52] Just a variety of thoughts and feelings and emotions that are happening

Speaker3: [00:05:56] Constantly,

Speaker2: [00:05:57] Going through our minds, going through our heads,

Speaker3: [00:05:59] And what do we do with those thoughts and emotions and feelings?

Speaker2: [00:06:02] We typically are pretty judgmental of ourselves for the thoughts we have, the feelings we have or the emotions that we have or the things that we do when

Speaker3: [00:06:09] In reality, we have so many thoughts and emotions that why do we give such

Speaker2: [00:06:13] Significance to certain ones and not to others? So back to the article. I hope that sets the stage that are we even pursuing the quote right version of happiness? Are we simply just looking for pleasurable feelings? Or are we starting to figure out who we are, what really matters to us

Speaker3: [00:06:29] And then taking action on those things that matter? And I feel like

Speaker2: [00:06:32] If you start to just take a look at what your personal definition of

Speaker3: [00:06:36] Happiness is, then that

Speaker2: [00:06:37] Can that can start to move the arrow in in the right direction

Speaker3: [00:06:41] On why someone may not feel as as happy as they feel that

Speaker2: [00:06:46] They deserve or that they would like, or that they that they feel like life is

Speaker3: [00:06:49] Supposed to be about.

Speaker2: [00:06:51] So back to the article. Zerwas and Ford identified how the pursuit of happiness can go wrong, as well as how it can go right. The first thing they said

Speaker3: [00:06:57] Is setting a happiness goal when setting a goal to be happy, expectations matter. Unrealistic expectations about the intensity or frequency of happiness can backfire. So they say, think about

Speaker2: [00:07:08] An event that you were really looking forward to. Maybe you thought to yourself,

Speaker3: [00:07:11] This is going to be the best night of my life. If that event was anything less than the best night of your life, you might have felt let down, even if it was

Speaker2: [00:07:19] Still a really good night. So desiring or expecting to feel extremely happy can make it more difficult

Speaker3: [00:07:24] To enjoy the level of happiness that you do feel.

Speaker2: [00:07:27] And I want to weigh in here. If you've been listening to some of the episodes on the virtual couch or I did, I've done a lot of this over on my other podcast, waking up the narcissism.

Speaker3: [00:07:35] I've been talking about

Speaker2: [00:07:36] The need for external validation, and it really has been

Speaker3: [00:07:39] A bit mind blowing and

Speaker2: [00:07:41] Just this principle in general

Speaker3: [00:07:42] That even if my if I want an event

Speaker2: [00:07:46] To bring me joy or happiness,

Speaker3: [00:07:47] Am I not

Speaker2: [00:07:48] Looking for

Speaker3: [00:07:49] That event to give

Speaker2: [00:07:50] Me the external validation and remembering that if you really break down what external validation

Speaker3: [00:07:56] Looks like, it means that I may

Speaker2: [00:07:58] Not be feeling great about myself. So I'm going to turn to someone else or something else

Speaker3: [00:08:03] To help me feel better. And that

Speaker2: [00:08:05] Right, there just was an aha moment for me where I realized that I'm not sure how I'm doing or I'm not sure how I'm

Speaker3: [00:08:11] Feeling.

Speaker2: [00:08:11] So I want some other thing, person event, whatever it is,

Speaker3: [00:08:15] To make me

Speaker2: [00:08:16] Feel better. So there are a lot of variables there. So if I'm not

Speaker3: [00:08:19] Feeling good about myself or if I'm not coming into an event or a relationship with some confidence, then I am

Speaker2: [00:08:26] Not even sure what

Speaker3: [00:08:27] I want the event to give me. This just

Speaker2: [00:08:30] Just ambiguous term happiness, or I want a person to make me feel better, and

Speaker3: [00:08:35] They don't even know what

Speaker2: [00:08:36] To do or say or how to show

Speaker3: [00:08:38] Up to make me feel that way, either.

Speaker2: [00:08:40] So when you really are

Speaker3: [00:08:41] Looking at, am I looking at

Speaker2: [00:08:43] External sources to make me feel better? Then there's a big potential for people to quote let you down or events to not quite be what they were, rather than

Speaker3: [00:08:53] Going into event saying, I am going to be

Speaker2: [00:08:56] As present as possible and I'm going to look for things that matter to me,

Speaker3: [00:08:59] And

Speaker2: [00:09:00] I am going to try to just have this experience, whether I'm going to have this experience on my own or going to have the shared experience with others. But I'm not going to be looking for that event or those other people

Speaker3: [00:09:08] To make me happy. So in the article, they say similarly.

Speaker2: [00:09:12] Similarly, it is unrealistic to expect to be happy all the time or in every situation.

Speaker3: [00:09:17] Sometimes it's OK to not be happy.

Speaker2: [00:09:19] In fact, research suggests that negative emotions such as anger and anxiety

Speaker3: [00:09:22] Can be useful,

Speaker2: [00:09:24] And this is where I love to chime in and say, Bless your brains, little pink, squishy heart. Even things like anxiety are there in not just even in theory. In reality, they're there to protect you now. Are they worrying about things that you most likely don't need to worry about? Yeah, that's probably the case. Our brains have been have evolved over, however

Speaker3: [00:09:42] Long

Speaker2: [00:09:43] To to worry about a lot of things that will most likely never happen as a way to protect us. And so we can think the brain that's part of what I love about mindfulness.

Speaker3: [00:09:52] I can note the

Speaker2: [00:09:54] Thoughts and feelings around anxiety, and I can be grateful that my brain is looking out for me, trying to do me a

Speaker3: [00:09:59] Solid. But is it being as helpful as as I've always thought?

Speaker2: [00:10:03] It is not necessarily. So that's where I can invite some of my thoughts or feelings around anxiety to come along with me while I

Speaker3: [00:10:08] Engage in new activities

Speaker2: [00:10:10] Or anger. They go on to say, for example, anger can motivate people to fight.

Speaker3: [00:10:14] Injustice and anxiety can help people

Speaker2: [00:10:15] Avoid threatening situations, so it's normal and it's healthy to experience a variety of

Speaker3: [00:10:20] Positive and negative emotions. The second thing

Speaker2: [00:10:23] They identify is pursuing a

Speaker3: [00:10:24] Happiness goal, so

Speaker2: [00:10:25] People use a variety of strategies to pursue their happiness goals, and some of those strategies are more likely to be successful than others. So unfortunately, people aren't always good at knowing which strategies

Speaker3: [00:10:34] Will make them happy. So again,

Speaker2: [00:10:36] People are often just looking for things

Speaker3: [00:10:38] That they hope will make them happy.

Speaker2: [00:10:40] The article that Emily says Consider how you spend your money. Research suggests that spending money on other people tends to make people happier than spending

Speaker3: [00:10:47] Money on oneself. Yet most people believe that spending money on themselves will make them happier. Similarly, spending money on experiences tends to make people happier than spending money on material things. Yet many people believe the opposite.

Speaker2: [00:10:59] They will look for happiness and material things rather than in having shared experiences.

Speaker3: [00:11:04] So if we really don't know what will make us

Speaker2: [00:11:06] Happy, the authors say that we're likely to choose the wrong strategies when pursuing happiness goals. So it kind of back to that external validation. Are we looking for things or other people or anything other than trying

Speaker3: [00:11:16] To find that happiness

Speaker2: [00:11:17] Within? Are we looking for external sources to make us happy? So the research then suggests

Speaker3: [00:11:22] That engaging in positive activities such as

Speaker2: [00:11:24] Exercising or pursuing personal

Speaker3: [00:11:27] Research suggests that engaging in positive activities such as

Speaker2: [00:11:30] Exercising or pursuing personally meaningful

Speaker3: [00:11:33] Goals. It's very key, and building

Speaker2: [00:11:36] Social relationships may be successful strategies to increase happiness

Speaker3: [00:11:40] And

Speaker2: [00:11:40] Then evidence based therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. And I love that they give a shout out to my favorite, and acceptance and commitment therapy can also be effective at increasing happiness and reducing suffering.

Speaker3: [00:11:50] So while scientific findings

Speaker2: [00:11:52] Like those described here can point us in the right direction, the authors say that they can't necessarily tell us what strategy is best for every person and every situation they go on to talk about how. More research is needed to understand for whom and in what situations particular strategies are likely to increase happiness and how long those benefits are likely to last. But this is where I feel like as an acceptance and commitment therapy, as an act therapist, that

Speaker3: [00:12:13] It really and that's why I love that they touched on that. These meaningful goals and building social relationships, meaningful goals and goals need to be based on

Speaker2: [00:12:22] What really matters to you. And I talk often and often about what are your values? Because if you are just pursuing a goal that is not bolstered up by one of your own personal values, then you're just trying to do something, taking a little bit of a shot in the dark and hoping that that will work out. Or if you are pursuing a goal that's based on a value of someone else or a value that you think that you are

Speaker3: [00:12:42] Supposed to have. Then in comes

Speaker2: [00:12:44] Our old friend

Speaker3: [00:12:45] Socially compliant goal. So if I'm doing something because I think I'm supposed to or that I have to,

Speaker2: [00:12:50] Then we are more likely to not be as engaged in what that goal looks like. And if we are not as engaged,

Speaker3: [00:12:57] Then becomes socially compliant.

Speaker2: [00:12:58] Goals have no best friend or arch rival, which is experiential avoidance, because if I really don't care a lot, if I'm pursuing and I go back to my days in the computer industry, I know I was trying to earn a living. I know

Speaker3: [00:13:10] I didn't know what I didn't know, but I just

Speaker2: [00:13:12] Did not feel a passion like I do and doing therapy or podcasting or writing or any of these

Speaker3: [00:13:16] Things. And so it was so easy

Speaker2: [00:13:19] To look for anything and everything

Speaker3: [00:13:20] Else to do

Speaker2: [00:13:22] Other than the fact of what I was in theory there to do, whether it was preparing for the next trade show or writing a press release or reaching out, trying to sell somebody's software that I wasn't necessarily

Speaker3: [00:13:30] Passionate about. Then in those situations, it was

Speaker2: [00:13:33] Really easy to find any and everything to do instead of what in theory is supposed to do. So when you really are pursuing a value based goal or a value based life, then you are far more likely to be engaged. Absolutely. You'll still get distracted and there will be other

Speaker3: [00:13:47] Things that will come up. But when

Speaker2: [00:13:48] You notice that you are distracted or you notice

Speaker3: [00:13:50] Other things

Speaker2: [00:13:51] Come up, it's a lot easier to get back on that path of productivity. When you are living by a set of values that actually matter to you, that are things that are important to you. And the third point they make in this article is monitoring happiness goal. An important step in goal pursuit is monitoring progress toward one's goal.

Speaker3: [00:14:07] But in the case of happiness,

Speaker2: [00:14:09] Goal pursuit monitoring can backfire. If somebody finds that they are not as happy as they want to

Speaker3: [00:14:14] Be, they might feel disappointed. And feeling disappointed can sometimes be

Speaker2: [00:14:17] Beneficial for goal

Speaker3: [00:14:18] Pursuit because it can motivate

Speaker2: [00:14:21] People to try harder to reach their goals. So that makes sense, right? But this is a challenge I have had in working with goals. I really have and have a really good friend, Neal Hooper, that we have worked on some programs together.

Speaker3: [00:14:32] And Neil and I have done a lot of spend, a lot of time talking about goals and setting goals

Speaker2: [00:14:37] And the importance of a value based goal rather than just a checkbox

Speaker3: [00:14:41] Goal. And these these researchers said that again, feeling disappointed can sometimes

Speaker2: [00:14:45] Be beneficial for goal pursuit because it can motivate people to try harder to reach their goals. But for happiness goals,

Speaker3: [00:14:50] Negative emotions like

Speaker2: [00:14:51] Disappointment are in direct competition with the goal to feel

Speaker3: [00:14:54] Happier. So we need to

Speaker2: [00:14:56] Then work off of a value based goal. We need to find out really what does matter to us so that we will be more engaged

Speaker3: [00:15:02] In the pursuit of achieving a goal. And then the researchers say that accepting both positive and negative

Speaker2: [00:15:08] Emotions rather than judging them as

Speaker3: [00:15:10] Good or bad, may help people

Speaker2: [00:15:12] Avoid this paradox of being. Frustrated by not reaching their happiness goals, so Zerwas and Ford go on to, they conclude and say the future of research on the paradox of pursuing happiness, they say that they hope that their paper will guide future research on the paradox of pursuing happiness, for example. More research is needed to understand for whom happiness pursuit is most likely to backfire, as well as what types of strategies and interventions might lead to successful happiness pursuit. And in the meantime, Zerwas suggests using this as an opportunity to consider what is working for you and what you might try to change about your happiness. They say,

Speaker3: [00:15:43] Quote, some people might benefit from engaging in new activities that actually bring them happiness, whereas others might benefit from letting go of constantly

Speaker2: [00:15:50] Evaluating whether they are happy enough, said Zerwas. And there is so much gold there where I feel like using

Speaker3: [00:15:56] This as an opportunity. If you are finding yourself thinking the

Speaker2: [00:15:59] Old What's wrong with me story as you pursue

Speaker3: [00:16:02] Happiness, then note it

Speaker2: [00:16:04] And drop the rope of the tug of war on what's wrong with me?

Speaker3: [00:16:06] Nothing. You're human. And so we look at those thoughts and feelings and emotions that you're

Speaker2: [00:16:10] Having, and I would venture a guess that there might be a chance that you aren't necessarily working off of your own personal values and that you're trying to

Speaker3: [00:16:19] Achieve happiness based on things that you feel should work. And again, nobody likes to be shut on and you need to

Speaker2: [00:16:25] Find what really does matter to you

Speaker3: [00:16:27] And that it

Speaker2: [00:16:29] Begins a process that really is a process of finding out what things matter to you

Speaker3: [00:16:33] And not the things that you've been told you should think about.

Speaker2: [00:16:36] You should care about that. You should worry about and all of those other shoulds because none of those are going to be very helpful.

Speaker3: [00:16:42] So let me jump into the acceptance

Speaker2: [00:16:45] And commitment therapy

Speaker3: [00:16:46] Model, and I want

Speaker2: [00:16:47] To talk just briefly.

Speaker3: [00:16:49] I want to get to this thing called a choice point that I alluded to at the beginning of this episode.

Speaker2: [00:16:53] So here's where I thought this was a nice tie in. If you turn to, there's a book that I love called Act Made Simple Again by Russ Harris, and Chapter one says

Speaker3: [00:17:01] The human challenge. It ain't easy being happy.

Speaker2: [00:17:04] So that goes right along with this article that we're talking about, where Russ says life is both amazing and terrible. We live long enough. We're going to experience joyful success and spectacular failure. I love that great love and devastating loss moments of wonder and bliss, and moments of darkness and despair. And the inconvenient truth, he says, is that almost everything that makes our life rich and full and

Speaker3: [00:17:22] Meaningful comes with the painful

Speaker2: [00:17:23] Downside. And unfortunately, this means that it can be hard to be happy for long. And he said, Heck, it's hard to be happy for short. And the fact

Speaker3: [00:17:30] Is that life is tough and it doles out

Speaker2: [00:17:33] Plenty of pain for every one of us. And one of the main reasons for this is

Speaker3: [00:17:36] That the human mind has evolved in such a way that it

Speaker2: [00:17:39] Naturally creates psychological suffering. So basically, if we live long enough, we're all going to experience a whole lot of hurt.

Speaker3: [00:17:45] And if you listen to the episode that Nate Christiansen and I, my my associate, a wonderful associate who is

Speaker2: [00:17:51] Open for business, who is available for clients, if you're working here in California. But we talked about the way that the brain is wired to look for worst case scenarios

Speaker3: [00:18:01] That it is, it's way to protect itself. And we gave this example

Speaker2: [00:18:05] That I thought was really fascinating where we talked

Speaker3: [00:18:07] About how if you primitive man looked out over

Speaker2: [00:18:10] The plane and saw the book talk, we were referencing a book called The Buddha Brain, and it referenced that if you

Speaker3: [00:18:14] Saw this impala and it was

Speaker2: [00:18:17] Down on the ground,

Speaker3: [00:18:18] Out in the field, and if you went in and got that impala,

Speaker2: [00:18:21] Your whole tribe would eat and everyone would be

Speaker3: [00:18:23] Joyous. But if you then see this lion, that is often the distance

Speaker2: [00:18:27] And it's starting to head over toward the Impala as well, that our brain is wired to say I will

Speaker3: [00:18:32] Wait until I will experientially avoid this because I have one

Speaker2: [00:18:35] Chance there to get it wrong.

Speaker3: [00:18:37] So if I go to get that impala in that lion kills me, then I will not be able to do anything. So we are going to. And that's some of the things that causes anxiety that

Speaker2: [00:18:48] Put up these barriers that are protective measures that we are worrying just in case I go there. And then

Speaker3: [00:18:54] If the lion gets me, then I've got one

Speaker2: [00:18:56] Chance. So I'm going to probably think tomorrow I might have a better opportunity if that lion is gone.

Speaker3: [00:19:01] And we talked about how that has evolved

Speaker2: [00:19:03] Into modern day, the way the brain can say, I will do the research paper later when I'm more rested or when I don't have as many things going on, or I will spend time with those that I care about when I've cleared some

Speaker3: [00:19:15] Things off of my plate. So it's fascinating

Speaker2: [00:19:17] The way the brain has evolved to do this experiential avoidance, to put things off until later.

Speaker3: [00:19:22] And so we

Speaker2: [00:19:24] Are again, we're wired to really try to protect ourselves because the brain has evolved

Speaker3: [00:19:31] As a don't get killed device. Whenever I get to speak, I talk about this often is

Speaker2: [00:19:35] That the brain,

Speaker3: [00:19:36] In essence, is not a feel good device. It is a don't get killed device. So if it's left to its own devices

Speaker2: [00:19:43] That we are typically going to go down a path of the worst case scenario because that is a way to protect us. But in the modern world, that

Speaker3: [00:19:50] Doesn't allow us to live a life full of meaning

Speaker2: [00:19:53] And purpose and connection with others, which in reality is what brings us more joy and more happiness.

Speaker3: [00:20:00] And the Book Act made a simple

Speaker2: [00:20:02] Reference to say, What is act? And I'll give you a quick overview of that, he says. We officially say act as the word act and

Speaker3: [00:20:08] Not the initials act.

Speaker2: [00:20:09] And he said, act as a behavioral therapy.

Speaker3: [00:20:12] It's about taking action, but not any. Old action, it's about

Speaker2: [00:20:14] Action guided by your core values. It's about behaving like the sort of person that you want to be. What do you stand for in life? What really matters deep in your heart? How do you want to treat? How do you want to treat yourself? And how do you want to treat people in the world around you? And what do you want to be remembered for at your funeral, which

Speaker3: [00:20:29] Is a fascinating act exercise, which is it sounds a little bit too on the point or too cliched, but what do you want people to say

Speaker2: [00:20:37] At your funeral and are you living in a way that gets you toward that

Speaker3: [00:20:41] Goal? He said that at gets you in touch with what

Speaker2: [00:20:43] Really matters in the big picture. Your heart's deepest desires for how you want to behave

Speaker3: [00:20:47] And what you want to

Speaker2: [00:20:48] Do during your brief time here on this planet,

Speaker3: [00:20:50] And then use those values to guide and motivate and inspire you to do what you need to do in the book that made simple.

Speaker2: [00:20:56] He goes into where did act come from and what's the

Speaker3: [00:20:59] Actual aim of act? And I'm going to skip a little bit of that. But he

Speaker2: [00:21:03] Says in summary, the big challenge is that we all have to face in life is a life

Speaker3: [00:21:06] Is difficult and that be a full human life comes with a full range of emotions, and those are both pleasant and painful and that see a normal

Speaker2: [00:21:14] Human

Speaker3: [00:21:14] Mind naturally amplifies

Speaker2: [00:21:16] Psychological suffering. So if you find yourself going to the what's wrong with me, that's a scary

Speaker3: [00:21:21] Thing that I

Speaker2: [00:21:22] Want to do or that I'm afraid of. Then you're normal. It's absolutely part of the human experience. So what act tries to do

Speaker3: [00:21:30] Is maximize this human

Speaker2: [00:21:32] Potential for a rich and meaningful life by helping you clarify what really does matter and what's important to you, and that is clarifying your values and then using that knowledge of what your values are to guide, inspire, motivate you to do things that will enrich and enhance

Speaker3: [00:21:45] Your life. And then it teaches you psychological skills, mindfulness skills that enable you to handle difficult thoughts and feelings effectively and engage

Speaker2: [00:21:53] In whatever you're doing to be as present as you can and appreciate and savor the

Speaker3: [00:21:57] Fulfilling aspects of life. So he goes and talks a little bit about

Speaker2: [00:22:01] Why does Act get a bad rap? And I think

Speaker3: [00:22:03] That one's kind of fascinating as well. One of those concepts is that people see act as

Speaker2: [00:22:08] Complex because it is this non-linear model of therapy that it's based around these core principles and processes,

Speaker3: [00:22:14] And you can work with any one of them at any time with a session in a client.

Speaker2: [00:22:17] And if you ever hit a roadblock with one process, you can move on to another. That non linearity comes with the big

Speaker3: [00:22:23] Upside risks that it gives you incredible

Speaker2: [00:22:25] Flexibility as a therapist, and this is where we talk about

Speaker3: [00:22:28] This concept called psychological flexibility and psychological flexibility is one of the

Speaker2: [00:22:33] Greatest things that you can learn when it comes to your mental health or your wellbeing

Speaker3: [00:22:38] Is that things don't

Speaker2: [00:22:39] Have to be as rigid. Things aren't. We don't have a

Speaker3: [00:22:42] Mechanistic view of the brain. One of the challenges of

Speaker2: [00:22:45] Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is that your thoughts lead your emotions, emotions lead your behaviors,

Speaker3: [00:22:49] Is that is a bit of this mechanistic model

Speaker2: [00:22:51] That if you just replace a thought, then it will lead to a different emotion and emotion. Different emotion will lead to a different behavior, as if it is that simple or that cut and dried. But you can replace a thought,

Speaker3: [00:23:00] Change a thought and then

Speaker2: [00:23:02] Have an experience happen and still

Speaker3: [00:23:03] Have the same emotion and that will still want you to have

Speaker2: [00:23:06] The same behavior.

Speaker3: [00:23:07] So now you get to say, what's wrong with me? I changed my thought, and my life

Speaker2: [00:23:10] Didn't change for the better.

Speaker3: [00:23:11] And so the act model has so much more psychological flexibility built

Speaker2: [00:23:16] In where you are. You have a lot of these different core principles that you can turn to

Speaker3: [00:23:20] In any situation so that you can continue

Speaker2: [00:23:23] To move toward the things that matter. So the six core processes of act, the first one is contact with the present moment. Be here, be here now.

Speaker3: [00:23:32] So contacting the present moment means flexibility, flexibly paying

Speaker2: [00:23:36] Attention to our experience in the process. As it's narrowing, it's broadening, it's shifting or it's sustaining

Speaker3: [00:23:40] Your focus, depending on what's most useful. So this might involve consciously paying

Speaker2: [00:23:44] Attention to your physical world around you.

Speaker3: [00:23:46] The smells, the sights, the sounds

Speaker2: [00:23:48] Or the psychological world within you. What are you thinking? What are you? What are the stories that your brain is telling?

Speaker3: [00:23:54] Noticing them, noticing that I am feeling angry, not that I'm angry, but check it out. I'm feeling angry.

Speaker2: [00:24:00] What's the story my brain is telling me

Speaker3: [00:24:01] That I have been done

Speaker2: [00:24:02] Wrong? Or are we even arguing? Is that a true or false statement? Maybe I have been

Speaker3: [00:24:05] Done wrong,

Speaker2: [00:24:06] But is that a productive thought

Speaker3: [00:24:07] On allowing me to be as engaged in the

Speaker2: [00:24:10] Moment or in the relationship

Speaker3: [00:24:11] As I need to be? So again, it involves consciously paying attention

Speaker2: [00:24:15] To the physical world around or the psychological world within us or both at the

Speaker3: [00:24:18] Same time. And so once I notice that I'm thinking or I notice that I'm feeling, then that helps me get fully engaged in the moment in the experience rather than being caught up in my feelings, caught up in my emotions so that

Speaker2: [00:24:31] Contact with the present moment be here right now

Speaker3: [00:24:34] Is something that can be practiced through mindfulness, but it is

Speaker2: [00:24:37] So powerful that

Speaker3: [00:24:39] Alone, and you can see how these six core principles of Act can be. You can use them at any and so you have so

Speaker2: [00:24:44] Many tools to work from, not

Speaker3: [00:24:46] Just change my thought. So the second one is diffusion, which is watching your thinking. Diffusion means learning to step

Speaker2: [00:24:52] Back and separate or detach from our thoughts and images and memories. The full technical term, he says, is cognitive diffusion.

Speaker3: [00:24:58] But we usually just call it diffusion.

Speaker2: [00:25:00] And Harris says, we step back and we watch our thinking instead

Speaker3: [00:25:03] Of getting tangled up in

Speaker2: [00:25:04] It. We see our thoughts for what they are. They're nothing more or less than words and pictures. Think about that. You have so many words and pictures going through your mind at

Speaker3: [00:25:11] Any given time. Why do we give?

Speaker2: [00:25:13] Such significance to certain ones at certain times, so when we see our thoughts for what they are, then these words and pictures, then we can

Speaker3: [00:25:20] Hold them lightly instead of clutching to them tightly and we allow them to guide us, but not to dominate us. I can't tell you how many times I come in nice

Speaker2: [00:25:27] And early before clients are here and I want to write or I want to record or I want to do whatever it is that I

Speaker3: [00:25:32] Want to do. But then I will all of a sudden notice that I'm caught up in watching a YouTube video, or I'll notice that I am reading emails, which is a wonderful thing, but it's not the goal. The value based goal that I came in to do that morning. Like today, I have a consistent goal for

Speaker2: [00:25:46] The last five years of putting out a podcast on Monday or Tuesday morning. It's Tuesday morning. Right now I have a client coming in at six

Speaker3: [00:25:52] A.m. and

Speaker2: [00:25:53] I have this podcast to record. And a couple of times this morning, I already had to notice that I was doing something different. Instead of beating myself up, I was able to say, Oh, that's interesting and then get right back to the present moment or the value based goal of creating podcast content.

Speaker3: [00:26:08] So that is

Speaker2: [00:26:09] That second principle of acts. We've got contact with the present moment, we've

Speaker3: [00:26:12] Got diffusion, which is stepping back and watching your thinking. Check that out and then acceptance, which he says is opening up. Acceptance means opening up and

Speaker2: [00:26:19] Making room for unwanted private experiences, making room for thoughts and feelings and emotions and memories, and urges and images

Speaker3: [00:26:25] And impulses and sensations. So instead of

Speaker2: [00:26:28] Fighting them or resisting them or running from them, we open up and we make room for them in the world of addiction that I work with. One of the most powerful things

Speaker3: [00:26:36] That you can do is accept the fact that I'm wanting to act out. Notice it. Check it out. That's interesting. There's nothing wrong with me not beating myself up. This is

Speaker2: [00:26:44] The pattern that my brain falls into, or when somebody

Speaker3: [00:26:46] Finds themselves in alone

Speaker2: [00:26:48] And no one else around that their brain may say,

Speaker3: [00:26:51] Hey, it's time to, it's time to act out. And so just open

Speaker2: [00:26:54] It up, making room for that, noticing it, saying, huh, that is interesting. Not trying to fight it, not trying to say What's wrong with me?

Speaker3: [00:27:00] Not trying to say you shouldn't think that or think this other thing, but just going, Oh, that's a thought. And then inviting that thought to come with me while I do something

Speaker2: [00:27:07] That is more valuable or that is is that is something that I really can drive a sense of meaning or purpose from. So when you learn to

Speaker3: [00:27:16] Accept and accept thoughts and feelings and emotions, so instead of fighting them

Speaker2: [00:27:20] Instead of resisting them or running from them, making room for them, you allow them to freely flow through you to come

Speaker3: [00:27:25] And stay and go as as they choose and their own good time if and when this helps you to act effectively and improve your life. That acceptance is such an amazing thing that instead of the I know, I shouldn't think this. I love saying to a client,

Speaker2: [00:27:38] Oh no, we need to reframe that and say,

Speaker3: [00:27:40] Oh, check it out,

Speaker2: [00:27:41] Check out what I'm thinking, or instead of saying, is it wrong

Speaker3: [00:27:43] For me to do this or think this to just say, Oh, check it out on my brain is saying that this is something to do. So that's interesting, because then we can step back and get into this next piece, which is called self as context

Speaker2: [00:27:54] Or the noticing self. So in everyday language, Russ says there's two distinct elements to the mind. The part that is thinking and the part that is noticing.

Speaker3: [00:28:02] So usually when we talk about the

Speaker2: [00:28:04] Mind, we mean the part of us that is thinking that's generating thoughts and beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies,

Speaker3: [00:28:09] Plans and so on. And we don't usually

Speaker2: [00:28:12] Mean the part that notices or that aspect of us that is aware of whatever we're thinking or aware of, whatever we're feeling or sensing or doing in any

Speaker3: [00:28:19] Moment. And this is such a practice.

Speaker2: [00:28:22] And so I forget at

Speaker3: [00:28:23] Times I neglect the fact that this takes intentional effort to when

Speaker2: [00:28:27] You are

Speaker3: [00:28:28] Feeling when you feel angry, that is the moment to go, Oh, I'm angry so that I'm going to come back to the very present moment and I'm going to take a step back and notice that I'm feeling angry and notice that I'm, you know, notice I am upset. Notice that I am sad. And so instead of, I'm sad. I'm upset. I'm angry. It's I'm noticing, I'm sad, I'm noticing, I'm angry. And that same concept can

Speaker2: [00:28:51] Happen where even with things like depression or anxiety,

Speaker3: [00:28:55] It's I'm Tony, but I'm noticing that I'm feeling

Speaker2: [00:28:58] Depressed instead of I'm depressed and there's a lot of power there because there are so many times where we aren't necessarily feeling anxious or we aren't necessarily feeling depressed.

Speaker3: [00:29:07] So in act, the technical term for this is self is context. So we often don't explicitly label self as contacts with clients.

Speaker2: [00:29:14] But Sarah says, but

Speaker3: [00:29:15] If and when we do, we usually call it the noticing self

Speaker2: [00:29:18] Or the observing self, or simply the part of you that notices,

Speaker3: [00:29:21] Hey, next up is talking about values. And then there's one called committed action. But speaking of values, I'm going to try and do a value based goal of talking about things that I need to pay the bills, so to speak.

Speaker2: [00:29:35] The hosting charges the podcast content head over to Betterhelp.com virtual couch. If you are looking for the world of

Speaker3: [00:29:42] Counseling online counseling,

Speaker2: [00:29:43] It can be very difficult to find a good counselor, a good therapist right now. Again, I am grateful that the stigma around mental health is starting to dissipate after 15 plus years in this

Speaker3: [00:29:54] Business, and that people are starting to talk more openly about their mental health struggles and challenges. But the only

Speaker2: [00:29:59] Negative part of that is it can be hard to find a therapist, and you can go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch, get 10 percent off your first month's treatment, and you can use their assessment tool and assessment process to get on the air. Fill out some. Questionnaire and really talk about the things that you really are looking for help with, and they can point you in the direction of a therapist, a qualified,

Speaker3: [00:30:20] Licensed professional clinical

Speaker2: [00:30:21] Counselor or licensed mental licensed marriage and family therapist like myself

Speaker3: [00:30:25] Who will be able to do

Speaker2: [00:30:27] Email therapy, tele therapy, chat therapy, you name it. But they can be there for you, and you can be

Speaker3: [00:30:32] Talking with someone in as

Speaker2: [00:30:34] Few as two or three days, which is phenomenal. If you don't like the fit of your therapist, it's easier than ever to just look for or ask for a new therapist with their online portal, their dashboard, and again, go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch, get 10 percent off your first month's treatment. And then while I'm right here, if you are looking to move away from, if you find yourself turning to things like pornography as a

Speaker3: [00:30:56] Coping mechanism and you

Speaker2: [00:30:57] Want to get rid of that in your life, head over to Pathbackrecovery.com. That program continues

Speaker3: [00:31:02] To just be one of my passions. We have weekly group calls. There's an

Speaker2: [00:31:06] Online course that's 40 videos and it is just a really strength based become the

Speaker3: [00:31:11] Person you always wanted to be kind of way

Speaker2: [00:31:13] So pathbackrecovery.com. All right, so let's get to this other principle of act, which is

Speaker3: [00:31:17] Values

Speaker2: [00:31:18] Know what matters, Rosaura says. What do you want to stand for in life? What do you want to do with your brief time on the planet? How do you want to treat yourself and others and the world around you? Values are desired qualities

Speaker3: [00:31:30] Of physical or

Speaker2: [00:31:31] Psychological action. In other words, he says, they describe how we want to behave on an ongoing basis.

Speaker3: [00:31:35] We often compare them to a compass

Speaker2: [00:31:38] Because they give us direction and guide our lives journey.

Speaker3: [00:31:40] And so I love the concept that the values are a sense of being and doing.

Speaker2: [00:31:45] And the more that I've identified my own core values that

Speaker3: [00:31:47] I do have some go to's, my value of authenticity, my value of curiosity, my value of a connection, my value of compassion. And that is, you implement those in your

Speaker2: [00:31:56] Life that there are times where you may find yourself

Speaker3: [00:31:59] Not feeling connected, not feeling

Speaker2: [00:32:00] A part of whatever it is you're trying to be a part of.

Speaker3: [00:32:03] And again, you notice it, you don't beat yourself up about

Speaker2: [00:32:06] It, and then you turn to a value

Speaker3: [00:32:07] Based action. I talked about on an episode a little while

Speaker2: [00:32:11] Ago, being at the NBA Summer League over the summer with my son in law and my daughter and my wife. And we had these great seats and we're down and we're watching

Speaker3: [00:32:19] Basketball and I love basketball and I love my family.

Speaker2: [00:32:22] But after the second or third game, I just felt

Speaker3: [00:32:24] Flat and I noticed I was feeling flat. And instead of beating myself up about it instead of telling myself, just think something else or just do something just to knock it off, I noticed it.

Speaker2: [00:32:33] And then I turned to a value of curiosity. I pulled

Speaker3: [00:32:36] Out my phone and we started looking

Speaker2: [00:32:38] At a lot of the players that were there at the NBA Summer League trying to make these NBA rosters. And I just started looking at a lot of the back story on the players. And there are some fascinating things and that led to us having more of a conversation. And then we were all connected and curious and having this conversation.

Speaker3: [00:32:52] So that was an

Speaker2: [00:32:53] Example of

Speaker3: [00:32:54] Turning to my values. And again, I even mentioned on that

Speaker2: [00:32:57] Episode that if your value is not curiosity and all of a sudden you're pulling out your phone and you're trying to find something interesting about somebody, but you really don't care, then you're not going to feel like that worked for you. You're going to feel like, OK, what's wrong with me?

Speaker3: [00:33:08] Tony said that he pulls out his phone and looks at fascinating things about people, and then they all talk and laugh about the situation

Speaker2: [00:33:14] That didn't work for me. Well, if that isn't one of your values, then that isn't going to work. But being able to identify what your core values are gives you something that you can turn to so that

Speaker3: [00:33:23] You can come back to the present moment and get out of the What's

Speaker2: [00:33:26] Wrong With Me story that our brains often wants to tell us because our brain is so wired for that path

Speaker3: [00:33:32] Of least resistance, because it thinks that is the key to

Speaker2: [00:33:34] Live forever. But bless your heart brain, that is

Speaker3: [00:33:37] Not the case.

Speaker2: [00:33:38] One more core principle of

Speaker3: [00:33:40] Act that is committed action do what it takes for us said committed action means taking effective action guided

Speaker2: [00:33:46] By our

Speaker3: [00:33:46] Values. I cannot stress that enough. He said this includes both physical action, what we do with our physical body and psychological action,

Speaker2: [00:33:53] What we do in our inner world. It is all well and good to know our values, but

Speaker3: [00:33:57] It's only through putting them into action

Speaker2: [00:33:59] That life becomes rich and full

Speaker3: [00:34:00] And meaningful. And as we take

Speaker2: [00:34:02] This action, a wide range of thoughts

Speaker3: [00:34:04] And feelings will show up some of them pleasurable and others will be painful. So committed action really does mean doing what it takes to

Speaker2: [00:34:10] Live by our values, even when that

Speaker3: [00:34:13] Brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. So committed action involves goal setting, but based off of our values action planning, problem solving, skills training, behavioral activation and exposure. And it can also include learning and applying any skill, he says, that enhances and enriches life from negotiation and communication and assertiveness skills to self-soothing to crisis coping and mindfulness skills. So those are the six principles of Act, and I hope that you can recognize that those they have a lot of tools

Speaker2: [00:34:41] That are going to help bring you back to the present

Speaker3: [00:34:43] Moment, help you accept that your thoughts and feelings

Speaker2: [00:34:45] And emotions you have are there because you are a human being

Speaker3: [00:34:48] And you're just trying to live life the best you can. But how it can

Speaker2: [00:34:52] Not work when

Speaker3: [00:34:53] You become so hooked or fuzed

Speaker2: [00:34:56] To the stories that our brain tells us of what's wrong with me, or why can't they just change my thought? Or why didn't that work? Or instead

Speaker3: [00:35:02] Of just being able to notice those things, just noticing that I'm thinking, noticing that I'm feeling and then dropping the rope

Speaker2: [00:35:08] In the tug of war on the what's wrong with me story over and over again so that you can come back

Speaker3: [00:35:11] To the present moment and take. On things that

Speaker2: [00:35:14] Being able to determine what your values are and realize that if you are trying to

Speaker3: [00:35:19] Follow the

Speaker2: [00:35:20] Values that your parents have given you, your church is giving you,

Speaker3: [00:35:23] Your community is given you, then those

Speaker2: [00:35:25] Are wonderful places to start. But this is your journey. You're only going around this planet. I didn't say one time, but we're going around several times, but you're going

Speaker3: [00:35:34] Through life one time.

Speaker2: [00:35:35] And so it is imperative important that you discover what matters to you.

Speaker3: [00:35:38] What matters to you is based on all the

Speaker2: [00:35:40] Experiences you've been through your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, abandonment, rejection

Speaker3: [00:35:44] Hopes, dreams, all of it. And so the quicker and easier and faster you can come to a place of acceptance of the things that matter to you and start to notice that your mind is thinking and feeling and doing all of those things and just notice them and learn how to step back self in this context and say, check it out. I'm noticing that I am feeling angry. I'm noticing that I'm feeling stressed. That's fascinating. That's interesting and not giving it that negative

Speaker2: [00:36:09] Emotional charge, which goes back to that article we started with where that is part of the problem that the harder we are trying to be happy, the more frustrating the whole process can

Speaker3: [00:36:18] Become versus just being able to learn to be who we are. What makes you tick based on all the things that you've been through in your life and find those things that matter to you and then take action on those

Speaker2: [00:36:29] Things that matter? And that truly is this path toward a life well lived.

Speaker3: [00:36:33] I have run out of time, so we will talk about the the choice point, which check it out that someday I will talk about ChoicePoint. We'll do that next week and I'll give. I'll give

Speaker2: [00:36:43] The ChoicePoint more than just

Speaker3: [00:36:45] A couple of minutes at the end of an episode, but I hope

Speaker2: [00:36:47] That you learn something today the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy that you are the only version of you, and that is an amazing, wonderful, awesome

Speaker3: [00:36:54] Thing. And so I challenge you throughout the next week to try to take on some of these principles of acceptance and commitment therapy. And we'll be back next week and we'll talk more about the concept of choice point. And that is going to be a game changer.

Speaker2: [00:37:07] All right. Maybe we will put your entire life changing experience. We got part of it today. We get the next part

Speaker3: [00:37:13] Next week, and I will see you next

[00:37:14] Time. Compressed emotions flying past our heads and

Speaker1: [00:37:26] Out the other end, the pressures of the daily grind,

[00:37:31] It's wonderful. And plastic waste and rubber ghost are floating

Speaker1: [00:37:38] Past the midnight hour. They push aside the things that matter most wonderful. She's. News of discount price, a million, Opportunity's budget is yours to take. It's worth.

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