In today’s society we are constantly fed language that glorifies our efforts to cancel out anything that interferes with our positivity. The truth is, everyone experiences stress and negative thoughts/ feelings at times, and the more we resist, ignore and push them away, the more often they push back harder demanding our attention.
Avoidance is often used as a place of safety for many, a place where we can postpone discomfort and loiter in the in-between for as long as possible. However, avoidance has a way of always catching up with us. If this resonates with you, there are things you can do when you find yourself stuck in cycles of resistance and avoidance. We can start by cracking open the door to the thoughts and feelings we have been shutting out, and invite them in. Think of this analogy of hosting a party at your place, where all of your guests represent different emotions. Like all party guests when hosting an event, we never quite know how long they will stay… Joy might frolic around for a few hours before skipping out, Anxiety might overstay their welcome looming well after 11pm, Distress might only show up for the appetizers and Calm might be fleeting popping in and out throughout the evening. The idea is; all we can do is host and accept the comings and goings of all of our guests. This theme of acceptance sounds easy but takes work and starts with a cultivated non-judgmental awareness of self.
In order for us to open up to our thoughts and feelings, we need to tune into what they are and observe our patterns of engaging with them. The more we can observe when we become fused with our negative thoughts and feelings, the easier time we will have beginning to notice their presence without becoming the feelings they bring along with them.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can guide us to increase our psychological flexibility with the practice of skills rooted in mindfulness and help us to align our actions with our personal values. You can get started by asking yourself, what are my personal values and how can I become more aligned with them? Additionally try observing your thoughts and feelings like passing clouds in the sky, just observing, just noticing.
If this therapeutic path intrigues you, talk to your therapist about it. We all deserve to live a life that provides us with psychological flexibility so we can pursue the things most important to us.
-Susie Santacroce, RP(Q), CTRS