ACT Book Summary: Pages 132 - 135

Printer-friendly version

The Alternative to Control and the Two Scales Metaphor

The objective here is to point to an alternative to the control agenda.
Use willingness instead of acceptance-because it is often confused with resignation or tolerance/defeat.

Two Scales Metaphor

  • designed to look at concept of control and its relationship to distress
  • Should be linked to clients' experience of their own futile effort to control distress, can link it to more mundane or less meaningful examples for the client (for example, trying to sleep during a bout of insomnia. The harder you try to fall asleep the less sleep you get. In supervision, we often use the Chinese finger trap example-the harder you try to get out of it, the less out of it you are- you get stuck.)
  • Want to undermine the client's confidence in the control strategy and depathologize the struggle over control
  • Not crazy, just using the wrong strategy

Two scales--anxiety (or whatever fits for the client here) and willingness. Willingness has been low, anxiety has been high. Client came in with the goal of getting anxiety to be low. But what if there's this other scale that we haven't been using, haven't even seen, called willingness. Make a promise about what will happen if willingness is set high-anxiety will be low except when it is high and then it will be high. If you move willingness up, then anxiety is free to move around.

Seems like the goal here is not describing acceptance or distinguishing acceptance/resignation, but merely providing an alternative to their endless, futile struggle

Can distinguish between mind/experience here. Mind tells you that if you demand anxiety to go down, then it will. However, experience says that this doesn't work

"Suppose life is giving you this choice: You can choose to try to control what you feel and lose control over your life, or let go of control over discomfort and get control over your life" (p.135)

Willingness is one thing that only you have control over. I can influence you feeling anxiety for example, but I cannot control how willing you are to have that anxiety.

Comment: This was a perfect reading for me this week! I recently used ACT in my abnormal psychology class in the service of changing the stigma of the mentally ill and making a difference in my students' lives. I provided an alternative to their control agenda, but I spent a lot of time distinguishing between acceptance and resignation. I had one student in particular who would not "accept" the thing he hated most about himself (which was what I used in exposure and defusion exercises) because he refused to "just get over it and move on". I like using willingness instead of acceptance because it frames the whole concept in a different way. There's no question about what willingness is, acceptance can have different connotations.

Another thing: When first reading this section, I thought "how can you describe willingness", "willingness to what...?" I think that my class would have benefited from my using the willingness to experience as opposed to acceptance. This seems much clearer to me.