ACT Book Summary: Pages 180 - 187

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This is all open to feedback, of course, as I am never sure I have this stuff quite right. But then again, it's only a bunch of thoughts, so don't believe me anyway.

Somehow this self stuff reminded me of a recent interview with Clint Eastwood (paraphrased from memory) --

  • Int: So, we've talked a lot about what your critics think of you and your work, what your wife and ex-wives and children think. I have to ask, what do you think about Clint Eastwood?
  • CE: I tend not to think about him very much.

ACT (181): In order to face one's monsters head-on, it is necessary to find a place where this is possible.

I believe there is a Zen story (don't recall where I heard or read this) of a man who is alone in his house trying to eliminate all of his demon's. One after one, he faces them down, and they all disappear as he sees them for what they are -- except one. This is the largest demon of all, and as hard as the master-to-be tries, he cannot eliminate this demon. He cannot avoid the monster, he cannot talk the demon into going away, he cannot make a deal with the chimera.

Finally, after he thinks he has attempted everything he could possibly do, he jumps right into the mouth of the demon, and it disappears.

ACT- Three Senses of Self
Conceptualized Self -- The me who I think I am
Clients come into therapy, counseling, etc with varying goals regarding this self -- to defend the self, to fix the self, to find the self, to avoid the self

ACT View for Success Regarding the CS -- to have the client voluntarily experience conceptual self suicide expurgate the boundaries of the self and (my thought) broaden the psychological world of the client to make room for all history and experience - to bring the clients to where they began and to see it again for the first time (I can't remember where I stole that one, either).

Self as concept might make a statement like "I am a person who ....." and this statement is taken literally with many predicates, even predicates which do not work. Examples "I am a person who breathes" compared to "I am a person who is sad, happy, " This universality can cause mucho problems. (Here's a reach) If I am a person who is sad, I may not notice the times when I am happy- they don't fit my self concept. On the other hand, if I am a person who is happy, what does it mean on an afternoon - when it is cold and wet and rainy in Minnesota, and it is June, and dammit, isn't supposed to warm and sunny now - when I am sad?

With this concept we, and the community around us becomes very invested in my maintaining my "image" of being a certain kind of person; or

  1. When I am x and I and my community do much better when I am x, I am pretty invested in remaining x, because if I act as Y there are consequences
  2. Our history has taught us to see and maintain patterns.
  3. We have equivalency statements that may not be equivalent "I am 5'10" (maybe 9") becomes the same as "I am alcoholic."
  4. If I try to act outside of "who I think I am," it seems almost life (or self?) threatening. Note: I wonder about this with the "guys" I work with. Many are domestic violence offenders, and even though their physicality is usually not threatened, many lash out when their sense of "self" is threatened, the "manly man syndrome." OR "Eliminate conceptualization = eliminate me."

The self can be "maintained more easily simply by distorting or reinterpreting events if they are inconsistent with our conceptualized self."

I am concurrently (as my bathroom bibliotherapy) reading a book - The Tao of Zen - there is a quote there that I somehow want to fit into this chapter. You decide -

" For all Chinese philosophy is essentially the study of how [people] can best be helped to live together in harmony and good order ... [There is] nothing more dangerous than that theories and doctrines which belong to the world of language should be mistaken for truths concerning the world of fact."

Our conditioned responses to and with language create the prison which many people go into therapy to theoretically escape, and get there and work hard to build stronger walls. Page 183 - "To escape a prison it is first necessary to see the prison itself."

Most therapy to date has been designed to paint the walls of the prison with different thoughts and/or emotions, whereas ACT's design is for the client to see the prison from both the inside and the outside.

Ongoing Self Awareness
While the conceptualized self is a verbal trap, it is still necessary to have an idea of who you are and how you are when you are there. Without getting attached to the content, there still has to be a verbal self knowledge of life to engage with it. In this sense, it seems it is more like a surfer riding the waves, than a swimmer battling the water, or maybe, better yet, than a non-swimmer flailing in the waves. The surfer knows the water (language, words, content) is there, but does not get caught up in the depth, the swirls and eddies that come along moment to moment.

A thought is just a thought, a feeling is just a feeling. The client is encouraged to engage some of these things descriptively, rather than evaluatively - to look at a thought, rather than through it.

The Observer Self
The "I" is a place, a locus, a perspective. It came about and is used to differentiate my experience from the experience of others? "I" am looking at my computer screen. "You" are not. The "I" sets up the context for description. ( I think I have this right, or at least am making sense of it.)

Spirit/Matter distinction which has emerged in all cultures.
Spirit - a private event that cannot be experiences as a thing or object. Sense of self-as-perspective has same properties as spirit.

This is important because we/I/You as context is the one place any of us can stand that is enduring. Even though we are constantly changing, we always have that sense of "being there," of seeing all that is in our life from behind these eyes.

This important in the change process because there is something grounding about there being one part of us that will go through all of "this" unscathed, at least for the time we are aware of. With all of the threatening things that happen in therapy, life, etc, there is that sense of I that will remain. ( I think)

In ACT, it is important that the I/you-as- context will always be there, at night, in the clouds, through sleet and hail and thunder, wherever I am, whatever happens, there I go.

Page 187 - "The trick lies in teaching the client how to be aware of content, to be aware of the awareness of content, and yet not be so preoccupied with content or attached to it as a matter of personal identity ... without objectifying these events or mistaking them for" the real me. Be careful not to pay too much "attention to that little man behind the curtain."