ACT Book Summary: Pages 187 - 192

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We're looking at the first part of the 'Clinical Focus' section of chapter 7 'Discovering Self, Defusing self'.

As will have been outlined earlier, this is an important part of ACT. The section begins with a brief outline of the core perspectives that are introduced here. Table 7.1 (p.188) provides the ACT goals, strategies and interventions regarding self.

Initially, it is helpful to 'Undermine Attachment to a Conceptualized Self'. Clients may vary in readiness to work on this area. The timeless struggle between content and context is presenting itself here. ACT promotes the idea that the problem may lie in attachment to beliefs, rather than in the beliefs themselves. This may be seen as a reversal of some views in which self-conceptualization and performance are linked. The 'Mental Polarity Exercise' can be used here to demonstrate the effects of attachment to evaluative thoughts. The description of the exercise also describes the etymology of the word 'perfect'. This is also a powerful and important point, that, in my view is worthy of detailed attention.

Next we have a section on 'Building Awareness of the Observing Self', that aims to help the client notice the process of consciousness and sense of perspective. A 'central ACT intervention', the Chessboard Metaphor, is then described in detail, and a helpful brief therapist/client transcript provided. The Chessboard metaphor can be physically acted out in therapy. Issues such as willingness can be demonstrated through observing how little effort it takes for the board to hold the pieces. An important phrase - " The point is that thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories etc are pieces on the board, they are not you" (p.192).

A couple of notes from a beginner: As p.189 notes, 'therapists and clients are in this language stew together'. It is therefore as important for therapists to work on attachment to their own conceptualized self(-ves), as for the client (a theme of the book). I especially like the brief paragraph on perfect (p.190). In this sense, who is not 'thoroughly made'? This perspective may also carry over to the judgments and evaluations we make of others.

The Chessboard Metaphor is very useful - although I have had one or two clients wanting to sweep all of the pieces from the board (wipe the slate clean). John Billing gave us alternative metaphor on 16.06.04 (or 06.16.04, depending on which side of the pond you're on)