Noticing Hooks and What You Do Next

Printer-friendly version


We often get questions about how "Hooks" fits into our protocol...
"Noticing Hooks" serves multiple purposes. First let me set up the context of the Matrix and then the processes, including self as context, that we are targeting with Hooks.
The Matrix is an experiential approach to "training" self-as-context/psychological flexibility. Most people talk about self-as-context, but self as context is very hard to learn through words. The analogy of riding a bicycle is wonderful for this. That is, one can hear people talking about riding a bicycle and one can read about riding a bicycle, but talking and reading about riding does almost nothing for learning how to ride. It's that sense of balance thing that one must experience while doing. The Matrix is about setting up learning self as context through experience, not through verbal learning.
So rather than talk about self as context, using the Matrix we simply do self as context by having people notice two differences (D1 and D2). Doing these discrimination tasks "moves" a person back toward the observer self and toward self as context. [BTW: In our program we never mention the words "observer self" or "self as context."] With each repetition of D1 and D2 the person is closer to getting the feel for self as context, which is the spot for experientially learning what works to move toward values.
By the way, the Matrix simply represents what all of ACT does over and over again: having people notice the difference between 5-senses and mental experiencing, and noticing the difference between moving toward values and away from unwanted mental experiencing.
As you probably know, we first set up the Matrix by showing people the two discrimination tasks. We say that this is simply the point of view we are going to use to learn how to increase valued living and decrease the struggle with suffering. After we set up the Matrix we could move over to the Values side and do some simple values work, or we could move over to the Away side and do the Suffering and Solutions list (working on unworkable change agenda). Either way works.
So after the Toward and Away sides have been covered and the folks in the room are familiar with the notion that one can do things to temporarily control unwanted mental experiencing, but it always comes back. The solution, if one wants to do less struggling with suffering and more valued living, is to be Willing to take unwanted mental experiencing along while moving toward values. Learning to more often be willing to take unwanted mental experiencing with you instead of struggling with it can be tricky. That's where Hooks can help.
We simply give people homework to notice when unwanted mental activity shows up in the form of everyday hooks, and then notice what they do next. Note: No judging is done; one simply notices.
We also never require people to do homework. We just assign it and tell them we know they will either do or not do the homework. Either works for ACT; just notice if you do or do not do the homework.
Now let's slow 'Hooks' down a bit...
People, even 9th graders, are accustomed to just having hooks and then griping about them. Now we have changed the context for the hooks; now they are opportunities to NOTICE. Not do anything different with the hook, just notice it. Then the person notices the next behavior. The emotion associated with the hook is "traveling" along with the next behavior. Since the person is doing this homework in the context of the Matrix, the person analyzes the next behavior as Toward or Away. Or, put another way, Willing or Unwilling. Very powerful stuff. However, there's more...
Each time a person pauses and notices a hook, he or she is doing a little mindfulness exercise. By noticing the hook the person is noticing both the 5-senses experience that triggered the hook and the mental experience (D1). That noticing is done from the Observer Self, which is toward Self as Context. Then the person notices the next behavior as Away or Toward (D2). Again, this is done from the Observer Self, toward Self as Context. 
So by Noticing Hooks and What We Do Next we are doing lots of little mindfulness exercises per day, each one allowing us to experience a bit of Self as Context. Put enough of these experiences together and you arrive at psychological flexibility.
Kevin L. Polk, Ph.D.