The acceptance of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be off-putting on first blush. Seen as an act of weakness or a ‘giving in’ to negative and uncomfortable feelings, acceptance can feel like ‘just giving up’.
Acceptance in this therapy modality is about being present with emotions, even if they are uncomfortable. Accepting them as they are.
Especially when they are uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable in the emotional realm is often an experience of the unfamiliar. Unfamiliar because we do everything on the daily to avoid the feeling(s):
- Numb it
- Distract from it
- Evade any triggers for it
Acceptance is the willingness to stop dodging the thing: anxiety, shame, sadness, hurt, etc.
Doing otherwise is inviting cracks in your foundation and that creates the need for continual avoidance and maintenance of the structure (your life) just to function.
This, my friends, is why we must TALK ABOUT BRUNO.
Bruno is the scapegoat/black sheep of the family in the Disney movie Encanto, locked away and unacknowledged, though (spoiler alert), he is living behind the walls, longing to be a part of the family, and desperately trying to patch the cracks and keep the house working.
His crime: telling the truth.
Only after Bruno rises to the surface, acknowledged and embraced, that the healing in the system begins. Until then, the family spends a lot of energy NOT talking about Bruno. They are like hamsters on a wheel, confusing activity with achievement.
With our own unwanted emotions, the same thing happens. We spend a lot of energy boxing up our pains and trying to ignore the box even as the cracks in it grow. It’s the struggle that’s keeping you stuck.
When you take the fight out, you take the bite out.
Acceptance is being willing to bring your Bruno to the table and sit with it. If this feels overwhelming, you don’t have to do it all at once, nor do you have to do it alone. This is a large part of the work that happens in therapy.
In ACT, we don’t just rush into acceptance. Rushing into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable is a scary ride. The nervous system doesn’t care for that.
We first learn the skill called grounding and centering (also called dropping anchor) to regulate the nervous system into the window of optimal functioning. That way, we can slowly titrate into the feelings just as they are.
Practicing acceptance allows for the work of unhooking from the feelings, and cognitions which keep us stuck. Unhooking, or ‘de-fusing’, gives the grace and space for making changes (committed actions).
Bring your personal Bruno(s) out of the shadows with the help of ACT (and me).