How To Get “Unstuck” – Understanding ACT’s Pain of Presence and Absence

Feeling stuck? Tony has the answers. Using Dr. Steven Hayes book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (https://amzn.to/3cBAw8Z) as his guide, Tony talks about the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principles of “pain of presence” and “pain of absence” and why attempting to avoid our challenges, our struggles, our pain, is not only putting off the inevitable but how it is also keeping us from living the life that we deserve.

To take advantage of the special limited time offer Tony and Preston share at the end of the episode, or to find out more about the Magnetic Marriage course in general, head immediately to http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic and sign up today to learn how to make your marriage the envy of all of those around.

Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and follow The Virtual Couch on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/virtualcouch/

This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

Tony’s FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to https://www.tonyoverbay.com/courses-2/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

Tony’s new best-selling book “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo

Tony Overbay, is the co-author of “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

You can learn more about Tony’s pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the “uh’s” and “um’s” that, in his words, “must be created by wizards and magic!” because it’s that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ

—– TRANSCRIPT —–

[00:00:00] So a lot of clients come to me and they say that they just feel stuck and they may be stuck because they feel like they’re suffering from just some chronic depression or maybe anxiety has been getting them down. Maybe they’re a little bit frustrated in their marriage or they they don’t feel like they’re doing all that they can as a parent. And their relationship might be stumbling. They’re wondering why, why, why them or does anything really even matter? And it might be that you’ve been in and out of therapy. You’re trying to cope with this inner turmoil or just you don’t feel like you are engaged in life and you feel more distant or deadened or numbed or overwhelmed. And so if you’ve been struggling for some time, you know, you’ve probably done a lot of the questioning of why, you know, why can’t I get over this or why can’t I feel better? Why is life so hard?

[00:00:48] Maybe why hasn’t therapy worked or why can’t they just be normal person like everybody else? Why why can’t I be happy? And you might feel victimized somehow by questions that that seem to not really have any ready answers. And you’re looking, trust me, you’re looking for the answers. You’re reading everything you can. You’re talking to people. People are just telling you, here’s how you need to do it. Just do this or just do that. So sometimes cornered by your own emotional pain, you struggle with it. You feel as if your life is narrowing in around you. According to Dr. Steven Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And he’s got a wonderful book called Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. He says that if you’ve been fighting a war inside your head, what would it be like if instead of trying to win that war, you knew a way to step out of it? And this doesn’t mean that the war would stop. It’s probably going to continue. Life’s going to continue to happen around you, but rather, it means that you would no longer try to live inside that war zone with your psychological survival seemingly dependent on the outcome of the war. And he says, what if that were possible? So today on the virtual couch, I’m going to dig a little bit deeper into my friend ACT acceptance and commitment therapy. And we’re going to talk a little bit about why why is why is human suffering universal? What do you do with it?

[00:02:00] And is there something different with you or are we all kind of going through it in a different way? We’re just kind of not aware that everybody else around us is walking around, going through some of the same struggles. And even if they are, what does that do for me? How does that apply to me? So today we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about a little bit more of how to get unstuck. And it’s not the traditional way that you think about. It’s not going to be to just pick yourself up by your bootstraps, rub a little dirt in it and just be happy. Because if you’ve been trying to do that for a little while and if it works for you, great.

[00:02:32] But if not, if you’re kind of like most humans and that works in fits and starts or in bits and pieces, then today this episode’s for you. We’re going to cover that and so much more coming up on this episode of.

[00:02:50] Everybody, welcome to Episode 246 to The Virtual Couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified mindful habit couch, a co-writer, speaker, husband, father for ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back Pornography 2.0. Got weekly group calls. We’ve got a forum, lively, lively group calls going on every week. So if you are trying to put pornography behind once and for all and trust me, it can be done in a strength based machine, become the person you always want to be kind of way and go to Pathbackrecovery.com. And there you can find a short e-book that describes five myths that people make when trying to put that in the rearview mirrors.

[00:03:22] Trying to not turn to that is a coping mechanism for all of the challenges and struggles in life, including what we’re talking about today, when sometimes people just feel stuck and go to TonyOverbay.com/magnetic and you can sign up to find out about the next time we open up the magnetic marriage course. If you heard the episode of the Virtual Couch last week with my guest and co-creator of the magnetic marriage course, Preston Pugmeier, the response was amazing, humbling, all those wonderful things. And we we sold out just a few hours. And so that is started the first round of the magnetic marriage course, a group call last night. And I could not be more excited. So when that happens again, which will be in a few weeks, be the first in line because it is going to be transformative. It’s going to help people learn to communicate just so much better. So Tony Overbay.com/magnetic and then please follow me on Instagram at Virtual Couch. So I’m excited. I’m really excited to talk about the topic we’re talking about today of just being stuck. I’m going to be referring to a book that I’ve never referred to it. Stephen Hayes book, Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life. It is an acceptance and commitment therapy book. And this is one of those I feel like it’s just one of the fundamentals of the virtual couch where I can just riff a little bit on the concepts around acceptance and commitment therapy. And I think it’s going to speak to a lot of people because I insert 2020 joke here or hard situation here, but we a lot of people are coming out of a time where they feel a little bit stuck.

[00:04:48] And man, I’m doing a lot of research around a podcast that I want to release so bad. I interviewed my amazing, wonderful friend, Dr Laura Sparrow, months and months ago because she had an amazing article about covid and conspiracy theories. And I recorded it. And then then it kind of the world got weird and wonky and I never ran the episode. But I have it. I’ve been editing it. And she just makes so much sense around why we will find ourselves turning to things like conspiracy theories when we never have before. And it really is around this sometimes feeling stuck. You know, the brain likes patterns. The brain likes knowing, the brain doesn’t like uncertainty, it doesn’t like ambiguity. And as Dr Sparrow pointed out and I will release this episode, I want it to be so good that I find myself over researching this one in particular. But in talking about the way that the brain works and liking these patterns, it doesn’t like uncertainty. Your brain will kind of turn toward what’s called a cognitive bias, which means you’re going to try to find something that makes a little bit of sense to you, something that’s in your wheelhouse. And then once you’re within that cognitive bias, then you then your brain really wants to be certain of itself.

[00:05:53] So it does the old confirmation bias thing where it starts looking for any bit of data to back itself up. I did an episode on confirmation bias a long time ago, and I think it was called Why Are There So Many Teslas? And it was once somebody, one of my clients had talked about wanting a Tesla. All of a sudden I just felt like everywhere I looked there was a Tesla. You know, that is confirmation bias. And our brain can do the same thing with thoughts and ideas, that sort of thing, that once you think something, all of a sudden you see it. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve worked in my abandonment and attachment things into about three or four of my last few episodes because it’s something that I just feel passionate about. And now I find these abandonment and attachment things from childhood everywhere I look. I’ll probably work that into the episode today, but acceptance and commitment therapy really is it’s the fundamentals of therapy here upon the virtual couch. And I have seen a lot of people that feel stuck. And so I have I haven’t talked about this book before and I really like it.

[00:06:49] So the chapter that I’m going to start with is Dr. Hayes talks about the concept of human suffering as universal as I’m going to read a fair amount today, giving him all the credit and then I will give my commentary as much as I love to do on the virtual couch. So, Doctor, he says that often many people we meet in our daily life seem to have it all. They seem happy. They look satisfied with their lives. You probably had that experience of walking down the street when you’re having a particularly bad day and you look around and you’ve thought, why can’t I just be happy like everybody else around me, they don’t suffer from chronic panic or depression or a substance abuse problem. They probably don’t feel as if a dark cloud is always looming over their heads. They probably don’t suffer the way I suffer. Why can’t I be like them? And I get to hear this all the time, every day in therapy. And I go through it myself as well. And Dr Hay says, here’s the secret. They do and you are meaning they do suffer the way you suffer and you are more like them than you think. He talks about that, we all have pain. All human beings, if they live long enough, have felt or will feel the devastation of losing somebody they love. Every single person has.

[00:07:50] Or will feel physical pain, everybody has felt sadness, every felt shame or anxiety, fear and loss. And we all have these memories that are embarrassing or humiliating or they’re shameful and we all carry these painful, hidden secrets and we tend to put on the shiny, happy faces pretending that everything is OK and that life is all good, as a matter of fact. And I’m not going to pull the old man get off my lawn on the porch moment here, although I guess I kind of am. And then we have social media, which has some amazing things in social media, but we also typically put out the everything’s all good. This is how you do it. This is how easy it is. You just you’re just happy. Just be happy and beautiful and well lit and nice filters. And then it just looks amazing. But people everybody else is kind of not everybody. There’s an all or nothing statement, but many of us are saying they look like they’ve got it all figured out. It’s pretty easy, but. But it isn’t. And it isn’t. They can’t always be easy or it can’t always everything can’t always be just all good. To be human is to feel pain in ways that are orders of magnitude more pervasive than what the other creatures on the planet Earth feel. Dr. Hayes says if if you kick a dog, it’ll yelp and it will run away.

[00:09:00] If you kick it regularly, any sign of your arrival eventually will produce fear and avoidant behavior in the dog by means of the process called conditioning. But so long as you are out of the picture and are not likely to arrive, the dog is unlikely to feel or show significant anxiety. People, however, are quite different, he said. As young as 16 months or even earlier, human infants learned that if an object has a name, the name refers to that object. So relations that verbal humans learn in one direction, they derive in two directions. So over the past twenty five years, researchers have tried to demonstrate that same behavior in other animal species with very limited and questionable success so far. So this makes a huge difference in the lives of people that the lives that people live as compared to animals. He says that the capacity for language puts human beings in a special position. Simply saying a word invokes the object that it’s named, and he says, try it out, umbrella. You know, what do you think about when you read that word? And that one’s pretty harmless, but consider what this means. If the named object was fearful, anything that reminded the person of its name would invoke fear. It would be as if all the dog needed to feel. Fear is not an actual kick, but the thought of being kicked.

[00:10:12] So do you see where we’re going here? That relationship with words where one of the only animal on the planet that does that. So that’s exactly the situation that you’re in. And this is exactly the situation that all humans are in with language. So here’s an example, Doctor Hayes, I said take a moment now to think of the most shameful thing that you’ve ever done, and he encourages you to really take a moment and actually do this. You can pause if you want to, but so if you give that thought, what did you just feel? He said it’s very likely that as soon as you read the sentence, you felt some sense of either fear or resistance. And you may have tried to dismiss the request and quickly just waited to hear what I was going to say next. However, if you paused and actually tried to do what I just asked, you probably began to feel a sense of shame while you remembered a scene from your past and your actions in it. Yet all that happened here was that you were looking at patterns of I’m looking at patterns of ink on paper. You’re hearing a voice coming through your headphones. Nothing else is in front of you but that, just hearing these words. So because relations that verbal humans learn in one direction they now derive, and two, they have the capacity to treat anything as a symbol for something else.

[00:11:26] You know, he talks about that the the etymology of symbol means to throw back is the same. That’s what symbol means. The throw back is the same. And because you’re reacting to the ink on this paper symbolically or you’re hearing the words that I’m saying and you’re reacting symbolically, the words that I’m reading or the sound that you’re hearing evoke a reaction from you. And they might have even reminded you of a shameful event from within the past year. So he said, where where could you go so that this kind of a relation could not take place? The dog knows how to avoid pain if the dog avoids you and your foot, it avoids pain. But how can a person avoid pain if any time or anywhere that pain can be brought to mind by anything related to that pain, even simply just a word? And Dr. Haze goes on to say, the situation can actually seem a little bit worse than that. Not only can we not avoid pain by avoiding painful situations the way that the dog does, again, the dog can avoid you and it can avoid your foot. But then pleasurable situations also might invoke pain. So suppose that somebody very dear to you recently died. And today you see one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen.

[00:12:29] What will you think? What can your mind do with that? For human beings, avoiding situational cues for psychological pain is unlikely to succeed in eliminating difficult feelings because all that is needed to bring them to mind is an arbitrary cue that invokes the right verbal relations. So this example of a sunset demonstrates this process. He says that a sunset can evoke a verbal history. It is beautiful and beautiful things are things that you want to share with others. But you can’t share the sunset with your dear friend. And then there you are. You see a beautiful sunset and all of a sudden you’re feeling sad at that very moment that you see something beautiful. So the problem is that cues that evoke verbal relations can be almost anything. Again, the ink that you read on paper, the something that I may say in a podcast that make up the word or a sunset that reminded you of a recent loss. So in desperation, humans try to make very logical action. They start trying to avoid the pain itself. But what you learn, especially in acceptance and commitment therapy, is that some methods of avoiding pain are pathological in and of themselves. For example, if you disassociation or illegal drugs may temporarily reduce pain, but then the pain comes back stronger than ever and further damage will be caused.

[00:13:45] So if you put off dealing with certain emotions or pain, if you kick that can down the road, so to speak, eventually those feelings and those emotions come back because of how easy it is for our brain to then take any kind of a verbal or or a visual or even a smell cue. And then with that, do this pattern of thought that gets you to this place where you might feel shame or you might feel sadness. So it’s inevitable that we are going to run into pain. And so the more we kick it down the road, the more we say that we’ll deal with it later, the more we simply turn to distraction, then what we’re actually doing is we’re going into denial. So denial and then what Dr. Haze calls learned numbness. It’ll reduce pain, but then eventually that pain comes back. So this denial, this learned numbness will reduce the pain, but soon it’s going to cause far more pain than having dealt with that pain to start. So the constant possibility of psychological pain is a challenging burden that we all need to face. It’s kind of like the elephant in the room that nobody ever mentions. So this does not mean that you have to resign yourself to trudging through life, suffering and trying to dig up every bit of pain that you, you know, you stumble upon because pain and suffering are very, very different. Doctor, he says, we believe that there is a way to change your relationship to pain and then to live a good life, perhaps even a great life, even though you are a human being whose memory and verbal skills keep the possibility of pain just an instant away, just take a look at the word suffering.

[00:15:25] For example, the primary root of suffer is the Latin faery, which means to bear or carry, and our English word fairy comes from the same root. So the prefix. Stuff is a version of sub, and in this usage means from below, up away. So in other words, suffering doesn’t just involve having something to carry. It also involves moving away the words suffer. It kind of connotes the idea that there is a burden you are unwilling or unable to carry, perhaps because it seems too heavy or too unfair. It just seems beyond you. And that connotation refers to more than pain alone. In fact, it provides a different way to address the problem of pain. So Dr. Hayes goes on to talk about the problem with pain. He says the psychological pain hurts by definition, but it does so much more than that. Often pain hold you back from living the kind of life that you want to live. There’s no question that a person with a panic disorder would rather not experience the feeling of extreme fear because it’s so unpleasant. But that discomfort is compounded by the fact that the panic seemingly gets in the way of living itself. You find it getting in the way of everything on a day to day basis. If you have a panic disorder, you might have begun feeling too afraid to even engage in activities you normally would, because you have this fear that you might panic and it might be that you no longer go to the supermarket because you’re afraid or you might have a panic attack there.

[00:16:45] I work with so many people that are so afraid of that. What if the what if I panic? What if I what if I get stuck there? What if what if somebody says something that triggers me or what if I see someone that triggers me? And perhaps you’re uncomfortable in social situations because you don’t want anybody to see you panic. So you cultivate friends with whom you feel safe, but then you are dependent on their schedules and their availability. You start to live your life in ways to accommodate your problem, and as a result, your life becomes more and more narrow and less and less flexible. So he says it’s worth noting how much of the pain we feel as a focus of attention because it seems to interfere with other activities. One way to get at this core issue is to imagine how your life would be different if your pain went away. Imagine that somebody has waved this magic wand over you and your pain has vanished. And imagine that you wake up one morning suddenly for no reason at all the chronic depression you’ve suffered from all these years or the anxiety or the worry or whatever your core struggles are, is gone. And that cloud is lifted. The pain is over. What would you do? And I’m not the question isn’t meant to be a rhetorical one? We mean it literally.

[00:17:45] What would you do if if you wake up and all those things are gone? It’s called the miracle question. I used to love this thing. What would you want your life to be about? So when you really dig deep onto what that would look like and again, I’m not just saying there you go. Well start doing that, then, you know, if your depression or anxiety or fear or worry was gone, then you would find yourself going out and singing at a little coffee bar or you would you put yourself out there more? I’m not saying old. Then do it because I know it’s not that easy, but I think it’s kind of a fun exercise to do so. What would you want your life to be about? How has your current psychological struggle interfered with your goals and aspirations? And so there’s there’s an exercise that you do often and acceptance and commitment therapy that says basically called the pain is gone. Now what? And so you kind of just filled in that blank. If blank weren’t such a problem for me, I would be doing this. I would be doing blank. And it’s something that is not meant to cause you to feel like, oh, my gosh, then why am I not doing it? I’m I’m missing out on life. I’m I’m a loser. I’m stuck. That’s not the goal.

[00:18:46] What we’re talking about here is let’s go back and look at pain. Doctor Hey. Says there’s the problem with pain kind of revisited. So now you’ve just discovered that all your problems provide you with two sources of pain. It’s not just that your anxiety or depression or worry that it causes pain, but your pain is also holding you back from living the life that you want to lead. And and we’ve kind of laid out that in that pain is easily accessible. It’s right at your fingertips. You can conjure up that pain with a sunset, for Pete’s sake, or or seeing someone or going to a store or all of those things. So you start recognizing that they’re activities that you’d most likely be more engaged in if it wasn’t for your pain in the role it’s played in your life. But the problem that if you did that exercise of I would do this if the problem written down in those exercises, it refers to the pain of presence, which means issues that are present that you would prefer to go away. Social anxiety might be an example of of the pain of presence. The anxiety you feel in social occasions is real and present in the moment you feel it. So you may wish it would go away, but nonetheless, it persists in the face of your best efforts to defeat it. So this is the pain of presence. It’s there. It’s present.

[00:19:52] So there’s a different kind of pain. So those activities you would engage in if matters changed, those represent a different kind of pain. They are called the pain of absence. So as an example, consider the same socially phobic person that I just mentioned. Perhaps this person truly values engaging with other people, but their fear keeps them from doing so in ways that are meaningful. So that connection with others that is so yearned for is not there. So this is the pain of absence. You have pain on top of pain, suffering on top of suffering. So not only must you deal with the immediate pain of your thoughts, your feelings, your physical ailments, you also have to deal with the pain caused by the fact that your pain prevents you from living the kind of life that you want to live. So Dr. Haze posits a question. Let’s see if this next sentence is true for you generally, the more you live your life trying to ward off the pain of presence, the more pain you get, particularly in the form of the pain of absence. It’s kind of deep. Let me say that again. So generally, the more that you live your life trying to ward off the pain of presence, the more pain you actually get, particularly in the form of the pain of absence. So remember, you don’t want honesty. I want openness about your your personal experiences, accountability. You’re the only one that really knows what you’re going through, even if it doesn’t seem logical that this would be the case. Look and see if that that sentence isn’t true. So while you focus more on getting rid of the pain of presence, you’ve actually been feeling more of the pain of absence. And if that’s what’s been happening for you, it might feel as though life starting to close in around you might feel as though you’re in some sort of trap. And if you’ve been experiencing these kinds of feelings, then no, no wonder you start to feel stuck. You need a way out.

[00:21:31] So let me tell you what that looked like in my own life. Here we go. It’s story time. I go back a few years ago. I don’t even know how many years ago. It was a couple of years before I started the virtual couch. And I’m on episode 246. That’s probably so this is probably five years ago or more. And at that point I had made this shift. I was in private practice. I was finally living a bit of a life that I wanted to. Ten years had gone on in the software industry again. I changed careers and I knew I wanted to do a podcast, I knew I wanted to write a book. I knew I wanted to do online programs. I wanted a cool website. I wanted all of these things and I was not getting anything done. I had a lot of irons in the fire, as they say, a lot of projects that were halfway done or not even quite halfway done. I had actually filmed all of the videos for my Pathbackrecovery.com online pornography recovery program, and I had the makings of a website and I had put down a bunch of money on some podcast recording equipment. I had a mixing board that I went on to never use. I had multiple expensive nice microphones that I’m now talking into. One of them, one of them sits on my shelf as more of an ornament.

[00:22:39] And I just sat there in day after day, week after week, just kicking the can down the road and all the while thinking, what is wrong with me? The pain of presents for me was the start. I was starting to wonder, OK, I’m depressed. I really was. I was. I remember still being on a run with a friend of mine named Tom, and we were we used to run together a lot early in the morning. And I was just saying, man, Tom, I kind of feel like I don’t want to I don’t want to do anything, but I also don’t want to not do anything. And I want to get up and go to work. But I don’t want to stay at home. I don’t want to watch TV, but I don’t want to just sit in bed. I just am frustrated. And he said, Tony, that my friend sounds a little bit like depression. And I thought, no, no, no. The people I’m talking to in my office, those are the ones that are depressed. It’s it looks completely different. And I remember going home from that run thinking, holy cow, am I depressed, you know, the pain of the presence that that pain of presence for me was this feeling of just I’m not living up to the life that I really wanted to hear. I do this career change. I finally believe that I’m headed in the right direction.

[00:23:44] But I just was going to get to all of these things. I was going to complete all of these things later. I’ll do it tomorrow. Do it next week. And it’s the old proverbial if it’s halfway through the day, I’ll do it tomorrow. If it’s halfway through the week, I’ll do it on Monday. It’s halfway through the month. I’ll do it next month. And almost to the point of where and if it’s July, you know, I’ll do it next year. And so I’m kicking the can down the road. I’m starting to wonder my pain of presence was this feeling of less than or feeling of depression. And I did a whole three part series on a little bit of what happened next from a pain of presence situation. That’s when I started to really dig deep and get my diagnosis with ADD, the inattentive type and started to to get medicated. And literally from that point forward, I finished a book. I finished a website, I started a podcast. And my practice just went nuts. It really did. It took off because that pain of presence was this. This started this impending feeling of depression or anxiety which was undiagnosed. The symptoms mimicked and diagnosed ADHD. And and then as I’m putting those pieces together, I realized that pain of presence was there, the the anxiety, depression, the ADHD that was unaddressed. But then the pain of absence was there as well.

[00:25:00] I really started feeling like, man, I’m missing out. You know, I changed an entire career. I my my sainted wife watched me go to grad school for two years and and be out of the home at least one night a week and staying up late to study and write papers and then taking a career that I was doing pretty well in the software industry and then doing a practicum for free at the at the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Placer County, then going on to work for not very much at a nonprofit organization by my by my church and. So I had put years into this this this new career, and all of a sudden I’m sitting there thinking, I don’t know, not not feeling it and loved being in sessions, but I feel kind of stuck and I feel like I’m kind of missing out. And so that pain of presence, again, was was just debilitating and that pain of absence was just as bad, if not worse, of, holy cow, I’m missing out like this is there are things I need to be doing. I have gifts, gifts I need to use and not trying to say that in a in an incredibly prideful way. But there were just things I needed to do. So that pain, a presence, that pain of absence. And lo and behold, along comes acceptance and commitment therapy.

[00:26:17] It was amazing because, you know, back to this book, get out of Your Mind and into your Life by Dr. Hayes. He says, What’s the alternative? It’s living a valued life. He said, once we attach ourselves to our pain and we start to judge our lives based on how we feel and not on what we do, he said, in a way we become our pain. The answers that I was starting to put together of just what this pain looked like or what it meant to me, it just, you know, it contains seeds, as Dr. Hayes says, of another life, a life in which what you do is connected not to your pain or to the avoidance of your pain, but it’s kind of to the life you truly want to live. That was the part that I just thought was amazing, was I could still have that pain and I could actually bring it along with me while I started to live more of this value based life, this value of connection, this value of authenticity, this value of adventure, this value of learning, all of these things that I knew I wanted. But I just I would get to them later because I’m dealing with pain, man, the pain of presence, I it’s much easier to go watch a new series on Netflix and than to deal with the pain of the now and so ACT or this this book I’m referring to today, Doctor says not so much about solving your problems in the traditional way as it is about changing the direction in your life so that your life is more about what you value.

[00:27:37] And that is a game changing paradigm. It was for me, he said. Moreover, the unnecessary amplification of pain stops. So when this happens, the issues that you’ve been struggling with, they do start to diminish because your life starts to open up a bit more. You become more wide ranging, more flexible in life, becomes a bit more meaningful. So Doctor Hayes says, you know, if you’re looking at ACT, allow yourself the possibility of living a life you value to be your guide and not just on how you’re feeling. You’re going to feel the way you’re going to feel. And it’s a matter of fact, you find often that when people say don’t feel that way, don’t worry about it. Just just wake up. Just choose to be happy. And I’ve said this on so many podcasts that, that sounds great. And again, if that works for people, that is amazing. The people that I work with and the emails that I get and I mean, I, I have a wonderful colleague, Dr. O, who had reached out to me and had me go train a whole bunch of therapists that at her organization. It was it was a thrill where I got to talk about how I feel acceptance and commitment therapy works where most of us therapists have been taught the cognitive behavioral therapy model, yet not doggin on cognitive therapy. It’s been around forever. So it really is one of the fundamentals of therapy.

[00:28:48] But it has more of this mechanistic view of the brain of just saying, take this faulty thought, this stinking thinking, this automatic negative thought, this and and just remove it, get rid of it. And then that will lead to a different emotion, will lead to a different behavior. You live happily ever after. Sounds great. You can do worksheets on it and you can you know, instead of saying, man, I’m feeling this pain of presence, I’m feeling stuck, then, you know, we we too often here, well, just think of something different, you know, think something different. You’ll feel something different. Feel something different. You’ll do something different. Sounds great. You can write it down again, do exercises, write down on paper all the time. But then when you then life happens and things happen throughout the day and you feel kind of crummy, then you think, man, what is wrong with me? I just I just wrote down the things I was going to think a different thing and have a different emotion and do a different thing. And why didn’t I do that? Well, again, because you’re human and most likely you’re dealing with things that maybe aren’t is value based. You know, once I started turning toward this value based life, once I got away from what they call socially compliant goals, once I got away from doing something because I think I’m supposed to, I thought it was supposed to just keep working in the software industry, even though I didn’t like it, because that’s what you do, because you got to earn a living and and provide for your family, which I think are very, very noble goals.

[00:30:02] But I didn’t realize there was a different direction out there. The direction was, oh, do something that I value, you know, have a value based goal and actually do something that you love. I love talking about therapeutic things. I love talking about mental health. I feel like give me a question on parenting. Give me a question on couples, relationships, addiction, you name it. And I get excited. I really do. When I was talking about computer software, I got to travel all over the world, Russia, Japan, all over Europe, China. And I would present on the amazing and intense, exciting world of device drivers, and I’ll tell you, actually made it kind of exciting. I would have fun at the trade shows. I would. I would, but it was because I was just kind of riffing on just what people were were they’re just asking questions about not so much the content of talking about the exciting world of computer device drivers or storage area networking or I mean, I can still remember all the buzz words, but now I get to talk about something I actually care about. I get to I like I like reading about mental health issues. I come in in the morning instead of want to watch a show. I want to get on YouTube and I want to watch videos about I don’t know about anything about anxiety, about depression and about acceptance and commitment therapy, about Value-Based Goals, about acceptance and about you name it.

[00:31:20] And that is fun. That’s exciting. I no longer find myself having to kick the can down the road, so to speak. And just, you know, I think I’d rather play a game right now and I’ll do everything else later. No, if you’re doing the things you like to do, you want to do them right now. I mean, I’m here at 4:30 in the morning recording a podcast because I need to cram as much as I can into a day, because when you really live in a value-based life, sure, they’re going to be the ups and downs, the struggles, the bumps because you’re human. But then when you you recognize the the negative thoughts or the emotions or the feelings and you don’t feel like, you know, what’s wrong with me, you just say, man, check that out. Here’s how I’m feeling. And then I need to now kind of slowly turn back to some Value-Based Goal Value-Based activity and I can invite the feelings to come along with me. I mean, I can still be sad. I can still be angry. I can still feel lonely at times. I can still wonder if what I’m doing is the right thing. I can have imposter syndrome, but I won’t invite all of those feelings to go along with me while I turn toward a Value-Based Goal. Before you know it, I’m doing something I love and that is a culmination of just makes for a better life, makes for a better day, makes for a better week.

[00:32:22] And over time that becomes your new neural pathways. That becomes the path of least resistance. Your brain finds itself defaulting to the let’s do something that matters instead of the trying to find something to to do when you’re basically living a life that is acting upon something that you feel like you’re supposed to do, not that something that matters. So what did we learn today? You know, I really wanted to talk about a bit about this concept of cues and triggers, how you can you know, if you’re trying to avoid pain altogether or trying to avoid emotion, then you’re just putting it off for another day. The longer you put it off, then the more this this secondary pain, this more of this pain of absence can kick in. And you’ve already got your pain of presence, your anxiety, your depression, and then you’ve got this pain of absence that kicks in, which is the man I’m also missing out on things like that I wish I could be doing. But then the brain doesn’t want you to feel too bad. So it’s going to say, you know, we’ll do them later. Once you pull up that game of Candy Crush right now, you’re doing pretty good, made it make it through a couple of levels. And then we’re going to deal with this tomorrow. You you bet. Your bet, your bottom dollar bust into an Annie reference.

[00:33:33] But we’ll get to those things tomorrow. Let’s play this game right now or watch this show right now. No, you can you can make room and learn how to use a motion to be a bit of your guide and look at that emotion and say, OK, man, that emotion is there for a reason. It’s my brain saying, hey, hey, how about we don’t we don’t do the Candy Crush. We kind of find some something you really value, something that really matters to you. And I promise you, as you start to turn more toward that, you’re still going to have these moments where you think, is this really what I want to be doing? But the more you’re turning toward a value-based goal, the more that starts to become the deeply rooted neural pathway, the becomes the path of least resistance. And the more you start to feel a little bit of momentum starts to feel like a more value based life man. That’s when things really start to come together. Will you still have this pain of presence and the dreaded pain of absence? Absolutely. But you’re going to recognize those as just a little bit of a need to to bring yourself back to present and tap back into those values, values that matter to you, not values that you think you’re supposed to have. Because if you don’t have those values, then somebody will be angry with you. But values that really matter to you and start turning toward those values, come up with some activities, goals, plans, things that are based on your values.

[00:34:46] And as you do that, you are going to start to feel like you’re getting a little bit more unstuck. You’re going to start to feel like you’re making some progress moving forward. And that is truly working toward the life that you wanted to live. Where was I going with that? I don’t remember, but that’s OK. I’ll invite these feelings of I hope that this podcast was helpful to come along with me as I wrap this thing up. I am grateful for every virtual couch listener, I’m grateful for the feedback and I’m just grateful to be here because as I mentioned a few minutes ago, I sat there for a couple of years thinking I got the equipment. But I’ll just I’ll just do the podcast later. And here here we are 246 episodes later. And I couldn’t be more excited about things that I want to do and talk about and record ways that I want to help. And I would love to see you do the same. So start recognizing what those values are and start recognizing what your values are. And and then recognizing them then, you know, just kind of gently bring awareness of some activities that you can do if you have a value of connection. For example, one of the best exercises you can do is when you’re starting to feel down or you start to feel this stuck, then, OK, you’ve got a value of connection.

[00:35:49] And I’ve had clients before that identify they’re just going to they’re going to scroll back down through their phone text and maybe send three texts out to people they haven’t reached out to in a while, because that’s going to bump up your baseline a little bit and you’re then taking action on a value based goal. And it might not seem like that’s going to solve all the world’s problems, but it’s going to get you a lot further than that. Another couple of levels, a candy crush, I promise you that. All right. Hey, I hope you have an amazing, wonderful week. If you have questions or comments, thoughts, ideas for future podcast episodes. I actually got a couple of really cool emails yesterday of some speaking opportunities, I think, as the world is going to slowly but surely open back up and looking at doing some some fun things coming up here in the spring, the summer. And I can’t wait to get to that. Can’t wait to keep spreading the good news of acceptance and commitment therapy, of just helping you become unstuck and learning to live a little bit more of a value based life, because it’s a pretty fantastic way to live. All right. Have an amazing week. I’ll see you next time on the virtual couch. It is as I always end. This is the wonderful, the talented, the amazing. Somebody want to get back on my show because they’ve they’ve got an amazing story. And that’s Aurora Florence with her song.

[00:36:56] It’s wonderful. All right. Have a great week. I’ll see you next time. You’ll catch.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top