Saturday, 31 October 2020

Completion builds momentum

In the therapy sessions, the philosophy of ACT is taught by a number of little stories. A classic one is the person in a hole metaphor. It's about someone standing in a pit, wearing a blindfold, being unable to climb out, and having a shovel in the hand. This foolish guy now starts digging, because that's what you do when having a shovel, isn't it? And, of course, this doesn't work at all. The point of the story: this silly person is you. Because you always hold on to ineffective strategies when trying to solve your problems. The solution: accepting that you are in trouble and ending all that blind, senseless actionism. When you have unhelpful thinking that makes you feel crappy or act in ways that are not in line with your typical self, we refer to these thoughts as maladaptive cognitions or cognitive distortions. It's a fancy way of describing thoughts that sabotage you. Like I said at the start, sometimes your brain is an asshole. There are a lot of different cognitive distortions, so this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most common. I'll be really surprised if you don't find yourself nodding along and saying, Damn, that's just like me, as you read through these. Don't freak out. Everyone engages in unhelpful thinking sometimes. It's the amount and the effects of that thinking that matter. Filtering: Some of you out there probably are superhuman at your ability to engage in this one. This is where you take the negative details about a situation and magnify them, while filtering out all of the positive features of the situation. The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior The next time you walk across campus, take some time to count how many commercial messages you see.

It will probably be a lot. In the 10 minutes it took your current author (Mark) to walk to the student union this morning, he recorded 43 commercial messages posted on T-shirts, posters, packages, and even across people's buttocks! Efforts to persuade are all around us. Any time a person turns on the television, listens to a streaming music station, watches a movie, surfs the Net, or browses a magazine, advertisers rush to persuade that person to prefer certain products and services. In fact, the president of one marketing firm suggested that whereas the average American was exposed to about 500 advertisements a day in the 1970s, today that number is closer to 5,000 (Johnson, 2009). These examples could be taken to imply that persuasion is insidious, beguiling and entrapping us to harmful or unnecessary ends. But this need not be the case. Consider that when an earthquake utterly destroyed Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, news of the tragedy and donation opportunities were widely circulated on pop-up ads, social networking sites, and cell phones. If you are having difficulties with that, maybe more ACT sessions might help. Another ACT story is about a bizarre situation like in a James Bond movie. You are sitting tied up in front of a cage full of poisonous snakes, while a sensor on your body registers even the smallest signs of anxiety. The single rule of your sadistic kidnapper: if the measuring device detects any arousal, the poisonous snakes are released on you. At this point, please imagine the ACT therapist winking at you with a knowing smile and asking: What do you think will happen now? The point of this story: thoughts cannot be suppressed. Because of that, you better have some kind of James Bond gadget in your pockets, or you're snake food. By the way, in the original version from Steven Hayes, you simply have a pistol pointed at your head. As you can see, ACT is a psychotherapy with an above average entertainment value. As a patient, you should express your enjoyment here and there, so the ACT therapist also stays motivated to fire off the next story. Example: You go on a date with someone and halfway through dinner, you excuse yourself to the bathroom and realize that you've had a dried up booger hanging out of your nose. Smooth move.

For the rest of the night, you somehow feel like you are the biggest idiot ever and completely disgusting because of this natural bodily foible. The fact that you two share a passion for kittens, fed each other flirty bites of decadent dessert, and plan on going another date in the future is completely dwarfed by your dwelling on that stupid freaking booger. Overgeneralization: You already know this one. This is where we take one event or piece of evidence and jump to a general conclusion. Your brain is a terrible scientist. Example: You are taking a full load of classes and in the midst of some family drama happening at home, you totally bomb your midterm for that one class that you hate with the instructor that smells like soup. From this point on, you know for certain that you're a bad student because you screwed up on that midterm. Don't worry about the fact that you still have a pretty great GPA and really won't do that bad in the class when all is said and done. As a result, millions of people donated their hard-earned money to help strangers who survived the earthquake, giving more money through private and corporate donations than any individual nation's government and even more than the World Bank emergency grant (Evans, 2010). Similar generosity seems to be occurring in 2017 as Houston and surrounding areas of Texas seek to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Celebrities, businesses, and regular people have donated hundreds of millions of dollars (Yurieff, 2017). Whether promoting more or less helpful behavior, persuasion is woven deeply into the fabric of our social life, from romantic relationships to international politics. To mention just a few examples, our friends and other significant others may try to persuade us to eat at a new restaurant or change the way we treat someone. Psychotherapists try to get us to view aspects of ourselves and our worlds differently. Doctors try to get us to change our attitudes and behaviors toward more healthy lifestyles. Attorneys in courtrooms try to persuade judges and juries to be more favorable to their preferred positions or clients. Parents try to persuade their kids to have the right attitudes and engage in the right behaviors, whereas the kids attempt to persuade their parents to buy toys and gaming systems. On first dates, each person tries to persuade the other that he or she is attractive and relationship worthy. Many ACT offices have a long rope in the therapy room, so the therapist may challenge his clients to a round of tug of war. Ideally, a client isn't able to win, even with full use of his strength, because, this gives the ACT therapist the opportunity to deliver the point of this exercise: not all fights have to be won - this struggle can also be ended by just releasing the rope.

However, transporting this message becomes a bit problematic when a massive client easily hurls the ACT therapist across the room. In ACT, clients are supposed to learn to not take their own thoughts all too seriously. There's even a special word for it: defusion. To achieve this, the therapy offers a variety of exercises, such as loudly singing a troubling thought, or saying it 20 times with a silly Mickey Mouse voice. Unlike many other third-wave techniques, these exercises in some cases are not 100% suited to being done in public. Instead of occupying oneself with the constant output from this word machine in the head, ACT recommends to focus on the more important things in life: values. There are exercises, in which you invent a text for your own gravestone, describe your hypothetical life as a lottery millionaire, or simply choose a goal from a collection of suggestions like unfolding my spirituality. However, talking about values is not unique to ACT. Polarized thinking: This one we can blame daisies for. Remember, He loves me. He loves me not? How come we don't say, He loves me. He's into me. He doesn't like my friends. He wants to be just friends. He doesn't swing that way. He's not sure yet, but he is having a good time at the moment? You get the point. Given that persuasion appears in every corner of social life, it is important to understand this direct form of social influence. Let's start with the basics.

Persuasion refers to the ways in which people try to change someone else's mind by changing his or her attitudes. Attitudes are evaluations that range from positive to negative. People can have attitudes about pretty much anything in their social world, ranging from consumer products (eg, air freshener) to people (eg, themselves, presidential candidates), to social issues (eg, global warming). Because people's attitudes often predict how they intend to behave (though not always, as we'll see later on), the goal of persuasion is to change attitudes in the hope of eventually changing behavior. Intentional effort to change other people's attitudes in order to change their behavior. Evaluation of a stimulus; So what have social psychologists discovered about what makes some attempts at persuasion more effective than others in changing attitudes? Here are the insights that we'll be focusing on: This fundamental topic appears in almost every other psychotherapy as well - from depth psychology to second wave - CBT. Should you now be interested in watching some therapy scenes - a video series called ACT in Action shows Steven Hayes in sessions with his patients. Some short clips can be found on YouTube. Therapists a la carte Let's make a jump to the year 2020 and have a look into a typical CBT office. What will we find? A device for applying electro shocks to patients who are late? Trained pigeons that are serving cold drinks on little trays? One thing that might be disappointing to some: there's probably no couch. And if there is one, you are supposed to just sit on it. Not everything is black and white, but when you engage in polarized thinking, there are no such things as shades of grey (not the article. Example: You group your personal or work projects into successes and failures.

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