There’s a deeper philosophical perspective within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Clinicians can familiarize themselves with the strategies and techniques within ACT and use them as everyday clinical tools. Defusion, Acceptance, Values and Commitment sit on either side of the ACT Hexaflex within a clear delineation (see figure 1)and so these techniques could be seen as arbitrary standalone “forms of treatment.” There’s more to ACT than what we just see on the surface. Of course, there is much deeper meaning of these four concepts of ACT.
What really captures my attention in ACT are the concepts of ‘self’ and ‘presence’. You can see from figure 1 that these two concepts bridge the gap between the delineations.
Briefly, the concept of self is the human ability to transcend across time, space and person. We can think back to when we were children, look at old school textbooks and photographs, re-experiencing the event through our memory. We can imagine ourselves in different places such as up in the mountains, having coffee with friends or sitting on a beach in Samoa! We can also place ourselves in the “shoes of others” through our ability to experience empathy. This ability of perspective-taking gives humans a unique ability to move across time, space and people from a sense of me to an interconnected sense of we.
Presence could almost be the Yang if the ‘self’ were its Ying. Remember the ‘self’ permitted us to transcend across time, space and person. Yet, this is often what we do when we become inadvertently ‘lost in our minds’. Presence is about understanding the here and now, the yearning for orientation. The problem is that instead of orienting us to the here and now, our ability to yearn for what was or what will be is only ever captured in our minds and so we try to orient ourselves either by ruminating about what’s happened in our past or we worry about what will happen in our future. This is ultimately a futile exercise as what we experienced in the past cannot be restored to the present and what we imagine in the future is only ever a prediction.
So here’s a mission for you, if you choose to accept it. Reflect on those two aspects of ACT, the ‘self’ and ‘presence’. Perhaps you live with pain or help people living with pain. Can you reflect on how you as ‘self’ and ‘presence’ is affected by perspectives of time, space and person and how memories of old and predictions of future can have an impact on how we engage in our lives?
This wouldn’t be a 31 days project without an accompanying video. So to try and help you grasp the concept of ‘self’ and ‘presence’ watch this short clip from the movie interstellar. In this clip Brand talks about the mystery of how love (drawn to a person) transcends space and time. A person that she has not seen in a decade and is likely passed on. The memories of the past and the anticipation and prediction of the future is what drives her decisions rightly or wrongly, her presence is influenced by ruminating thoughts of the past and future.
Enjoy the clip.