This book encourages you to detach from the causes of suffering, embrace your psychological pain, identify your values, and take action towards those values. It is all based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which focuses on mindfulness techniques, acceptance, and value-centric living. The author pretty much outlines the path out of suffering and towards full engagement of life.
When people believe their negative thoughts and incorporate them into their personal identity, their perspective becomes severely limited, and suffering becomes twofold. There is pain of the presence like anxiety and depression. When focusing on such negative states, a secondary type of agitation emerges: the pain of absence, which refers to the inability to move forward in life and the opportunities missed as a result.
Mindfulness techniques are very effective in catching negative thoughts before they become an ingrained part of one’s identity or self-concept. A daily practice of meditation and other contemplative practices can create a healthy distance between negative thoughts and one’s sense of self as external to those thoughts. Practicing acceptance, or the willingness to experience the situation and self exactly as they are in the present moment is the next step. The third step is to identify values, which are not life goals or specific outcomes but rather directions in life that people make the conscious decision to move toward. Once values are identified, incorporating practices of mindfulness and acceptance paves the way to values-driven living.
Key insights of this book are:
- There are two faces of human suffering: present pain, which refers to an undesirable condition, and the pain of absence which results from not living a full life.
- Human beings think relationally, creating temporal, causal, and comparative links between various subjects.
- Running away from pain only makes it more palpable.
- Avoidance can be counteracted by the belief that it’s possible to respond in a new way to old problems.
- Acceptance means letting go of trying to control thoughts and feelings.
- Creating distance between the self and negative thoughts is the first step in reducing emotional pain.
- Identifying with the consciousness that holds pain is preferable to identifying with the pain itself.
- Mindfulness practices heighten the ability to be flexible and access a wide range of reactions.
- Pain offers meaningful guidance to identify values.
I really enjoyed this methodically and thoughtfully written book which made the philosophical underpinnings of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) accessible. I strongly suggest reading it in its entirety. Get it here.
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