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Self-As-Context Made Simple Russ Harris, MD ACT World Conference, July 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Self-As-Context Made Simple Russ Harris, MD ACT World Conference, July 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Self-As-Context Made Simple Russ Harris, MD ACT World Conference, July 2009

2 2 Workshop Aims Understand the concept of self-as-context Have the experience of self-as-context Learn how to facilitate that experience First a quick refresher course …

3 3 The Aim Of ACT Cultivate Psychological Flexibility: Be Present Open Up Do What Works

4 4 The Essence Of ACT ACT= LOVE Letting go Opening up Valuing Engaging

5 5 ACT In A Nutshell Psychological Flexibility Be present, Open up Do what matters The Present Moment Be Here Now Defusion Watch Your Thinking Acceptance Open Up Values Know What Matters Committed Action Do What It Takes Self-as-context Pure Awareness

6 6 Be Present Psychological Flexibility Open Up Do What Matters Defusion Contact With the Present Moment Self-as-Context Committed Action Values Acceptance

7 7 3 Senses of Self Self-as-content (the conceptualized self) Self-as-awareness (noticing/observing) Self-as-context (the perspective/locus/space from where observing happens; the ‘you’ that observes) Just to confuse you … Self-as-context is AKA the observing self, the silent self, self-as-perspective, pure awareness, pure consciousness

8 8 Technically Speaking In clinical work, the distinction made between Self-as-awareness and Self-as-context is often ‘fuzzy’. There are examples of this ‘fuzziness’ in almost every single book on ACT, including mine. For pragmatic purposes, this is not an issue. Where the distinction becomes most important is if you want to facilitate a ‘deeper’ experience of this space

9 9 All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’ Conceptualized self (self-as-content)

10 10 Noticing / Observing (self-as-awareness) All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’ Conceptualized self (self-as-content)

11 11 Observing Self (self-as-context) Noticing / Observing (self-as-awareness) All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’ Conceptualized self (self-as-content)

12 12 Observing Self (self-as-context) Noticing / Observing (self-as-awareness) All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’ Conceptualized self (self-as-content) Conceptualized Self (self-as-content) All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’

13 13 Observing Self (self-as-context) Noticing / Observing (self-as-awareness) Conceptualized self (self-as-content) All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’

14 14 All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, facts, images, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’

15 15 All the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, images, facts, judgments, memories etc about ‘who I am’

16 Self-as-content Self-as-awareness Self-as-context

17 17 A Different Three Senses of Self Physical self (body) Thinking self (mind) Observing self (the part of you that notices whatever your body or mind is doing)

18 Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Thinks, judges, visualizes, remembers, imagines, feels, senses, fantasizes, analyzes, etc.

19 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, senses, moves, takes action, etc. Thinks, judges, visualizes, remembers, imagines, feels, fantasizes, analyzes, etc.

20 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, senses, takes action Thinks, judges, visualizes, remembers, imagines, feels, fantasizes, analyzes, etc. Observing Self

21 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Observing Self

22 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Observing Self Values Values = your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to be and what you want to do with your short time on this planet...

23 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Observing Self ValuesStruggle Struggle = cognitive fusion & experiential avoidance = whatever your mind does that sets you up to struggle: with your own thoughts and feelings.. your body … other people … the world around you … your life itself...

24 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Observing Self VITALITY Values Effective Action

25 Physical Self Thinking Self Three Senses of Self Observing Self VITALITY Values Effective Action Ineffective Action SUFFERING Struggle

26 26 An Experience Beyond Words A container A space A perspective

27 27 Common Adjectives Spacious Expansive Silent Invisible Formless Groundless Without borders Ever present Unchanging Clear Pure

28 28 Useful Metaphors Lantern in the dark Chessboard House & Furniture Watching a stage show The Documentary of you Sky & weather Hands as thoughts

29 29 Why Is This ‘Space’ So Important? If we want people to stop running from their pain, let’s help them experience that there is a ‘place inside’ where no matter how great the pain is, it cannot harm them It is a place from which we can observe our experience, without being caught up in it. In this space, thoughts and feelings do not control actions. This facilitates conscious choice.

30 30 Why Is This ‘Space’ So Important? Once established, can utilize for rapid defusion and acceptance: “Let’s look at this thought from your observing self.” “Take a step back, and look at this feeling from your observing self.”

31 31 How To Introduce Self-as-context Can bring it into any session – even the first, even during informed consent. There are two parts to your mind: Thinking self versus Observing self Watching a sunset Playing tennis

32 32 How To Introduce Self-as-context More traditionally, made explicit after several sessions on defusion/acceptance/ present moment ‘So you’ve been doing all these mindfulness exercises – noticing thoughts, noticing feelings, noticing your breath etc. What is this part of you that does all the noticing? We don’t have a name for it in everyday language. So how about we do an exercise now, to learn more about this aspect of you?’

33 33 The Documentary of You Metaphor: mind as documentary maker Now turn to your partner and for 1 minute tell them about yourself… And notice what you don’t tell them! Now let’s watch the documentary. To begin with, close your eyes, and run that self-description through your mind.

34 34 Brief Observing Self Exercise 1 Close your eyes. Notice: where are your thoughts? Above you, behind you, in front of you, to one side? Inside your head or body? Are they pictures, words or sounds? Moving or still? What speed & what direction? There are your thoughts – and there ‘you’ are, observing your thoughts. Your thoughts keep changing. The ‘you’ that observes them does not change. This gets your mind whirring/ debating/ analyzing – so let’s do that again. Notice: where are your thoughts? (Repeat as needs)

35 35 Brief Observing Self Exercise 2 Notice how you’re sitting (5 secs) Notice what you can see (5 secs) Notice what you can smell and taste (5 secs) Notice what you can hear (5 secs) Notice what you’re thinking (5 secs) Notice what you’re feeling (5 secs) Notice what you’re doing (5 secs) There’s a part of you in there notices everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think, feel, or do … is it good, bad, or ‘just there’?

36 36 Brief Observing Self Exercise 3 Notice how you’re sitting (5 secs) And as you do, be aware that you’re noticing (10 secs) Notice what you can see … And as you do etc. Notice what your mind is saying.. And as etc. Notice what you can smell and taste...And etc. Notice what you can hear …. And as etc. Notice what you’re thinking …. And as etc. Notice what you’re feeling …. And as etc. Notice what you’re doing …. And as etc. Notice what thoughts you’re having …And etc.

37 37 Not This, Not That Exercise 1. Observe X 2. There is X; there you are observing X 3. If you can observe X, you cannot be X 4. X continually changes; the ‘you’ that observes X does not change 5. X = Breath/thoughts/body/feelings/roles 6. To emphasize the ‘continuous’ nature of you can add in memories: The ‘you’ that observes was there at the time.

38 38 Who Are You? Q: Who are you? R: I am … Q: Thank you. (pause). Who are you? R: I am … To finish off, R says: ‘I just am’

39 39 Let Yourself Go Bring to mind an image and some words that represent your: a) Professional self; b) Suffering self; c) Strong self Observe this image and these words If you can observe this image and these words, you cannot be this image and these words Knowing this, let it go …for now When it comes back, hold it lightly

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