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An Empirical Investigation of the Three Selves Mairéad Foody, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes, and Dermot Barnes-Holmes National University of Ireland, Maynooth

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Presentation on theme: "An Empirical Investigation of the Three Selves Mairéad Foody, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes, and Dermot Barnes-Holmes National University of Ireland, Maynooth"— Presentation transcript:

1 An Empirical Investigation of the Three Selves Mairéad Foody, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes, and Dermot Barnes-Holmes National University of Ireland, Maynooth Mairead.Foody@nuim.ie

2 Self in ACT  From an ACT perspective, ‘the self’ was initially coneptualised in terms of the three selves (self as content, self as process and self as context), all believed to be natural by-products of verbal behaviour  Although the three selves were not technical terms (Hayes 1995), the self has played a central role in both ACT and RFT since their inception  For example, Hayes (1995) proposed that “ a significant role for therapy [is].. to redefine who the client takes himself or herself to be ”  Similarly, the perspective-taking or deictic relations (I-YOU, HERE- THERE and NOW-THEN) have received considerable empirical attention in RFT research (e.g. McHugh, Barnes-Holmes, & Barnes-Holmes, 2004)

3 Self as Content  Self as content involves describing and/or evaluating oneself (i.e. creating verbal statements about the self and evaluating these statements)  In self as content, your individual world is structured by the literal meaning of your psychological content, such that who you are is interpreted in terms of what your mind tells you at various times  This can be problematic particularly when you take your negative evaluations of yourself as true (i.e. you are what you feel, think, etc.

4 Self as Process  Self as process involves on-going experiencing and describing of your thoughts, feelings, senses, etc.  This is the absence of evaluation, but involves paying attention to content, observing them and watching them come and go  This sense of self leads inherently to psychological flexibility because your on-going experience is ever-changing (so you have as broad an array as possible of behavioural options)

5 Self as Context  Self as context involves detachment from all aspects of your psychological content  In self as context “I in some meaningful sense is the location that is left behind when all of the content differences are subtracted out” (Hayes, 1995)  It is useful in therapy to facilitate this sense of self in order to weaken the control of control over behaviour  You need training in self as process before you can reach self as context.This is because you need to be able to discriminate that you are having a thought, before you can attempt to detach from it

6 Procedure (N= 30) Stage 1 AAQ-II Stage 2 Baseline VAS Ratings (Discomfort, Anxiety and Stress) Stage 3 Experimental Manipulation Exposure 1 (Self-criticism) Stage 4 Post-Manipulation VAS Ratings (Discomfort, Anxiety and Stress) & Reactions Questionnaire Stage 5 Interventions (Self-focus, Self as Process & Self as Context) Stage 6 Experimental Manipulation Exposure II (Self-criticism) Stage 7 Post-Intervention VAS ratings (Discomfort, Anxiety and Stress) & Reactions Questionnaire

7 Experimental Manipulation (Self-criticism)  Participants were asked to write one aspect of themselves that was most disliked (self-criticism) in a single sentence  For example, if Ann disliked her figure she might say “Ann is fat”  The sentence was then read aloud by the experimenter and thereafter repeated aloud by the participant

8 Self as Process Condition  Taken from the body scan meditative exercise in MBCT (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002)  Participants engaged in a 10minute exercise that encouraged them to pay attention to their breath and then to the rest of the body  The key aim was to encourage a sense of self that is ongoing and experiential

9 Self as Context Condition  Employed the mental polarity and chessboard metaphors  Participants engaged in a 10 minute exercise that encouraged detachment from psychological content  Key aim was to encourage a sense of self that is stable and separate from psychological content

10 Self Focus/Control Condition  Taken from a previous study by Stephenson and Wicklund (1981)  Participants responded to a question sheet by answering aloud and providing demographic information into a voice recorder  The tape was played back and they were required to listen to the answers in their entirety  The critical issue is that participants had to listen to their own voice as a form of self focus

11 Results: Discomfort Ratings There was a significant decrease in subjective discomfort (from time 2 to time 3) in the self as process condition relative to the self focus condition (P =.041) When the self as process and self as context were compared, the decrease in discomfort (from time 2 to time 3) appraoched significance (p =.083) No significant differences between conditions on AAQ scores or baseline discomfort (all ps >.01) The experimental manipulation worked! Significant increases in all participants discomfort (p <.001) There was a reduction in discomfort ratings for all conditions

12 Results: Anxiety Ratings No significant differences between conditions on AAQ scores or baseline anxiety (all ps >.01) The experimental manipulation worked! Significant increases in all participants anxiety (p <.001) The difference in anxiety (from time 2 to time 3) between self as process and the self focus condition appraoched significance (p =.067) Both the self as context and the self as process conditions anxiety returned close to baseline ratings after interventions.There was no reduction for anxiety in the self focus condition

13 Results: Stress Ratings The experimental manipulation worked! Significant increases in all participants stress (p <.05) No significant differences between conditions on AAQ scores or baseline stress (all ps >.01) There were no significant differences for stress between conditions. All conditions reduced stress ratings at time 3 relative to time 2. Self as context and self as process decreased below baseline levels. Greatest reduction was seen in the self as process condition

14 Reactions Questionnaire  Self as Context was significantly better at giving participants a new perspective on their thoughts compared to the control condition (p =.002) and self as process (p =.035)  Participants’ ratings of the vividness of their thoughts were lowest in the self as process condition. It was signficantly lower than self as context (p =.045) and the control condition (p=.040).

15 Discussion  Overall self as process condition was the best at reducing discomfort (significant), anxiety (approached significance) and stress compared with the other conditions  Need to determine why the self as process condition worked the best on the three DVs. Is it because the vividness of the thoughts was reduced? Is it because self as process aids defusion?  Could these conditions map onto the three senses of self in ACT, where you need training in self as process before you can reach self as context?

16 Email: Mairead.Foody@nuim.ieMairead.Foody@nuim.ie


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