Research shows that psychologically flexible individuals show greater resilience. They have enhanced wellbeing, they’re more open-minded, they handle pressure better than the average – but what is psychological flexibility?
Basically, psychological flexibility is a concept used in ACT therapy. The idea behind the label involves contacting the present moment consciously, as a full human being, without needless defense, and having the capacity to modify or persist in behavior depending on what the situation calls for. Lots of jargon? Let’s break it down! Psychological flexibility comes in six core processes.
Process One: Defusion
Defusion is a tricky thing – it involves learning methods to stop concretizing thoughts, emotions, and memories. When you spend a lot of time chewing over your emotions, they can seem more real than reality itself. Overthinking can become overwhelming!
Process Two: Acceptance
While you shouldn’t allow negative feelings and emotions to take over your life, the reality is that they will always be a part of existence. You can’t switch them off, like shutting off a faucet. Accept that these unwanted experiences will happen; allow them to come and go, without struggling with them.
Process Three: Contact with the present moment
This is where mindfulness comes into play. Experience the here-and-now with openness and interest. Be aware of the present moment, and all the sensations and experiences that come with it.
Process Four: Self as context
What does this one mean? This is a shift in perception: it involves experiencing the self as a continuity of consciousness which is unchanging. Your “self” is transcendent and constant. Rather than reducing yourself to the content of your current thoughts and emotions, you are the one experiencing it.
Process Five: Discover your values
Values clarify the things that are important to you, and create a direction in life. Rather than concrete goals, values shape the context of your life – values set the direction you’re headed in, rather than a destination.
Process Six: Committed action
This is the point at which you set goals according to your values, and carry them out responsibly, in the service of a meaningful life. Committed action highlights that although there may be pitfalls and negative emotions along the way, you are willing to carry out your goals regardless.
By understanding psychological flexibility and working towards achieving it, we can find ourselves becoming more adaptive and engaged, and less apt to knee-jerk reactions or overwhelming negative feelings. Personal relationships are improved, and professional advancement is enhanced, as psychologically flexible people deal better with stress, situations, and people.
Ask yourself if this can help you move towards your values in life, and enjoy the increased self-awareness it brings you along the way.