ACT Mindfully: Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Training
May 2007 Newsletter

2. Main Article: Confidence
As a reason for not taking action, clients will often say something like, ‘I don’t have enough confidence.’ This attitude presents a major obstacle, because if you wait until the day you FEEL confident before you start to take action, then you may be waiting forever. When clients say they want to feel ‘confident’, they generally mean they want to be ‘fearless’. In other words, ‘I don’t want to have all these feelings of fear/anxiety/self-doubt.’ But the reality is, whenever you do anything that is new or challenging or involves stepping out of your comfort zone, you are likely to feel anxious or fearful or worried.

This makes sense in terms of evolution: whenever our ancestors moved into new territory, they would go into a state of high-alert, actively on the look-out for danger - and this would help protect them from being hurt or killed. And it’s the same today – as soon as we move into ‘new territory’ we will go into a state of high alert, preparing ourself for a challenge. Thus we will experience raised adrenaline levels, and alterations in our nervous system that heighten our reflexes, prime our muscles, increase our alertness, and prepare us to take effective action. And at the same time, our mind will naturally warn us of any potential danger - and tell us about anything that could go wrong or hurt us or harm us in any way. We have a wide variety of names for this normal response to a challenge: fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, insecurity, ''adrenaline rush'', or simply ''nerves’.

There is no way to avoid this physiological and psychological response; it is a combination of thoughts & feelings & sensations that inevitably ‘comes with the territory’. But we can learn to accept it: we can ‘switch off the struggle switch’ and make room for our difficult sensations and feelings. And we can defuse the scary thoughts and images. (‘Aha! The FAILURE story, again. Thanks mind!’) And instead, we can focus our energy and attention on taking effective action. One way we can facilitate this is to discuss the word ‘confidence’. Confidence comes from two Latin words: Con Fides – which means ‘with fidelity’. Now ''fidelity’ means ‘being true’. For example, a high-fidelity copy means one that remains true to the quality of the original. So if you are acting with fidelity, that means you are being true to your experience. And what is your experience? Typically, in facing a new challenge, it will be fear, anxiety or doubt. So you can be true to that experience - in other words, be open to it, and acknowledge it, rather than trying to hide from it or deny it - and at the same time, keep on taking effective action. For example, you can breathe into your feelings, make room for them, and acknowledge to yourself, ‘Okay, I’m feeling anxious. There''s a knot in my stomach. My heart is racing. My mind’s telling me I’ll fail. And I’m going to keep doing what really matters!’

Sometimes this issue arises when you ask a client what they want from therapy and they say, ‘I just need more confidence’. This is where a magic wand is very useful. We can ask, ‘If I had a magic wand here, and I waved it over you, so that you felt complete and total confidence, what sort of things would you do?’ Whatever the client says, you can then start breaking those outcomes down into small achievable goals - and then into concrete actions. We can point out that although we can’t control the FEELING of confidence, we CAN control the ACTION of confidence. In other words, we can move our arms and legs to do what matters – even though we can’t switch off the difficult thoughts and feelings that inevitably show up. And, over time, if we repeatedly do the ACTION of confidence, over and over again, than hey – guess what? - after a while, we may actually start to have the FEEL of confidence. (Of course, although this often happens, it doesn’t always. So make sure that the FEELING of confidence does not become a goal in itself; rather, see it as a beneficial byproduct. It will often happen - but not always - so enjoy it when it does show up, but don’t expect it.)

Of course, goals and actions will need to be aligned with values - for motivation, guidance, and inspiration. A simple way to connect with possible underlying values is to ask questions like, ‘Why is that goal important? What matters to you about achieving it? What would it enable you to do? What’s important about that?’ – and so on. Once we’ve clarified an important underlying value, we can then ask, ‘If this is really important to you – if doing this really matters – than are you willing to make room for some unpleasant thoughts and feelings, in order to do it?

Finally, it is often useful to talk about ‘courage’ versus ‘fearlessness’. Only superheroes, robots and corpses are ‘fearless’. Fear is a normal human emotion that we all experience when facing a challenge. ‘Courage’ comes from the Latin word ‘Cor’ which means ‘heart’. So courage means you do what is in your heart, regardless of how you feel. And what is the most common feeling we experience when we act courageously? You guessed it: FEAR!!! So the best recipe for dealing with low confidence is: stop trying to be fearless. Allow your fear to be there, thank your mind for the ‘Can’t Do it’ story, and do what really matters, deep in your heart.

3. Metaphor of the Month: Junk Email
I invite you to contribute your favourite metaphors for this segment of the newsletter. This issue, the metaphor comes courtesy of Alex Zannoni. (My words, Alex’s concept.)

Many of your thoughts are like junk email. Isn’t it the case that no matter how good your spam filter, some spam always gets through. The only way to avoid it is to stop using email altogether – but then you’ll miss out on a very valuable tool. However, just because you have spam in your inbox, doesn’t mean you have to open it up and read it. You can acknowledge it’s there – ‘Oh! More spam! What a surprise!’ - and move on to a more important email. And even if you open that spam by accident, as soon as you realise that it’s just another advert for medications, surgery, or a new release on the stock market, then you can stop reading. You don’t have to keep on reading every single detail. And you don’t have to rush out and buy whatever it’s selling, just because it tells you to. And furthermore, no matter how much spam you delete – there will always be more to come. So what’s the point in getting angry or upset about it? If you''re using email, spam comes with the territory. So acknowledge it, accept it, and don''t waste time struggling with it. And at the same time, use your own email to enhance your life - to communicate and connect with the people you care about.


Well-known member
Great advice sabbath !
Acceptance is a major step for SP sufferers IMO. Before now I use to blindly put myself in situations thinking that I could handle it (before SP) only to have an episode/panic attck. Now I know what situations to put myself in and have become selective. Especially in Job roles, and it doesnt stop me from doing what I want to do either. I think that if your have a choice over things like this, your mind will feel more relaxed and have a better sence of control = more happy in life. :)