The ACT Matrix

More about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Training from Matrix Creator Kevin Polk:

ACT is built on the simple notion that language is both wonderful and a trap. It’s wonderful in that it allows humans to communicate and cooperate with each other in infinite ways, leading to tremendous human invention. Language has literally helped take us to the moon and beyond. Language turned inward, however, can be a trap. We humans can get trapped in an endless loop of struggling with our own thoughts, feelings and urges. It is often suggested that we fight off or get rid of troubling mental activity; as if mental matters were some old book that could be trashed or given away.

ACT takes a different approach. Instead of struggling to get rid of or reduce the stuff going on in the brain, we accept it. Why? Because the human mind remembers all. To not think about something is to think about the very thing you did not want to think about. If you don’t want a feeling, then you have the feeling all the more. In other words, struggling to not have the stuff of our minds leads to more struggling, and that can lead to suffering. Switching from trying to ‘not have’ the stuff of the mind to accepting it is not that hard, it’s just a bit tricky. Because the old “I don’t want my own mental stuff” is always there, it’s easy to fall back into struggling. On the other hand, accepting that your mind generates all kinds of stuff, even very unnecessary unpleasant stuff, is easy to grasp too. There are many exercises in ACT that help us let go of the struggling and move toward accepting the stuff of our minds.

Commitment: While letting go of struggling with mental activity is important, as important is knowing who and what’s important to us. Moving toward who and what’s important to us is literally ‘what makes the world go round.’ Clarifying who and what’s important to us is very important, and it’s a big part of ACT. And most important is the acronym itself, ACT. It’s pronounced as if you were speaking about and act in a play. ACT is as much an abbreviation for ACTION as it is an acronym. The stuff that makes the world go round is DOING the stuff that makes the world go round. Knowing that someone is important only comes to life in action. A few words, a hand shake, or a hug bring the importance to life. Sometimes bridging that gap between knowing who and what’s important and taking committed action toward who and what’s important can be very difficult.

So there you have it. ACT is about accepting rather than struggling with the stuff of our minds while taking action toward who and what’s important to us. Simple and tricky at the same time.

The Matrix - An explanation by Matrix senior expert Benjamin Schoendorff

The Matrix is a simply way to help people adopt a point of view that enhances psychological flexibility...At its essence the Matrix is a diagram [see above]  that prompts noticing two differences:  the difference between 5-senses (physical reality) and mental experiencing (the vertical line of the matrix), and the difference between how it feels to move toward stuff that's important and how it feels to move away from stuff inside, like anxiety or guilt (the horizontal line of the matrix).  People are invited to simply notice the difference...By setting up the [psychological flexibility] point of view, we [take] the first steps toward psychological flexibility.  From this point of view, people can more readily make distinctions that will make a difference in their lives.  Making these discriminations leads to a greater ability to observe each act in context.  As people notice broader aspects of the context than they typically had, they become better able to notice whether their behavior is in line with what's important to them and whether it's workable in their varied life situations.

[The matrix may look deceptively simple but it is a very, very powerful tool towards awareness raising and radical transformation]

The matrix supports ACT training and therapy by making the six point of the ACT hexaflex (contact with the present moment, acceptance, delusion, the self-as-context, committed action and values) situationally crystal clear.  Because the matrix is done on a flip chart in the therapy or training room, the situation is now fully present in the therapy room or training site.  It is no longer lodge in the mental inner world. There is no avoiding what the matrix has to tell.

 


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