Posts tagged ‘Feelings’

How to Understand Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ll By Brenda Bomgardner

What’s It All About? – How to Understand Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

By Brenda Bomgardner


If you’re like many people, you may have an inner voice telling you things like you’re worthless or that no one wants you. Every day, an exhausting battle may rage inside of you.

Sometimes you try to push back against all those negative thoughts, but they come crashing through anyways.

In fact, trying to counter your negative self-talk only seems to make things worse. Spiraling down quickly, it often feels like there’s no relief in sight.

Now, imagine that there’s a way to counter the effects of negative thinking without pushing back or repressing your thoughts.

That’s what acceptance and commitment therapy is all about.

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Unlike other coping skills—where you try to avoid negative thoughts or drown them out—acceptance and commitment therapy involves shifting your thinking to more productive outcomes.

This is accomplished by:

• Becoming more aware of your actions
• Recognizing what you consider to be your own values
• Making a commitment to act

The idea behind acceptance and commitment therapy is to face those negative thoughts in a more productive way.

It can be very difficult to drown out or counter negative thoughts, especially if they have been deeply ingrained into your thinking. However, acceptance and commitment therapy empowers you to choose what to do about thoughts.

Decide on Acceptance and Take Action

When you practice acceptance and commitment therapy, you utilize a process to make decisions independent of your negative thoughts.

For example, let’s say that you struggle with feelings of low self-worth based on negative experiences in childhood. When you think “I am worthless” you suddenly now have a choice. You can decide whether to take action right now to address this negative thought and might enter into a battle with the thoughts. You might try to counter the negative thought with a positive thought. You can spend a lot of time and energy in the battle and feel like you’re spinning your wheels and the thought keeps coming back. Here’s the deal. You can battle with your thought or you can act on creating behaviors that infuse your life with meaningfulness and fulfillment. You can act independent of your thoughts and/or feelings. You can accept a thought or feeling as a process your mind does based on your learning history and work towards making behavior changes.

Make a Commitment

Another important part of this process is making a commitment not to push back against those emotions, thoughts, or feelings.

Often, what causes people emotional distress is their attempt to push back or fight thoughts or feelings they find distressful. However, this frequently only causes them even more unnecessary pain and suffering.

When you commit to stop pushing back, and begin to be willing to accept your feelings you can begin to approach these issues from a new perspective and make changes based on what you truly value.

Why Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Helpful?

Perhaps the biggest reason why acceptance and commitment therapy is helpful is that you are no longer trying to avoid painful thoughts or feelings.

If you have thoughts about your low self-worth, you may be tempted to “numb” those thoughts through drug or alcohol use. On the other hand, you may try to bottle those thoughts and feelings up inside. Any attempt to release them causes you loads of emotional pain.

Let’s face it, this may temporarily work for you. But avoidance doesn’t really solve the larger problem. You still carry uncomfortable and unwanted emotions around you, and eventually, it will come out one way or another. Acknowledging to yourself that you have and experience painful feelings and thoughts transform them.

How to Practice Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

To practice this technique, it’s helpful to work with a therapist who understands acceptance and commitment therapy.

While it may be hard to discuss painful memories and difficult emotions with anyone, a therapist will be able to support you through the process. They can also help you find alternatives for viewing these thoughts and emotions so that they need not be compounded by the fight against pain causing distress for you.

If negative thinking is an issue and fighting those thoughts is causing you problems, consider acceptance and commitment therapy. You’ll likely find that by finding acceptance and committing to changing your thinking based on your own personal values, you will find relief and peace of mind.

To learn more about Brenda visit her About Me page

About the Author: Brenda Bomgardner is in her encore career. One of her greatest joys in her career is seeing people move beyond life’s roadblocks toward a fulfilling and meaningful life. She believes each person has a purpose in life waiting to be realized that evolves over a lifetime. And the path to reaching your life’s purpose is as unique as each individual. We all have dreams. Step by step she will walk with you on uncovering how to bring your dreams to fruition.  Brenda is a counselor, coach and clinical supervisor and specializes in practicing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is a cutting edge evidenced-based processes. This means there is scientific research proven to show ACT works. Before becoming a therapist, she completed a successful 17 year career in Human Resources at a Fortune 500 company. On a personal note she loves the great outdoors, ATV riding, adventure travel and family.

To learn more about Brenda visit her About Me page,

Determined to Feel Good – Lydia Taft

I’m noticing right now that I am just a bit unsettled.  I won’t try and focus too much on why. It’s simply a feeling that is running its course.  I am inspired to take a deep breath and settle into myself.  And as I settle myself, I try to feel the environment around me.  What does this place feel like right now?  I only feel agitation right now.  Does it belong to me or the environment?  I decide that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I would prefer to feel peaceful. 

The other day I was reading about checking into the feeling of the environment. 

It’s a practice that can help us connect to the emotional climate of a place and as we do this we are helped to become more aware and in tune with our senses.  We are after all receivers and interpreters of energy.  It’s very easy: we tune into either feeling good or feeling bad.  Earlier I tuned into restlessness and dis-ease.  That’s not a healthy place to sit in and I felt very uncomfortable.

But, I have the ability to manipulate my attention and I realize I am getting a bit better at choosing.  It’s a matter of focus and it takes a willingness to become aware of the climate I am sitting in and a willingness to not become affected by whatever happens to be in front of me.  I played with this idea the other day as I practiced watching my emotions flit around.  As they dipped and swooped, I became aware of their connection to my attention of particular subjects.


Look over there and be happy.  Look over there and feel upset.  I was swayed by the environment.  I was influenced by the conditions around me. 

I was being spun around and dragged up and down an emotional roller coaster.  This is what most of us do all day.  No wonder we are often exhausted. 

I am ready to experience something different.  I am ready to be more deliberate about how I feel. 

I’ve practiced meditation, so I know that feeling good is a single breath away.  I’ve trained myself to be still.  I also know that feeling good is a choice that belongs to me, no matter what is going on around me or where I happen to be.  Feeling good comes from the inside.  I can tune into it in any moment and in any place.  I am the receiver of my emotional climate and I get to set the dial to the station that feels best to me. 

Another few deep breathes later and I am back to center.  I am soothed and peaceful.

Right now I am determined to feel good. 

Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 9 Things to Expect in Counseling – Gideon Killion

If you’ve never tried counseling or psychotherapy before, you may be a little worried about what it will be like. You may even be a lot worried. Will it be awful? Like a job interview, but with more crying?

You do not have to cry. Not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it’s okay. Counseling is certainly a good place for crying; your counselor won’t think less of you (and has a box of tissues ready). But… crying is not a requirement.

So, what can you expect?


There are many different sorts of counselors, and many different sorts of therapy, but you can be fairly certain of a few things:

 1. There will be a counselor.

2. There will be a chair. Or a couch. Something for you to sit on, anyway.

3. There will be some talking.

Feel better? Not yet? Ok, here are some more things to know about counseling:

 4.You do not have to do anything you do not want to do.

Everything that happens in counseling is voluntary. The counselor may ask you questions, or suggest that you do things, but it’s up to you. You can say “Yes,” and you can say “No.” Of course, how much you get out of counseling will depend on how much you participate.

5. You can ask questions.

If you’re wondering why the counselor is asking certain questions, or suggesting certain activities, or if you want to understand your counselor’s methods in general, ask! By law, you have the right to ask for and receive information about the theory, process, and methods your counselor uses, as well as his or her qualifications.

6. The counselor will ask you questions.

The counselor will ask you about the issue that brings you to counseling. He or she will probably ask you talk about its history and impact on your life, as well as the steps you have already taken to resolve it. The counselor may ask about many different parts of your life, such as work, income, education, ethnicity, medical history, substance use, family history, relationships, and so on. It may seem nosy, but the counselor is asking because your issue is probably connected to other parts of your life. To serve you well, the counselor needs to discover these connections.

 7. The counselor will probably want to talk about feelings.

The counselor will probably want to discuss many things that go on inside you, such as thoughts, beliefs, physical sensations — and yes — emotions. Some counselors will focus on them more, some less, but you’ll end up talking about emotions at some point during counseling. Whether you think emotions are what make life beautiful, or are the only things stopping you from becoming Spock, your counselor will see them as information about what is important and meaningful to you.

8. The counselor may suggest exercises or activities.

Counseling is not just talking. Many kinds of therapy involve specific exercises that are intended to create insight or foster change. For example, a counselor using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may ask you to keep a “thought journal,” while a counselor trained in Gestalt techniques may ask you to speak to an imaginary person sitting in an empty chair.

9. The counselor will listen to you and care about what you are going through.

It may seem strange that a person you have only just met would actually care about you, but it’s probably true. Most counselors do what they do because they find satisfaction in supporting and caring about other people. You should expect genuine empathy, understanding, and support from your counselor.


Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at

Fluid and Flawed – Monica Myers

The concept is a bit of an oxymoron. A flawed human being…and a saint?

 I recently watched the movie St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray.  Bill Murray plays a retired curmudgeon who befriends 12 year old Oliver, a lonely kid who gets bullied by a bigger classmate. As his single mom tries to make ends meet, Oliver spends more and more time with his “old man” neighbor and the two form an unlikely bond. Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood man with a good heart. In the touching conclusion (spoiler alert!!), Oliver chooses Vincent as his subject for a school assignment on saints. The movie is a bit sentimental—it is Hollywood after all–but it is a sweet reminder of a potent lesson—we are all flawed human beings. And despite our flaws, we are good and loveable.

 As spiritual people, we often strive, mistakenly, for some sense of perfectionism.  We think that if we commit to leading a spiritual life that that should equate to an absence of more ‘profane’ experiences. If we are truly on the path, we tell ourselves, our life should be all bliss, and happiness, and peace, right? Certain emotional experiences, like anger, fear, irritation, distress, or depression, don’t look spiritual to us, and we don’t want to experience them. In fact, we go to great lengths to deny, hide, displace, ignore, medicate and reframe them. We berate ourselves for feeling them.  But are we really serving ourselves by labeling such emotional states as ‘negative’ and unhealthy? Is perfectionism really the true goal?

We grow up in a culture that teaches us to judge, label and categorize our emotional experiences as positive and negative. This discrimination has taught us to resist what doesn’t feel good. Recently, though, a deeper understanding of our emotional experience is beginning to reveal itself as we realize how intimately emotions are intertwined with our health and wellness.

Neuroscientists, therapists, psychiatrists, and the world’s leading health and wellness experts agree that unprocessed life experience and emotions are held in our nervous system as stress. In this sense, there is wisdom in emotions.  Matthew Hutson states the following in the January/February 2015 edition of Psychology Today:

We have the wrong idea about emotions. They’re very rational; they’re means to help us achieve goals important to us, tools carved by eons of human experience that work beyond conscious awareness to direct us where we need to go. They identify trouble or opportunity and suggest methods of repair or gain. They are instruments of survival; in fact, we would have vanished long ago without them.

Emotions are a record of our past experience; they constitute our subconscious speaking and are stored in the body when they build up and are denied expression. Trapped emotional energy will often result in physical dysfunction. Over time, when emotions are consistently suppressed, this affects our immune system, levels of anxiety, and our ability to be our best selves.

The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that 80 percent of all health problems are stress related, and even the conservative Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional element. Our emotional baggage may literally sabotage our health.

The irony/paradox of the ‘perfection myth’ is that as we open spiritually, the emotional places that are still congealed or triggering will naturally arise more into our consciousness and demand our attention. The only way out is for us to look at, respect, sit with and embody these unprocessed experiences. So, the idea of achieving some kind of ‘perfection’ as a human being, free from uncomfortable emotion, can actually get in the way of our spiritual maturation and alienate us from ourselves and other people.

What would it be like to let go of this ideal of perfection, this striving to be something we are not and attempting to ‘fix’ ourselves? What would it look like to surrender to our “perfect imperfections” and… to just be ‘ourselves’? What would happen if we moved closer to these places we’ve been trying to overcome, and met them with an attitude of welcome friendliness? Yes, there would be discomfort and vulnerability. But ultimately, you might find that your life takes on a new quality of expansiveness, richness and vitality. When we stop striving, we start living. The truth is, there is beauty in sorrow and without it, how would we come to know joy?

 Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, wrote:

 Someone I loved

once gave me

a box full of darkness.

 It took me years

To understand

that this, too

was a gift.


 Personally, I am learning to give more space to my emotional expression in real time; I appreciate how embodying emotion reveals the truth about my lived experience and my relationship to others and the world.

Many of us are afraid of feelings, especially the so-called negative ones. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to feel pain or loneliness that it will last forever. But, feelings are by nature impermanent and changeable; I see them as gifts from the heart. And I now understand more fully how experiencing the repressed ones is a necessary part of the healing process—how untangling and unwinding liberates us. The truth is, we are all frequently, fabulously flawed.



Monica Myers, MPH, MA, LPCC is a teacher and therapist currently accepting new clients. She has offices in Boulder, Denver and Golden. She invites your comments, questions and responses. Find out more about Monica and her practice online at the Boulder Art Therapy Collective.


Contact Monica:


Got Sensitivity? Radical. – Monica Myers

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”Helen Keller

As a child, one of the messages I received fairly consistently was, “don’t be so sensitive!” and “you’re too sensitive.” Things deeply touched me. I teared up easily—whether it was in response to my older brother hurling insults at me, the suffering of a small furry creature, or the lonely and dejected 12-year-old protagonist in a book. My rich and complex inner life was sometimes mistaken for shyness. Over time, without realizing it, I adopted an underlying assumption that “something is fundamentally wrong with me” and I spent my young adulthood struggling to overcome this weakness.

We can go to great lengths to bury the fear that something is wrong with us and we rationalize it away. We may not even be aware we hold these damaging self-judgments. On the journey to wholeness, though, they will make themselves known, without a doubt.

Before I became a therapist, I taught for many years in the English Department at Front Range Community College. Early in my career, perhaps in my second year of teaching, I experienced a potent moment in class that I can still see with vivid distinctness in my mind’s eye. My Basic Composition students were work shopping polished drafts of their personal narrative essays in small groups. This was a class of struggling “developmental” writers who generally had never been praised for their writing. I wanted my students to realize they had a voice and that their voice mattered, that their stories were meaningful and offered us opportunities for connection.

Untitled-1Toward the end of class, I asked if anyone wanted to read their narrative aloud. After a pregnant pause, much to my surprise, a student who I knew was taking the course for the second time, volunteered to read his paper. Jamie stood up and began with a faltering voice that became more confident as his reading progressed. I looked around to see an engrossed class. He told the story of a drug deal gone very wrong on the hill in Boulder. He was with his best friend and they were young and stupid, he said. Even though I knew the tragic ending to this true story, I still was unprepared for the well of emotion that began arising in me like a wave. His best friend, just a teen, lost his life that night. Jamie stood there humbled and unsure of himself as he finished reading and the class was silent.

I can’t remember what exactly I said that day in response to the courage it took that young man to reveal himself and his pain, but I do know that I was unsuccessful in suppressing my tears. The lump in my throat gave way, and suddenly I found myself crying. In front of the whole class. I was horrified.

In a competitive and achievement oriented society, we are taught that there are certain expectations and best practices around professionalism in the workplace, including rationality. Emotionality certainly isn’t one of them. Of course, I knew this. And I had failed miserably.

Or so I thought.

In fact, my tears did surprise the class, but in a very positive way. The class began to understand how sharing their truth and witnessing others’ personal stories can weave us together. Jamie was stunned to learn that his words had the power to move other people. After I got over my initial embarrassment, the following period the class dropped to a whole new level. We were able to deepen our discussion. Things became more real.

This experience marked the beginning of my resolve to release my self-judgments and work toward accepting my sensitive nature. Because our habitual tendencies can be so ingrained, it takes inner resolve and active training of the heart and mind to change the trance of our negative self-judgments. They are like familiar old friends lurking in the background. We are used to having them around.

I love Tara Brach’s term for this resolve and practice:  Radical Acceptance. She states,

Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is….When we practice Radical Acceptance, we begin with the fears and wounds of our own life and discover that our heart of compassion widens endlessly. In holding ourselves with compassion, we become free to love this living world. This is the blessing of Radical Acceptance: As we free ourselves from the suffering of  “something is wrong with me,” we trust and express the fullness of who we are.

I have deepened my appreciation for my own watery nature and now view it as a gift.

I have learned that emotions have great wisdom.

Personally, allowing their full expression gives me a greater sense of freedom. Most of the time, I am no longer swimming upstream anymore. And if the authentic expression of my inner experience gives others permission to do the same, I am filled with gratitude. My sensitivity has evolved from a weakness into strong intuition and emotional intelligence.

I think it’s okay to reclaim human dignity with heartfelt compassion and tenderness. In fact, I would argue, given the stresses of our modern society, we need to offer this to others and ourselves more than ever. In what way could you begin practicing radical acceptance?

Monica Myers, MPH, LPCC is a therapist and educator practicing in both Denver and Boulder. She loves to hear from you—please email your comments, questions, and curiosities to

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