Posts tagged ‘Suffering’

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,

Creating the New Between Pain and Suffering || Mary Coday Edwards

Creating the New Between Pain & Suffering.

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

October 24, 2016


This is by no means a complete treatise on pain and suffering – just three suggestions on how to work with it.

Creating the new through pain and suffering includes the following steps:

  1. Recognizing we’re in pain, we pay attention to what our bodies are telling us, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological pain.
  2. Sitting with it mindfully, nonjudgmentally and with compassion welcoming it as our teacher (1);
  3. Breathing into the pain, asking our intuition, our higher self, what we can do next.

Now, of pain Dan Mager says (emphasis mine): “Physical pain has distinct biological and psychological components that represent stimulus and response. The biology of pain is the signal transmitted through the central nervous system that ‘something is wrong.’ The psychology of pain is the interpretation or meaning we give to that pain signal—the internal self-talk and beliefs about it which then drive our emotional reactions” (2).

“When we resist change, it’s called suffering ….” Buddhist Nun Pema Chödrön.

As an example: Recently I hurt the tip of my index finger on my right hand – an appendage of significance, as I am right-handed.

How I did so remained a mystery. Thinking it might be an in-grown finger nail, I tried minor surgery on it – exacerbating the pain a millionth-fold. Excruciating, throbbing pain now kept me awake at night.

Since it wouldn’t bend due to its swollenness, I unconsciously held the pained finger straight out.

Not a good idea; our physical world is designed for bendable digits. Plugging a cord into an outlet meant I rammed my finger into the wall – several times as a matter of fact. And into drawer fronts, doors, and the steering wheel, leaving me in tears.

I knew I was in pain, and all I wanted was for it to GO AWAY.  

I was resisting change, and my unconscious adaptation strategy of holding my finger straight out was not working.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.

Of the biblical prodigal son who was competing with the pigs for food scraps, scriptures say “he came to his senses” (Luke 15:17).

I too, came to mine, making this pain conscious, moving from impatience with myself to gentleness and compassion. “What can I do differently?” I asked myself – finally.

“Live in the now.” 

I was operating unconsciously, going about my day ramming my finger into non-movable surfaces. But the now, this moment, is all we ever have. The past is gone, the future is yet to be – this is all we’ve got.

Also, the now is sacred; it’s where we experience divinity. I was rushing through what I declared mundane, to move on to what I believed was “important” and hence missing the divine moment by moment.

I asked if there was anything else.

“Stop using your right hand, use your left.”

OK, that’s like a mini death – a death to my standard mode of operation. Using my left hand meant I approached life slower, more deliberate and measured – a dying to a life driven by efficiency.

But creative suffering usually includes an element of dying – and then a rebirth.

Having spent about a decade in John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul, I was familiar with the concept – not mastered it, of course, how does one get used to a continual dying to what’s so familiar? And in a dark night experience, what dies is a worldview with its treasured beliefs, attitudes, and values.

And so I slowed down, using my left hand, shifting from frustration with myself to compassion. I felt a different part of my brain light up, a different energy was released.

Suffering occurs when your ideas about how things ought to be don’t match how they really are.” Author Brad Warner 

Summarizing my process:

– I became aware of my pain, my resultant suffering, and that the status quo wasn’t working anymore.

– Instead of just living in my reptilian brain of fight or flight, I brought this into consciousness, asking my higher self what I could do.

– I experienced a death and rebirth in my daily routine:

+ it increased my mindfulness, as I was forced to pay closer attention to each moment – my now – that’s all I have, this moment, and the next, and the next.

+ in the process, I was forced to slow down in the doings, my routine, of everyday life. Again, it changed my focus to my now, recognizing the sacred.

+ doing something with the opposite hand normally used can be psychologically beneficial as well as artistic, as it engages a part of the brain not commonly exercised.

Living consciously is at the heart of spirituality. Through it we learn to take responsibility for our actions and for our own happiness, without relying on outside influences. Yes, my finger hurt. But I didn’t have to wait for it to get better before I could experience joy. After all, there’s ALWAYS something or someone out there who can and will create havoc in our lives.

“Paroxysms of pain and twinges of desire leach from universal sources. All human suffering buttons itself to the pang of wanting.” Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls


Notes & Sources:

  1. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, calls this practice mindfulness and says it is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
  2. Mager, Dan, MSW.
  3. Chödrön, Pema. Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change. 2013. Shambhala.
  4. Steele, John W., PhD.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth