Lecture 1: Acceptance

22 minutes
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Hi I'm Dr. Rich Piana and welcome to session five of the course, this session is on acceptance, one of the key components of acceptance and commitment coaching, obviously. And I like to teach acceptance after I teach mindfulness because the way I look at it is in order to accept something, you have to be aware of it right. So as clients increase their mindfulness of their thoughts and feelings about certain aspects of their sexuality, then they can step back and they can accept that reality for what it is, and whatever pain and suffering is associated with it, and then move forward. So I see mindfulness of the problem, acceptance of it, then starting to build some goals that are based on sexual values and then moving forward. So that's kind of where we are and as is normal for the course if you haven't printed off the activities for this session yet.

Go ahead and do that and get right to it. Thanks. Reduce myself. Okay. All right. So again, if you look at the ram model, and what we're trying to do in AC coaching is help clients move from a state of being psychologically inflexible, which contribute to them being stuck to become more psychologically flexible.

And you'll see that acceptance is one of the techniques that AC coaching uses to help clients make this transitions. And there's the way I have it structured is you know, now we understand what mindfulness is, clients are aware of your thoughts and feelings and behavior. And now we're getting into helping them accept those for what they are. And that's really the simple definition of acceptance is accepting reality for what it is. Now this acceptance is often painful. And you know, a lot of people don't want to accept things about themselves or things about their relationship.

Things about their sexuality, because it's hard to face. And this is where a lot of values conflicts come in, you know, people are raised a certain way. And they reach a point unnecessarily I no longer believe in that. And there's this painful conflict. But acceptance is essential for committing to the next step, which is taking values congruent action. And the thing to remember is you can accept facet of your life or clients can accept things about them, that really wanting that, you know, they can accept the fact that they get angry at their spouse, for example, but not really want that, but just realize that right now, that's a facet of the relationship that I accept.

And I'm going to take all of the pain and suffering that I've created as a result of that, kind of bring it with me as I hope to change. So acceptance is the first step. Now acceptance training has four components, and one is just laying out for clients that I just laid out for you that accepting reality for what it is, however, pain The second part is accepting what you can and cannot control which will go into detail. If you remember from the training and AC coaching back in session two, that research shows that trying to avoid eliminate or control, you know that pain and suffering that people have about the relationship actually only makes it worse. And then the fourth thing is, well then what I do with it well accepting that the best way to manage pain and suffering is to accept it, coexist with it, and shift your focus off of it.

As you take action. All right, carry with you, you know, I often make reference to that rucksack we will carry around that's filled with pain and suffering and how it's okay to just drop it and put it out in the side and move forward. Okay. Now, control and acceptance are inversely related. And if your clients are like mine, you know, a lot of them want to be able to control everything about their lives. And control everything about a situation and work it all out in their head in advance before taking any action.

So getting people to accept involves having to give up a certain amount of control. Because the more that clients need to control their troubling thoughts and feelings, etc, the less willing they are to accept them and to take action. And you know, conversely, the more willing they are to accept their pain and suffering, the less they need to control it before taking action. So you want to help them move away from control and towards acceptance. And a big part of that is getting them to shift the focus off of what they can control and onto what they can control. So helping them understand that you know, you really can't control your thoughts, feelings, personal scripts, no mental images and emotions because they just come and go like the wind often.

So rather than focus all of your energy trying to work on this stuff that you can control why Don't you shift your focus off of it and work on what you can control, which is your behavior, you know, your personal sexual behavior, your sexual relationship behavior, and what I call the micro environment, which is clients immediate environment, you know, your office, your car, your bedroom, things that are within your ability to control your garden, whatever. Now, since AC research shows, as I mentioned that trying to control avoid or eliminate unhelpful thoughts, scripts, images and feelings only makes them worse. The goal really is to manage them effectively. And in order to do that clients really need to understand the difference between managing something and controlling it. Okay, so controlling something implies that you're able to manipulate and regulate all aspects of it. And the best example I can think of is your shower.

You know, when you go into your shower, you can totally control the temperature on the water assuming of course your hot water heater. Working, you can adjust the amount of hot water, you can adjust the amount of cold water, and you can perfectly control the temperature of that shower. Now managing however, involves accepting that you can't manipulate and regulate all of the variables related to something. You can't control all of the variables. So the best example I can think of, of this is managing a team. And I managed my son's youth football teams, youth basketball teams and youth baseball teams.

And I'll use baseball as an example if you've managed, I guess, you know, all of the youth sports teams have the same variable. So let's use managing a softball or baseball team as example. So what are the variables involved? Well, you've got the draft in which players are selected. And you have the players. You have the parents.

You have the fields, the equipment, the weather, the umpires, the schedule, practice time. Travel and the opponents. So let's look at how many of these variables you can actually control. We can't control the draft, I mean, you can choose players you'd like to pick, but if someone picks them before your turn, you got to shift to a plan B. You can't control the players as much as you know, people who don't coach think you can, you have a certain amount of control over the players and you can punish them or find them if they behave in ways that are against the team. But there's really no way to know which little kid is going to show up any given day when they get to your field.

You obviously can't control the parents. I mean, it's about the same level of control as the kids maybe less. You can control some aspects of the fields like I remember getting up at four o'clock in the morning, going out to a field with bags of the stuff that dries up the infield if it gets muddy from the rain, you know dumping in raking it before I went to work in the hopes that the infield will be a little nicer for the game later. That's about all you can do the equipment, kids bring their own equipment, leaks, supplies, equipment. So you know, you can make sure that it's it's in good shape, but you have a certain degree of control, no degree of control over the weather, no degree of control over the umpires. Very little if any degree of control over the schedules.

A high you can control your practice and practice time. You can make travel arrangements to have some degree of control over that. And you really have very little control of any over your opponents. So when you look at it, the overwhelming majority of variables involved in managing a youth baseball team are out of your control. Right? So how do you handle this lack of control?

Well, what most reasonable adults do is accept it. They accept that and move the majority of things you know, under my control and situation are beyond my control. You know, I'm still going to try and work on the things that I can control and accept the rest and hope for the best and try and enjoy the process. And I remember being out on the field sometimes, after a really crazy week of practice with the kids, and then it's a beautiful Friday evening in the spring, and it's you know, 70 degrees and the sun's going down, and I'm out there in shorts, you know, playing baseball, and it kind of makes it all worthwhile. Alright, I have a really fun activity I've developed to kind of help clients look at acceptance in terms of their own sex lives. And I call it my personal sex movie.

And it really is a fun way to help clients look at their sex life as a documentary movie. And that allows them to kind of step back and play the role of filmmaker documenting their life rather than person who's actually living this life. So it's kind of a fun activity and if you haven't printed it off, yet Take a moment and print it off. Will I get a drink of water? Okay, good. All right.

Now to do this exercise, clients lead about a dozen file cards, you know five by eight file cards and it felt tip pen. And once they get those assembled, we asked them to do the following. Close your eyes and imagine that you are famous director shooting a documentary movie about your own sex life. Imagine that each scene in this movie represents one aspect of the client's sexuality. Now on separate file cards write down have clients write down to personal scripts, mental images and emotions regarding each of the scenes below. Now a documentary film if you remember reports, what is rather than what should be so have clients write down You know, what are your thoughts, scripts, images and feelings about your body, your masculinity, femininity, your sensuality, your sexual orientation, your sexual behavior, your current sexual partners, and your current sexual relationship.

So this is all stuff that you've already gone over going to we've gone over in this course and I'm assuming you've gone over this stuff with your clients. So I would suggest they do this as homework because you could see that you know, to write all this stuff down is going to take a while and you want them to think it through and be as honest as possible. You want to emphasize that. So documentary what is versus what should be and have them start each scene with the following my mind thinks sees and feels the following things about. So this puts it in the context of helping them step back and look at what their mind is telling them about their body, their sensuality, etc. This is a Another technique that I'm going to introduce formally later on in the course, but kind of using it as a way to step back and say, Well, this is what my mind is telling me.

It's almost like the director stepping back and looking through the lens of the camera. Okay? Then separate the scenes that represent areas in which clients are stuck sexually and put those cards in a separate pile. And then finally, using the following sentence, I accept that these thoughts, images and feelings are keeping me stuck in the following way. And have the client identify how are these thoughts feelings, scripts, and emotions keeping you stuck? So regarding my body, how are they keeping me stuck?

You know, regarding my relationship, I accept that this is how they're keeping me stuck, etc. So a lot of writing let me give you an example. So using the current relationship, right, that's the scene. My mind season thinks the following things about my current relationship and this is actually from a client that I had. I'm happy being married to my wife, she's very steady person who has a lot of common sense, where I tend to be a little flaky. She keeps me grounded.

She and I grew up together have been married for over 30 years. My mind feels the following emotions about the same. So we're separating right thoughts from feelings. I feel very relaxed and comfortable around my wife. She's very laid back and not demanding at all. She makes me smile.

I accept that these thoughts and feelings are related to my sexual values in the following ways. I accept that my sexual behavior values are different from my wife's in a few areas, things like oral sex. I like him more than she does amount of sex. I want more than she does. I accept that my thoughts and feelings about this sometimes causes me to get stuck because I wish things are different than what they are. Now my sexual thoughts and feelings are keeping me stuck in the future.

Ways, at times I sell an investment from my wife when she isn't in the mood or set up for sex, or doesn't want to give me oral sex more often, this causes her to back off even more. And days, my pastor, I'm not very loving and sexy towards her. And this usually doesn't last more than two days. Okay, so what you what you can see is how this all plays out. And, you know, just really having a client take his or her time and go through all of the key aspects of this sexuality. And you know, identifying what they are identifying the thoughts and feelings that are associated, and then accepting that this stuff is keeping me stuck in the following ways.

And this sets the stage for then setting goals in the sexual relationship to get unstuck. So it really clearly identifies exactly what the areas are and what the underlying thoughts and scripts and feelings And mental images are that are contributing to getting stuck, which is all essential data for getting unstuck. And there are many non sexual acceptance activities I've included I think about four extra acceptance activities in the additional activities PDF files, so feel free to substitute or give other ones as homework assignments. A couple more metaphors. And as I mentioned in the past, AC coaching uses a lot of metaphors to help clients understand and apply the concepts and techniques. So I'm going to do one real quickly right now quote, my acceptance and willingness umbrella.

And if you haven't gotten this out and printed it off, pause the video and take a moment and do that right now. Okay, good. Now the purpose of this activity is to use a common example of something that clients are already doing that demonstrates They accept their pain and suffering while moving forward and taking care of some business that has to be taken care of. Okay? So what you want to do is you want your client to ask your clients to pick a sexual relationship issue that they're stuck on. Or and you know, in particular one that they're trying to control, avoid or eliminate.

And then ask them to close their eyes. And then you read this metaphor to them. So they pick an area that they're stuck on and they're really trying to control avoid or eliminate and all the pain and suffering associated with that. And then you read the metaphor. I close your eyes. I'm going to read the metaphor Close your eyes, and visualize the sky darkening the wind picking up and rain clouds swirling all around you.

Now imagine that the messages Your mind is telling you about the situation you are stuck on. Our raindrops just beginning to fall on your head. You feel the drops and you say to yourself, I'd better use my umbrella. Now imagine that you open your umbrella, and it provides instant relief from your troubling thoughts, painful emotions, etc. Like raindrops they bounce off your umbrella and don't interfere with you doing what you need to do. As you continue walking in the rain with your umbrella, you tell yourself just as I can use a real umbrella to help me manage the rain.

I can use my acceptance umbrella to help me manage troubling thoughts and painful sexual feelings. And after you're finished reading the metaphor, ask your clients to explain what it means to you. And then process this by explaining to them that they already are accepting in certain circumstances. And they really do coexist with their pain and suffering. In other words, they manage it while they move forward and do the things they need to do. So you got to go to Work and it's raining you put on your you know, your raincoat and your umbrella, you walk through the brain, which is you know, metaphorically pain and suffering, and you get to work, you have to take your kids, you know, to school and you're not feeling so great, but you know, you still got to get them to school.

So you suck it up and you manage your own, you know, upset stomach or headache or whatever, you put the kids in the car and you take them to school. So people already do this. And yet sometimes when it comes to sex, you know, the, the, their sexual pain and suffering just seems so overwhelming and they just want it, you know, to instantly go away, and they're not willing to accept it, bring it along with them as they try and like move into a better sexual situation. So, real simple, you know, think of your umbrella whenever you get stuck. Think of those, you know, troubling thoughts and painful emotions that are keeping you stuck as the raindrops and just kind of let them bounce off and, and don't take them so seriously. Don't let that keep you from moving forward.

And I've developed this phrase that really kind of ties in the key elements of acceptance, while taking action. And it says in the surface of blank goal, I would be willing to accept blank while doing blank. So let me just break this down in the service of the goal, because remember, and then next, I believe the next session, we're going to help clients set values based goals related to their sexuality. So in the service of this goal, I would be willing to accept and then you know, you have them describe their troubling thoughts and painful emotions and mental images. So I would be willing to accept you know that I'm not the world's best you know, lover or husband or wife or whatever partner while doing what while learning how to become better or while paying more attention to my partner. So in the service of what goal, I wouldn't be willing to accept you know, what pain and suffering while doing what and what this does Is it kind of gives people a reason for putting up with their pain and suffering, you know, American culture and everyone wants to get rid of their pain and suffering as quickly as possible.

They want to take a pill or have a drink or where escape, you know, with some escapist entertainment, they don't want to confront them, let alone carry it with them. So this kind of gives your clients a reason to carry it with them. The reason you're doing this is because you value this relationship, you want to keep it together and make it stronger. And in order to do that, you got to move forward on these goals that we're setting and, and just kind of carry this stuff along with you. You can't You can't let the pain and suffering create an insurmountable barrier. So what you're doing here is you're connecting values, commitment and acceptance with taking action.

All right. Okay, so I love Because he you know, I'm kind of a very mindful person. And I've studied Buddhism and you know, a big part of Buddhism is accepting pain and suffering, because life is all about pain and suffering, and how that is so different from American mainstream culture where the idea is to eliminate pain and suffering. So getting people to realize that, you know, almost all of your success, and I tell this to my clients, I say almost all of your success is connected with you accepting pain and suffering, right? You have a job that you've succeeded in, you've raised a couple of kids, you've, you know, been in a relationship that survived and thrived. Maybe you've been a successful athlete, you know, maybe you've gone to graduate school, maybe you've taken a risk and started your own business.

All of those things involve pain and suffering. And you have accepted that and carried the pain and suffering with you as you've advanced in those things. So you can do the same things in your sexual relations. And if it's good now you can make it even better by trying new things and kind of feeling a little uncomfortable about them but saying that's okay to be uncomfortable, because I'm moving forward. So that's the acceptance part. I hope you like this as much as I like teaching it and see you in the next session.

Okay, I can get out of here. Okay. All right. See you in the next session.

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