Let me ask you a question: Is anxiety and fear a major problem in your life?
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that whether your answer is “Yes ” you are in good company.
If you answered “yes” the chance is that: you have developed a problem with anxiety and you struggle. You may be suffering from: panic, worries, painful memories or physical pain. You may feel broken, damaged and think that something is wrong with you, you might have tried many different things to cope. Does any of those below sounds familiar?
- Running away from situations
- Avoiding activities or social situations
- Suppressing or pushing away worrying thoughts and feelings
- Distracting yourself
- Trying to replace “bad” thoughts with “good” ones
- Self-positive talking
- Sticking close to “safe” people or environment
- Reading books written by expert of anxiety disorders
- Using medication, supplements, drugs and alcohol to dull your feelings
- Going to Psychotherapy
I guess that you might have checked a few boxes here: has any of these solutions truly worked in the long run? and if so at what cost, upon your life?
Once more, you are not alone. Anxiety and fears are action oriented emotions that are hard to control and cope with and that no matter the effort will never go away from your life.
Moreover, in Westernized societies our relentless search for happiness, emotional control and emotional repression is something that we learn from early age. This type of social learning creates a context where experiential avoidance and non-acceptance of normal experiences thrive.
This, way of understanding mental distress underlies many empirically based cognitive and behavioural treatments for anxiety disorders aiming to assist clients using techniques to master unwanted feelings, regulate emotions and replace worrying thoughts with more functional ones. Thus,reinforcing the believe that they are the cause of client’s suffering and life problems and that to live a happy life theyneed to get better at controlling or reducing those. Furthermore, it conveys the message that therapy is about learning techniques to accomplish this, therefore not surprisingly most anxious clients come to therapy with the expectations of “getting rid of” or “reducing or controlling”their personal experiences,”. Hence feeling discouraged, disappointed and confused if or when this does not happen.
Third waves or the latest generation of CBT therapies including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based CBT and Dialectic Behavioural Therapy among others, suggest a different strategy: instead of helping client to relax away fears and anxiety it teaches clients to relax with their anxiety and to accept these as part of their human experience. The focus here is on supporting clients to identify what they value in life, choose value directions and commit to actions that lead them in those directions.
To summarize, in contrast with traditional CBT, third waves CBT’s focus goes well beyond symptoms alleviation and control as therapeutic goals. It emphasizes topics such as acceptance, mindfulness, values, spirituality, meaning and purpose, relationship and quality of life. In doing so, they offer a unique and broader view of understanding human suffering and what it means to foster psychological health and well-being.