COVID-19 has affected everyone’s life on this planet, including me, a little psychologist on this little red dot called Singapore. As a new citizen with my family of origin still staying in China, I’ve made my trip back to my home country during the pandemic to reunite and spend quality time with my family, while trying to sustain some work in Singapore via online mode. First of all, I would like to thank all my clients and my employers for making this arrangement possible for me. Second, I would like to take a personal account of how I’ve arrived here where I am in life, as guided by the principles in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), in the midst of all the uncertainties and fears underneath.
ACT is one of my favourite therapy approaches, and I resonated strongly with the six guiding principles of ACT (refer to the hexaflex model of ACT below) when I first got to know this approach during my master programme in clinical psychology. Thereafter, I’ve been applying the six guiding principles seamlessly in my life and at work with my patients/clients. In short, the essence of ACT is about committing to do what matters, while accepting/allowing the distress arising from the difficulties encountered along the way.
Values vs Lack of Value Clarity
After an extended period of living on my own in Singapore during the pandemic, seemingly no end to it and no way out of the country, I went through a period of struggle and eventually asked myself: What is most important in my life? Which contributes to a meaningful and fulfilling life? The answer for me is connection, intimacy, and family.
Committed Action vs Inaction, Impulsivity or Avoidance
After clarifying the values, the next question was What actions are consistent with my top values? In other words, what can I do or shall I do that could bring myself a meaningful and fulfilling life? However, it was never easy to make the decision to let go of stability in life, get out of my comfort zone, and make way for what is ultimately important to me.
Contact with the Present Moment vs Conceptualised Past and Feared Future
It was so easy to get caught up in thinking about past and future, difficult to let go of what I already have and constantly worried about what I might lose out in future. Mindfulness has helped me along the way, by asking:What is happening now? I learned to listen to and trust my gut feeling in the present moment. My intuition was telling me: Hey, something is not feeling right, it’s time make some changes.
Acceptance vs Experiential Avoidance
Not knowing the exact plan for future, I embarked on the journey back home. Realizing that after studying and working in Singapore for almost 20 years my own home country home people seem more foreign than I expected, it triggered my interpersonal anxiety, fear of inadequacy, sense of insecurity…so I constantly remind myself to make room for those feelings, while pursuing what I really want in life.
Cognitive Defusion vs Fusion
While floating on in this river of life during the pandemic, not knowing where it is heading to, I realized that I got into overthinking mode so easily. As a regular mindfulness practitioner, I have to admit that I spend most of my meditation time in thinking, planning, worrying…so I constantly remind myself to take thoughts (these non-stop mental commentaries) with a grain of salt, only listen to the helpful ones.
Self as Context vs Attachment to Conceptualised Self
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them” While I am still surfing the waves, I constantly remind myself to see the current self as a small part of self in the context of the whole larger self, in other words, seeing the current stage of life as just a transitory stage, a small segment of the whole life, not fixated on a narrow version of self-story, which is usually restricted, negative, and feels permanent.
May ACT support your life in one way or another and help you find your true happiness.
The Hexaflex model of ACT for psychological flexibility and inflexibility
Photo by Dyana Wing So on Unsplash