Diana Hill | Effortlessly Adapt to Any Situation and Excel Under Pressure

In today’s episode, we cover psychological flexibility with Dr. Diana Hill. Diana helps her clients build a values-rich life and unpacks the science of acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) through the cutting-edge podcast Psychologists Off the Clock, online teachings, and her book ACT Daily Journal: Get Unstuck and Live Fully with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Life throws curveballs at us all the time, but if you have psychological flexibility you can be prepared for them—so what is psychological flexibility, why is it detrimental to our health and fulfillment to be psychologically rigid, and how do you start developing psychological flexibility? 

What to Listen For

  • Why did Dr. Diana Hill pursue a career in ACT? – 0:00 
  • What is psychological flexibility and why is it important for all of us to work on it if we don’t want to be crushed by the events and challenges in our lives? 
  • What are the 6 processes involved in psychological flexibility and why is it more important to focus on the processes than the resulting outcomes?
  • Why does focusing on goals lead to disappointment in the long run?
  • What makes some of us psychologically rigid? – 4:42 
  • What areas in your life does psychological rigidity prevent you from being the best version of yourself?
  • What can you do to identify the intrinsic values in your life so you can stop relying on future outcomes to bring you fulfillment instead of present processes?
  • What is integrative psychology?
  • What are the downsides of striving? – 15:25
  • What is experiential avoidance and how is it linked to unhealthy striving?
  • What is values-based striving? 
  • How do you develop self-compassion? – 21:05
  • What practices can you start using today to develop self-compassion?
  • Why is self-compassion important if you want to be a top-performer? 
  • Why does avoiding pain make life harder? – 36:20 
  • How should we look at and deal with pain if trying to avoid it makes life more painful?
  • What are self-stories and how do they limit our ability to perceive the world around us and achieve our potential? 
  • What can you do to help kids build psychological flexibility? – 43:58
  • Where should parents start if they want to help and encourage their children to build psychological flexibility so they are better able to deal with the challenges they will face in life?
  • What value can you expect to get out of the ACT Daily Journal?

What makes you resilient to the ups and downs of life? We all face challenges, but some are more flexible than others. Building psychological flexibility is a lifelong journey that requires self-awareness in your thoughts, emotions, behavior patterns, and relationships with others.

The difference between being psychologically rigid vs. having resilience may seem like an abstract concept—but it can have drastic implications for our health and well-being over time if we’re not careful! 

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Resources from this Episode

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Speaker 1: Are. Want to ask us a question, have a show topic you want us to discuss join over 14,000 show fans in our legendary Facebook group for weekly live streams and lessons directly from the [email protected] slash challenge. That's right, Johnny and I go live each and every week in our private Facebook group. And you can join us [email protected] slash challenge. Now thank you everyone for tuning in let's kick off today's show today, we're talking to Dr. Diana Hill, she's a clinical psychologist and an expert in acceptance and commitment therapy, a cutting edge evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps people develop psychological flexibility. Dr. Hill is also an executive coach and helps high performers to lead with vitality, navigate change, nurture relationships, and reduce stress. Her new book act daily journal, get unstuck and live fully with acceptance and commitment therapy came out on May 1st, and it is topping the charts. She's also a fellow podcaster and one of the hosts of the psychologist off the clock podcast. Welcome to the show, Diana.

Speaker 2: Hello, Diana. And welcome to the show. We're happy to have you here. So why don't you do us the pleasure and let our audience know who you are and how you have come to find act and what we'll be discussing?

Speaker 3: Sure. I'm a clinical psychologist. I like to think of myself as a psychological flexibility guide, uh, that helps people live lives that are more aligned with their values and pursue meaningful goals. And I do that through my individual work with folks. I also do that as a mom and, uh, my, my life, but also on psychologists off the clock podcast, as well as an author to a book called act daily journal that I co-wrote with Debbie Sorenson. So, uh, I really believe in integrative psychology and flourishing in our daily lives. Okay.

Speaker 2: So for our audience, there are many terms that we are going to have to parse out and define and discuss there. Um, there was that one last bit, and I want to set that aside because I want to first get into psychological flexibility because that's going to need to be defined first and why it's so important, but there was, oh, and you said integrative, what was the, uh, the

Speaker 1: Last thing psychology. So

Speaker 2: Let's get into that as well, but let's start with the psychological flexibility.

Speaker 3: Okay. So as a psychologically flexible psychologist, I'm going to use some props. And my first prop to help folks for the visual learners is a Rubik's cube. And one way to think about psychological flexibility is that it's six sides of a Rubik's cube. So there's six processes that are involved in psychological flexibility and the goal of psychological flexibility. When you are psychologically flexible, you are better able to stay open, present and aligned with what you care about when challenges arise. Now, the six processes that you teach in act help you do that. And we can unpack those, but it's about process, not outcome. And just like a Rubik's cube. If you, if you solve a Rubik's cube that you put it on your counter and nobody wants to touch the thing cause it's solved, right? It's more about how you are in your daily life. These processes that you engage in. Am I out of align with my values? How do I use some of these processes to get more aligned in the important domains to you, whether that's work or parenting or health behaviors or relationships,

Speaker 1: And why is it process versus outcome? Because so many in our audience want the well-defined outcomes and many are striving to reach those outcomes, but yet psychological flexibility is about the process and getting comfortable with the process.

Speaker 3: Well, outcomes, aren't bad. You know, I'm a runner, I'm a achiever. I have achieved a lot of things in my life. There's nothing bad about reaching outcomes, but where process comes up is that actually when you engage in the process and in particular, when you engage in things that are intrinsically rewarding and by intrinsically rewarding, it means while you're doing them, they create motivation, right? It helps you with sustaining behaviors in the long run and it leads to a more satisfying life. So for many of us, we have been trained in a, in a culture and an environment where we're trying to hit goals. So whether that's good girls or gold stars or a pluses, or when you get older, it's about like financial goals. What you actually find is that there's some neuroscience. That's showing that when you're striving for an outcome, dopamine increases along the way.

Speaker 3: And then when you actually hit that outcome, you see a decrease in dopamine. And a lot of people feel dissatisfied. They feel like they've achieved this thing. It's like, wow, I got that partner. Or I got that job that I was striving for. But already the goalpost has moved. When you attend to process, you are more an intrinsic values-based reinforcements. You are more likely to stick with it. Even when those extrinsic rewards aren't there. So on the days say you're working on health behavior goals on the days where those scale doesn't go the way you want the scale to go. You still engage in your health behavior goal, right? Not because that extrinsic outcome hasn't showed up for you. And I think when it comes to parenting, when it comes to work, when it comes to making change in the world, it's the process that matters, not the outcome,

Speaker 2: This isn't this intrigues me. And then, so for psychological flexibility, we understand its importance and why we need to be psychologically flexible. However, my question then is what in the system, what in life or what is it in our DNA that makes us psychologically rigid? And I will also say that in our work and for as long as we've been doing this, we have certainly met some people who are incredibly psychologically rigid. And it's odd to me how they have gotten to this place. Now. I'm not sure whether that is something in and their genetics that predisposition them to become that rigid. Or is it life in general or is it a little bit of both?

Speaker 3: Sure. I mean, I think in most psychologists would say, it's, it's a little bit of both, uh, evolutionarily our, our minds were designed to avoid pain and seek out pleasure. And that works well when you're talking about things outside of ourselves, but it doesn't work so well when you're talking about our inner experiences. So for example, one of the places that I get really psychologically inflexible is when I'm fighting with my partner, when I'm fighting with my partner, it becomes about my point of view, how I am right. And I stopped hearing him. And I also block myself from feeling the feelings maybe underneath the anger is really sadness or hurt or anxiety. Right? And so what happens is those feelings show up difficult stuff, shows up, say you're in a conflict with someone and how we become psychologically ridged bridges in a few ways.

Speaker 3: And it actually links to these processes. So one of the sides of psychological flexibility, the opposite of psychological flexibility is in flexibility is about acceptance. When you're in a fight with somebody, how are you practicing nonacceptance? And maybe you're practicing nonacceptance by bracing with your body, maybe your process, you're practicing nonacceptance by not listening. Or maybe you're trying to prove a point so that you don't have to feel that inner discrepancy of that. Gosh, I may not be fully right here. Right? So that can lead to rigidity. Another area that we become really rigid in is our thoughts when we believe our thoughts to be true. And we take our thoughts as the truth. And so when you are believing your we're all just sort of like these walking chattering heads, right? When we believe our minds to be true, it can actually lead us to rule following should spit bleeding and sheds, um, believing in self judgements and judgments of others.

Speaker 3: Those are all psychologically rigid ways of being another way that we can be psychologically rigid is bleeding self stories. So for many of us, we, we develop stories about ourselves. When we're our children, maybe someone told you along the way, or you believe that your not good at math, or you believe that you're not a runner, or you believe that relationships always fail for you and you take it on. And you use that as the lens through which you operate in the world. And that leads to self fulfilling prophecy and blocking out disconfirming evidence. So you can go around and we can go around the diff the six core processes of psychological flexibility. But the opposite of those processes is in flexibility. And there's lots of different ways in which we just humans block the potential for adaptation and growth. I

Speaker 1: Think what you're sharing is so relatable to many of us, we've been in those situations of conflict where we're shutting down, we're not hearing we're becoming rigid and we don't want to be that. And when Johnny and I had talk, act principals on the show, and we've had a lot of guests talk about it as well, because we're such huge fans of acceptance commitment therapy. We talk about these intrinsic values. And the question that always comes up from our audience is how do we find and define those for ourselves? And I think it's overwhelming for many of us to think about those values because we tend to be outcome focused, right? If I get the house, I'll be happy. If I get the job, I'll be happy and we lose sight of our values or no one frankly taught us how to find those values. So what advice do you have for our audience members who are struggling to find those intrinsic values in their own life and define them?

Speaker 3: Well, I really believe that it's a tuning in process. So I see values as personal and chosen and much like if you were tuning a guitar or you'd play the guitar and you listen in, and a musician was interesting about musicians, and you probably know this Johnny is that we give musicians time to tune up before they play with it. The musicians going to play, we're like, take your time. It's going to be, it's going to be better if you, if you tune up whatever time you need, right? So if you think about the strings of the guitar, those can be represent the domains of your life, right? And when you, when you're a guitarist, I learned this from my son. He plays guitar, you play it all. And then you go string by string and you tune. So the domains of your life, maybe your health, your relationships, your work, your spirituality, your community, right?

Speaker 3: Your parenting, your friendships, right. You play. And then you go string by string and you listen to hear if it's attitude and only, you know, you know, some people will give you some, like that was a little out of tune there. Sometimes I get that from my kids. Right. But only you really know what is in tune for you. And what's interesting is oftentimes we know that we know that that were out of tune with our values, but all these other processes get in the way nonacceptance beliefs about ourselves thoughts. And I know I'll give a personal example for me of times when I've been out of tune. And actually one of the ways that I came to act was by being attitude. So I found my way to a PhD program in graduate school. I was studying eating disorders with one of the leaders in the field of eating disorders.

Speaker 3: And when I had a history of anorexia and an eating disorder, and when I went into the field, I was really, really clear that my commitment to my recovery was the number one thing for me. If I'm going to go work with people in this area and research this, I'm going to commit to that. And in my first year of graduate school, I got attitude, the pressure, the competition, the program that really didn't integrate a lot of, uh, sort of more, I guess, would say, uh, feminist, you know, sort of the, the art, the spirituality of recovery. And I actually left my program. I was willing to say, I'm going to leave this thing that I've worked so hard for because I'm so commitment to so committed to my values around taking care of my recovery. And I went to a yoga astronomy and I studied yoga and I was so clear, okay, I'm going to be a yoga instructor.

Speaker 3: Right. And actually in that ashram, I got really clear about, wait a minute, no, I can go back and I can integrate these principles of acceptance. These principles of tuning in, into this hardcore research division, what, you know, one research university. And I ended up researching, uh, I found, uh, a psychiatrist at Stanford at the time, Debra safer. She was really the only one that was working with eating disorders and mindfulness based approaches. I sought her out and we did a study together. And all of a sudden here I am back in tune because there's also a part of me that really believes in the science and with act. That's really the thing that I really appreciate about this methodology and this really modern approach to psychology is that there's an integration here. And when you ask about integration and an integrative psychologist, what does that mean, Johnny?

Speaker 3: I believe that means both balancing the science of psychology with the wisdom, like the D there's deep wisdom in union psychology. There's deep wisdom in Eastern and Buddhist psychology and there's deep wisdom and embodiment and listening into our bodies. That really there's a balance of all of that. So tuning in is really a, I think the first part of values, the second part of it is, um, that times what points us to our values is what's most painful to us. And if we're engaging in experiential avoidance and we're avoiding discomfort because we're numbing out or striving, or we're working too hard, or we're bracing with our bodies, or we're checked out, then we miss out on the opportunities for growth that come from our suffering. Often, our suffering is a big arrow. That points to what we care about

Speaker 2: Most is this idea of integrative ecology, the same as the young in, uh, idea of integration, or is this a play on it? Or is it a, is it slightly different

Speaker 3: For me? You know, for me, when I say integrative psychology, I am I saying, I bring in concepts from neuroscience. I bring in concepts from, uh, Eastern and contemplative practice. I bring in concepts from behavioral psychology. So that's more, um, nutritional psychology is also another, uh, deep interest of mine, of how, uh, uh, what we eat and how we move in packs, um, our, our behavior and our, and our mental health. So that's what I mean by integrative psychology, that there's many different disciplines that we can learn from, and for a long time. And I think in the field and research, people are very much in silos. So it's like you study your one little, so you say you study the foot, you just, you just look at the foot and you don't think about how the foot is linked to the posture of the spine or how, you know, even just, uh, how we eat influences our mental health and our microbiome, right? So all of these more integrative approaches to living well and wellness, I

Speaker 2: Think that's very important where world, it seems like everyone can zero in, on a certain part or a certain discipline or a certain idea. It begins to be that, that the parable or the, the meme of the elephant and each person is on a different place of the elephant. And so one person's grabbing the trunk. He's like, I think it's a snake and somebody's grabbing his foot. He's like, I think it's a tree, but if you zoom out for all of them, right, th th the system is going to be the elephant rather than the parts.

Speaker 3: Yes. But you also need to know the difference between a snake

Speaker 4: And snake oil. And so there's,

Speaker 3: There has to be some degree of organization. And for me, that's, evidence-based approaches, but flexible.

Speaker 1: Now you bring up a very interesting point around striving and it's linked to experiential avoidance. Many of us think striving is the way is exactly what we need or should be doing to get ahead. And again, going back to those outcomes that we all have in our lives that we care so much about how does striving lead to experiential avoidance, and what are the downsides of striving that many in our audience may be facing and not realize it,

Speaker 3: Maybe I'll define experiential avoidance first. Cause there's lots of terms. An act that we get really termi and experiential avoidance is when you are engaging in a behavior that is meant to exp to avoid some, some inner experience that you're having. And that also moves you away from your values. Okay. So for me, striving as experiential avoidance is when I don't feel good enough, then maybe I do more so that I don't have to feel that feeling of not good enough, right. When I am comparing myself to another person and saying, Ooh, I don't measure up. Or maybe we're experientially avoiding just the discomfort of our lives. Like my relationships are kind of, you know, not doing so well or my relationship with my mom. Isn't so great. So therefore, I'm going to go strive and do in this other area so that I can almost not have to experience the discomfort of living, which is just part of being human.

Speaker 3: The first noble truth is life is uncomfortable. It's what we do with that discomfort, that matters. And so for me, just because I've worked with, you know, eating disorders for a long time, and now I work with, uh, executives, I see the dark sides of striving. And I see that, you know, as for me with the anorexia, that I was like an Olympian of striving. I did everything that a young woman was supposed to do to be successful in the world to the nth degree. And you end up with anorexia, right? It could kill you. It's actually the most lethal of the mental health disorders that you can have. The flip side of that is what was interesting is this summer, I was prepping for an interview on psychologist, off the clock with the radical healing collective, who are a group of individuals that work on, um, racial trauma and healing, racial trauma, and, and prepping for that.

Speaker 3: I started reading through, um, the APA guidelines on race and ethnicity. And so for a long time, I've had this association with striving as like bad. I need to not strive. I need to stop striving. I need to like tame my inner striver, right? Cause it makes me sick. And I read through those guidelines and every single one of them started with the word, psychologists strive, psychologists strive to blah, blah, blah, blah. And I started realizing that there's other ways that we can strive. And actually what we can engage in is values-based driving that you can take all that energy that actually leads you in some Saraj, the modern day Samsara of just being on the cycle of achievement and you can use it and pivot it to a cycle that is about what you care about and what it can make a difference in the world. And you can write a book and you can do all sorts of great things, but now you're striving for something that's bigger than you. That's bigger than the ego. And when you engage in that, then all of a sudden you get those intrinsic rewards and you're not only feeding yourself in a positive way, but you're feeding the world around you because you're striving towards, uh, really being like having your authentic offerings and out in the world.

Speaker 1: So that ego-driven striving of setting outcomes simply to fulfill yourself without looking beyond into those intrinsic values, is that slippery slope that leads us to burn out that leads us to checking those boxes, but still not feeling content happy or fulfilled with

Speaker 3: Yes. And we live in environments that overstimulate that. So, so social media, the emphasis on extrinsic rewards, the emphasis on, um, you know, capitalism, all these things that, uh, basically overstimulate our drive system and our threat system. So I studied, uh, I study Paul Gilbert, who is one of the researchers out of the UK that has started something called the compassionate mind foundation. And Paul Gilbert has this sort of rough layout of the human brain and the human brain system that we have, these three systems, we have a threat system that detects threat. And when we are engaged in threat or fight flight freeze, we have a drive system. That's all about dopamine and going and get re getting resources. And for many of us that are strivers when our threat system is activated, we go into drive. At least that's when I talk with drivers, they see the relationship between those two brain systems, right?

Speaker 3: I'm threatened. So I go into drive or I'm threatened. And so I shut down. I procrastinate, I can't do, I can't apply for that job. I can't put myself out there in that relationship. I like do the, the anti striving, you know, um, but there's also a third system and this is what I've gotten really interested in and what Debbie and I spent a whole first chapter of our book on, which is the compassionate mind. And what's interesting about the compassionate mind is that it can, downregulate our threatened drive. And actually we can use compassion. And the parts of us that are connected to a larger whole that are connected to a greater good that are about not competition, but collaboration to not only Sue our own nervous system, but then orient our behavior towards a more pro-social behavior that benefits all. And that's what I, you know, that's what I see when I look at psychologists that are doing like, they're doing amazing things. They're out there in the world. People like Judd brewer, you know, that are like major producers. There's, they're striving, I guess, but they're doing more of a compassionate, striving, more of a conscious striving. And that's what I'm really interested in. Helping people engage in getting into different habit loops where the cue may be the same, but the behavior is values and the reinforcement is intrinsic.

Speaker 1: And I think in this context, compassion makes sense towards others. But many of us may be struggling with that self compassion. Right? We've realized that if we keep striving, we attain external success recognition, attention approval, and acceptance. And we may feel comfortable being compassionate towards others, but not towards ourselves when we're not meeting those goals when we're not getting that attention approval and acceptance that we look for. And I love that you touch on this because self-compassion is, is so key in all of this. And many of us don't even have a daily practice around it. We've heard meditation heard eating right or exercising, but there are things we can do in our daily lives to practice self-compassion to unlock that healthier form of striving. Do you have a daily self-compassion exercise that you could recommend to our audience to try?

Speaker 3: Well, I think self-compassion is when you boil it down is, is how you're relating to yourself. Right? So, um, I teach a Tuesday night during COVID. I started teaching this free evening group once a week. Uh, mainly because my practice was so full and I just wanted to help a lot of people and I also needed it for myself. And one of the things that we'll do is just place our hand on our heart and a hand on our belly and we will slow our breath down. So the first part of self-compassion is getting your nervous system downregulated, getting your nervous system into more of a compassionate place where you are engaging in, uh, engaging your vagal tone. So hand on heart, hand on belly and actually Kristin Neff, who I interviewed for a psychologist off the clock it's going to be coming out. Um, she talks a lot about hands on the body, you know, so the first part is self-compassion you can even just in the moment, like think about like a parent, like a loving parent that would put their hands on your cheek or hand on your heart.

Speaker 3: Sometimes I'll be in a session with a client and I'll just keep my hand on my heart or hand on my belly. The next part of compassion and self-compassion is really about the languaging that you are using towards yourself. And, um, so in my twenties, part of my recovery was also studying with techno hon who's, a who says, and a master. And he had a monastery, uh, in France where he was an exile, uh, from Vietnam. And so when I, when I went to go study with him at plum village, one of the things that he talks about is watering seeds, that your mind is constantly producing those thoughts, right? And then which seeds are you going to water? Which seeds are you going to cultivate in your mind? And if you're cultivating and watering and fertilizing the seeds of compassion, you're cultivating an inner coach that is encouraging warm.

Speaker 3: That is on your own side. And actually how the research pans out is that when you do that, when you practice self compassion, you are actually more effective you're you actually perform better. There's a tremendous amount of research on self-compassion on everything from performance to a telomere length, right? So there, there there's a, you know, if you need the, buy-in go Google self-compassion and th there's, you know, decades of research now just demonstrating the effectiveness of this. But for me, it's just the buy-in is the practice of when I have a thought that is, um, critical judgmental, which I guarantee you'll have them all day long. I also will turn my mind to the thoughts that are helpful and align with my values. And that helped me in that moment as a, as a, as a way to those seeds in my brain, which actually turns out to be neuroplasticity, right?

Speaker 3: The more you pay attention to things, the more that things get water would they know that techno Han was onto something many years ago, uh, around, um, changing our brains and the connections in our brains. So those would be the two practices I would recommend. And it's not like I wake up in the morning and do a self-compassion practice. It's more like, whoa, I am feeling really threatened here. I am feeling my drive is on overdrive. How do I slow down my breathing? How do I put my hand in my body or whoa, my critic is out of control, which it will be after this interview. It'll say all sorts of things about how much I talked and I talked too much and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I'll turn my mind to, what's an encouraging voice here. What's a helpful voice.

Speaker 1: I think that analogy of seeds to water and recognizing that you don't have to let the garden become full of weeds and negative thoughts and that inner critic drive you to a place that's unhealthy that doesn't allow you to really stay connected to not only who you are, but others. And it impacts all of our relationships, the harsher we are on ourselves. And it's interesting because so many of us think about, okay, you know, I have to have this massive morning routine and this crazy evening routine just to be successful because that's what I see on social media. And really what we're saying is just get more in tune with how you're feeling and your body and recognize these signals. And when these signals are pointing to, you know, I should take better care of myself. I should be a bit more compassionate to the way I'm feeling or thinking about myself in this moment. It has such incredible impacts on how we show up how we relate to others and how we relate to ourselves.

Speaker 3: You know, it's interesting, there's two things I want to respond to there that I think are important. One is that I'm talking about watering seeds and not about pulling weights. So you could spend, I have a gardener, I have a garden, I have a little homestead here. I'm in Santa Barbara and we have chickens and we're beekeepers. And we grow a lot of our own vegetables and a lot of our own food. And we homeschooled. We were like the, this, you know, the homeschooler family, uh, homestead family, but I could spend all day long pulling weeds in that garden and get nowhere. Right. And the same is true with our minds that actually we could spend all day long trying to restructure our thoughts and change our thoughts. And the research suggests that the more you do that, the more that they tend to get, you know, rebound, right.

Speaker 3: But it's about watering seats and that the watering of the seeds happens in our daily lives. And that, there's one of my real concerns that I see in the folks that I work with that is this sort of self-improvement deal. That is what Pema Chodron actually has written about is sort of the subtle aggression of self-improvement that has an aggressive quality to it. It has a striving quality to it, which is, I'm not, I'm never quite there. And I would say, you are already there. You were, you were born whole, you are whole, you belong. And these practices are really, the orientation of them is around caring, like deeply caring for yourself as opposed to improving. And there's a distinction between that. Am I doing this to improve myself or me doing this to be, as I actually care for myself? And when we care for ourselves, I'm a mom. When I care for me, I will show up in a more caring space for my kids and for my partner in our family. It's like, mama's not well nobody's, well, my partner has all sorts of things to help, you know, because when we care for ourselves, we can do better and caring for others in that flow of compassion.

Speaker 2: Again, it becomes very important of where you're putting that attention. And there's this, um, saying those who look up, go up, those who look down and go down, and then also something to go along with that, uh, we had Steven Hazel on the show and he discussed how our brains work like a calculator with no subtraction and no delete. So again, we can't pull out all of these weeds. However, we can certainly focus our attention on what we want to grow more, right. The beautiful flowers or, or the weeds and, and our direction of where we're looking. If we're looking forward that we're going to move forward. If we're continuously ruminating and looking at our past and our mistakes, we're going to get stuck

Speaker 3: There. Absolutely. And I would add that ruminating as an experiential avoidance strategy. And that blows people's mind like what? I'm not avoiding anything by ruminating. Oh yeah. You are. You are avoiding the discomfort of feeling sad, disappointed, anxious. So what if you had sad, disappointed, anxious, and instead of ruminating about it, which is just a problem solving technique. Like if I think about it hard math, then maybe I can fix it. I feel like I'm doing something about it, right. If I go rehearse over and over again, that relationship or that moment where I said something that I wish I hadn't said, what if instead you turn towards those feelings and you practiced some of these processes. So, you know, I think it's important when we're talking about psychological flexibility. Some of those processes may be acceptance, which is opening and allowing for that discomfort.

Speaker 3: And you can do that in an embodied way. You can do that. Can I make space for the anxiety or sadness in my body? If it were a shape, what shape would it be if it were moving, how would it be moving? Can I make more space for it? Can I allow it to be there while engaging in another process? My values by taking committed action, even though this painful thing has happened, instead of ruminating in my head about it, what am I going to do in my life today? That matters to me that aligns with the type of person that I want to be in the world, right? So we have acceptance, we have values. We have not getting stuck in our heads, which is cognitive diffusion. We have perspective taking, which is our ability to zoom out and look at a bigger picture and look at ourselves as transcendent beings over time.

Speaker 3: There's me in this moment or me, you know, whatever yesterday that I'm ruminating about, but there's also like me. That's interconnected to just being like that makes mistakes. All humans make mistakes. And also there's like me that travels way back in time and will travel and continue forward in time, right in the timeline of our lives. So what's important. Like I think that some of the self-analysis that enact that's kind of helpful is to start to look at our hiding holes and the ways in which we are just kind of like avoiding the discomfort and living. That's keeping us in a round about of suffering and Debbie and I, when we talk about experiential avoidance in the book, we use this metaphor of a roundabout and it really came from in California. You probably relate to this AAJ. They just started plopping roundabouts in places.

Speaker 3: Yeah. Round about in, in, in California doubt, like the Californians freak out. We don't know what to do about it. It freaks us out. We don't know how to get around this thing. And the worst part is the exiting it and the entering it. Right. And so when you are caught in a roundabout of avoidance, it feels better sometimes just to stay in it, just go around. It's like Chevy, Chase's European vacation. You're just, I'm just going to stay in this thing over and over again, whether that's a addiction that I'm stuck in, or it's a, I'm not going to like exit this job that I really hate, or I'm not going to exit this relationship that I really hate because to exit the roundabout requires you have to go through something that this comfort of moving a lane over and like leaving it. Right.

Speaker 3: And so we avoid, we experience really avoid the discomfort of the exit or of the moving towards the thing that's outside of our comfort zone, but just like a roundabout. When you add, when you make that exit, you're being psychologically flexible, you're opening up and allowing and taking committed action towards your values. Then all of a sudden, the world opens up and you can go on any street in town you want. And that's what psychological flexibility is about, is the freedom to move fully in your life, towards the things that you personally and chosen by. You care about, what streets do you want to go on? It's not about the roundabout. It's about what you care about, what matters to you.

Speaker 1: Well, I think it's such an important perspective shift. If you think about what you've ruminated on 10 years ago, do you remember every last detailed? Was it ever as bad as that rumination made it seem, but we struggled to take that longer perspective because in the moment we think and feel I have to do something, I have to manage this discomfort. And if I'm not engaged in some activity, well, then I can't reach my goals. I don't have the outcomes. I'm not striving. And unfortunately we tend to choose activities that actually set us further off course and keep us in that roundabout feeling good that we're doing something but not doing what we need to be doing to get to that step of fulfilling.

Speaker 3: And that goes back to our brains, right? The short-term pleasure over the longterm. Meaning. So act is not about actually making you feel better. A lot of times I have clients come in and they say to me, can you help me stop thinking about, can you help me stop feeling this? Can you help me stop remembering this? And how I respond to them is I'm not that type of therapist. You may not actually even feel better coming to see me. I would hope that would be a side effect. But what I'm about is helping you have a sense of meaning and purpose, and being able to, to have the range of motion in your life to move towards that, you know, act just came out as one of the, uh, primary recommended treatments for chronic pain and actually in the area of chronic pain. There's a tremendous amount of research.

Speaker 3: What's interesting about pain is that it's expressing our brains in the same areas of our brain, that emotional pain and physical pain are, you know, this matter of sensory cortex, arcuate, nucleus. Those are areas of our brain where we experience both physical and emotional pain. And with act being used for chronic pain, you actually aren't necessarily seeing decreases in pain. What you're seeing is increases in functionality, right? So if you have back pain and you go lie in bed, you're going to have probably more back pain, but even worse, your life is going to get really narrow, right? So whether it's back pain or depression, we tend to close down. We tend to get narrow. And what act is about is opening your life up,

Speaker 1: Moving through the pain, instead of giving up,

Speaker 3: Moving with the pain for some folks, you know, I have a scoliosis in my spine, so I have a lot of back pain. And actually you'll see sitting on the floor and why like labs do that? Cause I studied this woman. If you don't study her, go, go check out Katie Bowman. Who's just like blown my life. She's a biomechanist. This is sort of the integrative psychology where I go outside of the field of psychology to learn from folks. And what I started learning about is this concept called nutritious movement, which is you can, if you can build movement into your daily life, if you care about this, something I care about. If you care about movement with actually having to like go to the gym for an hour, and then you sit all day and I sit for a living and I get back pain.

Speaker 3: And so if I sit on the floor on a cushion and I'm working with you, I'm working with a client, I can adjust my legs. All of a sudden I can do a stretch when I'm getting up and down, I'm doing a squat multiple times a day, as I'm getting up and down from the floor, I'm aligning my spine and opening my chest instead of sinking down, all of a sudden I'm engaging in movement. And that is sort of like the, you know, and sometimes pain shows up, but it's about what we do in the face of pain, how we attend to ourselves and how we get flexible in our thinking and acting and let go of what people think about it. Because it's about workability, not about how it looks

Speaker 1: And strengthening yourself in that pain, right? That's a big part of it. Much of the modern life is about removing ourselves from those signals of pain and discomfort. And instead we need to be strengthening our muscle because as you said earlier, life inevitably has discomfort. That's part of living and we don't want to stop the pain, remove the pain, our sense of feeling because much like pain, there's joy. And in order for you to really understand and feel joy, we have to feel the opposite to get it, to understand it and be fulfilled.

Speaker 2: I want to, I also want to ask, this is very curious to me now. So as we all know how you move affects the way you think and feel, and if you and your clients are sitting Indian style on the floor, I would imagine it goes back to a slumber party vibe where everyone's just being vulnerable and talking about what's going on in their lives. So in your experience, have you noticed an effect on your client's vulnerability and willing to be open from sitting on the floor from

Speaker 3: My clients often don't sit on the floor and I would say cross-legged. Um, but what I do demonstrate more to clients is that in my work, in my parenting, in my activities of life and living out these principles, and I want you to, to do that. So for me, this is what works for me. And this is where values are sorta like favorite colors. My favorite color may be blue and your main maze may be green. And for someone else sitting on the couch is that that's not their issue in nor do they need to change anything. So I'm not going to enforce my values on my clients. And I would say that would actually be problematic, but for folks that want to do that, they can. Um, and it's more about like what matters to you and where are you not facilitating that in your life?

Speaker 3: Because you're in lockdown around some of these, um, in flexibility processes, whether it's your heads or your beliefs about yourself, actually have an exercise that I do with clients that I wanted to do with the two of you around that. And it's around self stories. And, and so, and I wanted to kind of demonstrate how self stories, whether they're positive or negative can really lead us to being inflexible. Okay. So, and I'll do this sometimes with clients where I'll say like, how do you have a self story? You, you can spot a cell story because it starts with I am. I never, I always, okay. And it can be positive or negative, so it can be like, I am, I don't know, really smart or I am not really smart. Uh, do you guys have self stories that get in the way of you being flexible either on the podcast or in relationships that you could share with me positively?

Speaker 2: I would say that I'm at war with myself 24 7, so,

Speaker 3: Okay. So I'm at war. That's actually a perfect self story because it's a really blanket statement. I am at war with myself 24 7. Okay. And then how about for you, Jay? I am an introvert. I am an introvert.

Speaker 1: When I say that many of our show guests, many of our clients can't believe it, but it's still a self even through all the work that I've done on myself to improve my social skills and build better relationships.

Speaker 3: Yeah. And how old is that self story for you? Like if you could trace it back along the timeline of your life, when did the, I know I'm at war with myself, Johnny, when did that show up for you? I, it becomes

Speaker 2: More apparent, I guess, as I get older and my body changes and I'm continuing, trying to strive for certain things in my life. However, I would say, um, that idea of being at war with myself, whether it's how apparent it was to me or not has always been there certainly in my adult life.

Speaker 3: Yeah. So in your adult life is more when it, when it showed up. How about for you? When did the Ironman introvert show up for you

Speaker 1: In high school? When I was tired of being called shy and wanted a better understanding of why people are reacting to me that way, and it became a way for me to rationalize and justify behaviors as well. That's simply who I am.

Speaker 3: Okay. So here's what I want you to do. I want you to imagine that that self story is like binoculars and you can almost like hold the self story and your two hands, you have to be psychologically flexible and willing to look like an idiot while I do this with me. Okay. So imagine that Johnny, you're holding the self story of, um, I am at war with myself always, and AIJ, you're holding the self story of I'm an introvert and Diana I'm in a hold. Uh, the, the self story of I'm not doing good enough job. Okay. That's mine. Okay. So hold that up to your eyes like binoculars. And when you have the self story, how well can you see around the room, look around the room? What happens for you? Not at all, really? And if, if someone were to come up to you, uh, Johnny, and, and say, Hey, Johnny, how's it going? I really want to like work on self-compassion with you. How well could you see beyond that? I'm at war with myself. Well, not very, not very well, very well. And I can't see behind that beyond that. I'm not doing good enough job either. Right? So now here's, what I want you to do is I want you to move that self story away from you, with your hands in front of you. And then I want you to open your hands and move them about flexibly.

Speaker 3: Okay. So AIJ, if you were to hold this self story about, I'm an introvert, a little bit more flexibly. If someone were to engage with you and you didn't have that self story of it, I'm an introvert right up to your eyes. How do you think it would maybe change your interactions with folks? I'd feel more confident sometimes. Yeah. So I would add a comma sometimes to ether each of those stories, because Johnny actually, you're not being at war with yourself right now, while you're doing this exercise with us, thankfully and AGA you're not being an introvert right now. We have qualities. We have tendencies and they're contextual. So what happens when we're caught in a self story is that we believe that to be true. And it becomes like binoculars that limits our vision. It limits information that disconfirms it. And then we act in our lives and inflexible ways that are guided by those self stories. And it can be just as problematic when they're good as when, when they are, when they are bad. So the idea is to get a little bit of space when you're assessing self story, see that it is contextual. There's a sometimes when this is true and sometimes, maybe when it's not true, but really what matters is what you do with your hands. And being able to see more of like a 360 panoramic view of you. You're not just your self story. You're actually more than these stories that have been around for a long time

Speaker 1: In thinking about it. This brings me to our next topic for discussion. You know, some of the self story is a part of my upbringing and what I heard from family members in particular, my, my father, and, you know, as we have grown the show and over the years, not only worked on ourselves, but thought about our legacy. And for me starting a family, uh, that does concern me, you know, we have such an impact and influence on our children. And it seems to me like psychological flexibility would be a fantastic thing for me to have learned and grown up in an environment that supported psychological flexibility. And I know through your social media, you share a lot of activities that you do with your children to instill psychological flexibility. So what are some ways that the parents in the audience can create an environment for their children to grow and work on their psychological flexibility?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I would say the first place is that you work on yourself. So there's spillover effects, there's rub off effects. And actually what some of the research shows, they did some research on parents during COVID, uh, and parents that were more psychologically flexible themselves had less spillover effects of stress onto both their partnerships in terms of marital discord, but also spillover effects of stress onto the kids and the mental health of children. So for me, it always starts with like housekeeping, internal housekeeping, and what what's going on in this home in terms of my own psychological flexibility, because there's all sorts of things that show up rigidity that shows up when, when you have a child that you didn't even know were there, like all these stories, you see how your parents parented, and then all of a sudden you're doing the same thing. And so there's, you know, perspective taking to take, but ultimately getting clear on what type of parent do I want to be and how can I live that out in, in how I engage with my, with my kids and self, with self compassion and understanding that I will never be a perfect parent.

Speaker 3: And as Kelly Wilson said, one time, one of the co-founders of app, I pity the perfect parent, because if you are a perfect parent, then someday your kid is going to be imperfect and make a mistake, and they're going to come, not want to come to you because you're perfect. So it's part of psychological flexibility is, is showing our, our imperfections and also showing that we have choice points over and over and over in our lives. We can notice that moment when we're attitude. And let me tell you, I am attitude all the time with my parenting and I, one of my concerns about social media is I don't want to put out some image of some kind of perfect parent out there because that's not helpful. That just creates the self-improvement project situation. I'm out of tune all the time. And I also know, and have practiced this for decades, both in my personal practice and in my, in my training, how to tune back up and the six core processes of act, including also other practices that I use that are more of my spiritual practices are how I tune back up. And my kids know that. So we just are a messy household and we're a loving household and we're a dirty household. And I got two boys and we're a crazy household. And I have a loving partner that I just adore and really is like, can't say enough about that. Like, but I think that, um, it's about values. It's about self-compassion and it's about you doing the work on yourself first and along the way,

Speaker 1: I think that's really, the key is the introspection. It takes to be a good parent who understands yourself fully before dictating and trying to raise children in ways that you haven't quite grasped in yourself. And what I love about this act daily journal that you put together is it creates an opportunity for introspection to understand these places in our life, where we might be out of tune and to fully understand ways and strategies that we can get ourselves back into tune and recognizing that it's okay to be out of tune, but there are tools to get us back there. What were your goals in putting together this act daily journal, and what do you hope those who grab a copy of it, which we definitely recommend we'll get out of this journaling.

Speaker 3: Yeah, there was a number of, of goals. Debbie and I were friends first and then co hosts on this podcast second, and then authors third. And really we'd been practicing learning about these principles in our clinical work and also practicing them in our own lives. But what's happened is the act has been very much in academia and also used as a therapy tool. So it's not been used as much for the general public or promoted, even though there's evidence for act as, you know, being used with Olympic athletes and in, uh, workspaces and, uh, lots of arenas. It's more called acceptance and commitment training when you use it in that realm. But I really wanted, yeah, I really wanted something that would take these six core processes and break them down into a program that you could do in small, tiny bits, because we are busy.

Speaker 3: We don't have time. And also that is, you know, sort of, um, through this, uh, exercises stories, and also practice through journaling because there's some benefit to, uh, journaling in the sense it gives you sort of these three PS, it gives you practice. It gives you perspective taking when you write things down, you have a different, uh, perspective on it. And it also helps you attend to the process, right? So this isn't about outcome. This is process you're growing and building on these over time. So I really feel good about it. I'm excited about it. I think it's a good product. And what we're hearing is that, uh, folks that are, you know, researchers and steeped in act are finding it beneficial. And then people that are totally new to act w calls it, the mom, the mom test, like, would you give it to your mom? And she could, she do it, they're finding it really helpful. So I think it's a tool that doesn't act down. Uh, it really keeps true to the research, but also simplifies it and makes it digestible and accessible to folks.

Speaker 1: We love asking every guest what their unique X factor is. What's that skillset or mindset or combination of the two that make you unique and successful. What do you believe your X factor is Diana?

Speaker 3: Oh, I think I'm a divergent thinker. You know, I'm like, I like to pull in stuff from biomechanics and stuff from yoga and stuff from psychological science and, and mix it all up. Uh, and, and, and it makes sense to me. I hope it made sense to your listeners, but I believe in, um, in, in learning, in, in, in growing in all the different domains of my life and pulling them together, sort of like a, a good stew that has a lot of different ingredients from a lot of different places. Yeah. I think your

Speaker 1: Curiosity resonates with a lot of our listeners and that's how they found us in the first place is looking for more, thank you so much for joining us and these great tips. We really enjoyed it.

Speaker 3: Thank you. It's an honor delight to be [inaudible]

Speaker 1: All right, Johnny, we got a shout out this week and it goes to Brian Ogrin in our Facebook group. Now he posted and we are so excited to share this message and hope this inspires someone else. I first found the art of charm podcast in November of 2015. At the time I was single and debt making 40,000 a year as a customer service job, without clarity on what exactly I was going to do next to achieve my big goals. Part of their charm was a total blessing and changed my life forever in both dating and relationships, as well as in my career trajectory, it gave me the confidence strategies and what I felt I really needed in the support to continue making strides. When it didn't feel like my friend group was on the same path, fast forward to August, 2016. And by this time I would guess that I'd probably listened to every art of charm podcast that have been put out at that time, almost every single day on my 30 minute drives to and from work.

Speaker 1: I would listen in that time span, I implemented the dating advice and the professional advice to I began to feel unstoppable and that I knew exactly what I was doing. And it was so much fun in August of 2016, with no prior sales or true management leadership. I landed a six-figure dream job where I was given full autonomy to build an entire sales team in office from scratch. And I began dating my soon to be wife using the same principles I learned from the show over the next three years, I got married, worked hard and the six figure dream job ended up being a total success where we crush our company goals. Completely not to mention. I even got my wife listening to the art of charm podcast as well, and she is killing it too. Then the end of 2019, I left the dream job with the decision I was going to start my own online business.

Speaker 1: It's been a total roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Since I started listening to AIG Johnny and AOC team in 2015, but it's all been so worth it. And the ups of far outweigh the downs. I don't think any of this would be impossible without finding the art of charm podcast in 2015. Thank you so much for the work you guys do the inspiration. I'm so excited and grateful to have found this group, and I'm happy to see it getting ramped up in here. Appreciate AOC so much and look forward to what's next. You guys are the best Brian, you are killing, and that's exactly why Johnny and I hit record each and every week. We love sharing simple strategies, frameworks, and inspiration to have you our listener kill it. Just like Brian. One

Speaker 2: Of the things I love about what we do, and it's when these ideas unlock in somebody's mind and they transition these concepts into other areas of their lives. That's when true mastery of these concepts can truly be seen. And their true potential empower is unlocked.

Speaker 1: I love that. We now have a chance to interact even more with our show fans in our private Facebook group. So if you want to hear from me and Johnny, you want to share your story or even ask us a question. We are going live each and every week in our private Facebook group. And we would love to see you there. I

Speaker 2: Have been going live covering lessons from this show and our programs that help you unlock your X factors so that you may begin to attract the right people, opportunities and lifestyle that you've dreamed

Speaker 1: For years. Last week's training was our conversation formula taken directly from our X-Factor accelerator mentorship program to help you unlock powerful communication, join us each and every week as we go live and dive deep into our strategies and frameworks to supercharge your social skills and build unstoppable confidence like Brian today

Speaker 2: And check it out. The art of charm.com/challenge.

Speaker 1: We would love to see you there. Now, before we go, could you do us and the entire art of charm team, a huge favor, head on over to apple podcasts and smash the like button that's right. Give us a review. Let us know what you love about the show. It means the world to us

Speaker 2: Podcast is produced by Michael heroine and Eric Montgomery until next week

Speaker 1: I'm Johnny and I'm Aja go out there and crush it.

Speaker 5: [inaudible] [inaudible].

Check in with AJ and Johnny!

AJ Harbinger - author of 1165 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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