Accepting What You Can’t Change and Committing to What You Can
Author: Ben Sedley (2015)
As a psychologist I like to read the odd self-help book to see what is on the shelves in book stores. Many folk buy self-help books and although some have great ideas presented and can be really helpful, I encourage you to think about whether you can deal with what you sit with on your own. Sometimes, we do need a therapy or therapeutic space where we can work through our difficulties with a trained professional. Nonetheless, I thought I would give brief input on my thoughts on the most recent self-help book I have read. It is a short-and-sweet 89 page book written mainly with teenagers in mind—STUFF THAT SUCKS by Ben Sedley (2015).
In his book, Sedley normalises feelings, putting our sadness, frustration, pain, anger, grief, shame and hurt (amongst other difficult emotions) into perspective. We all feel these and yet society says we shouldn’t. Word on the street is that we are all supposed to be happy and cheery all the time. The book places social media into perspective and draws on the façade that everyone is happy and doing cool stuff all the time. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, most of those happy-go-luck posts that we see are a small glimpse at the fun side of a person’s world and not a full picture of what they sit with. Sedley writes in a caring manner and uses the “Acceptance and Commitment” approach (a form of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy – CBT – developed by Steven Hayes in 1982) to convey an empowered approach to dealing with difficult stuff.
Sedley then talks of practical strategies (CBT and Mindfulness exercises) that one can use in dealing with somewhat uncomfortable emotions. He opens the idea that pushing uncomfortable feelings aside or trying to ignore them, has a counter-productive effect and deepens (or entangles) the difficulty we sit with on an emotional level.
In my view, this book is an easy to read, clear, empathically written, and non-prescriptive (take what works for you) book about feelings. It was written with teens in mind and I agree it is especially great for teens. While I was reading the book, I could see the value of this in my therapy with teens. That said, I could also see this as worthy for adults and brought me to think – regardless of our age we try to push our feelings aside and they most often creep back in.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. […] mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness).