Dr Austin Tay


Depressed businessman sitting under trouble thought boxes



It is not uncommon that everyone tends to get stuck with negative thoughts and emotions almost every day. Humans are good at allowing themselves rationalise the why and the what of how they feel and think. It becomes a constant struggle with these internal ‘monsters’.


Individuals use various ways to tackle these ‘monsters’.  One of these is a direct confrontation. When individuals use this approach, they seek to ‘unpick’ or try to ‘solve’ (eliminate) the negative thoughts and emotions (the monsters). While this can create momentary relief, the bad news is that these monsters are not going away! They will keep coming back to challenge us and fight our teeth and nails to defeat us. So as humans we keep on fighting (this is what we are conditioned to do so) till we can fight no more.  We then become even more depressed than we were before.


So what can we do to get rid of these internal monsters? We can learn to A-C-T.


A – Accept your negative thoughts and emotions as they are


C –  Connect with what is important to your life (your values)


T –  Take committed actions to work towards your values


Yes, it is so simple. Let me explain. A-C-T aka as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, unlike other forms of therapy, does not make you actively perform symptom reduction, instead, it encourages you to notice, accept, be in the moment, focus on what matters to you most (your values) and work towards that. Strangely, in doing these, the symptoms you experience will reduce by themselves. To give you a better perspective of what ACT is, let us look at the hexaflex below


ACT (Simplified model)

Russ Harris (2009) – ACT made Simple


To understand the  6 different parts of the hexaflex, let me use a context, I will use an example of someone who is stressed.


Contact with the present moment – Be Here Now


In ACT, you are encouraged to be in the moment and notice what is here and around us. As humans, we tend to let our thoughts and emotions dictate how we behave.  In doing so, we are often caught in a state of rumination.


bepresent blackandwhite

We reminiscence about the past and worry about the future. We do not enjoy the present and will let it pass. Learn to stay in the moment and you will learn how to see and live your life differently


Acceptance – Be Open


Can you really be open when you are feeling stressed?


Thoughts like, “I do not seem to have enough time to complete the tasks on hand” or “I am to have a severe migraine” can come into your head. There is you, and then there is those thoughts and emotions. It is like a constant struggle. Just as depicted in the picture below.



The more you pull, the monster will pull even harder. So what should you do?



My suggestion is to drop the rope. The moment you do so, your focus will no longer be on the pulling of the rope instead you are learning to accept that the monster is there. No more struggling.


Mindful – Watch Your Thinking


Often as humans, we dwell too much on our thoughts and allow them to form what we believe to be the reality. This creates more anxiety and we get into a loop of rumination.



Stop! Do not let your thoughts lead you to a bottomless pit of uncertainties, anxieties and fear. Your thoughts are just thoughts and your emotions are just emotions. They are just that, no more no less.


Self-As-Context – Notice


When our minds are filled with negative thoughts, we leave no space for other things. We are too busy trying to attend to those thoughts and fail to see how all these thoughts are affecting us.




Let those thoughts come and go, don’t entertain them. However, take a step back and see how those thoughts are affecting you – physically and physiologically (viewing them from your own perspective). What else are you missing when you are focused on these thoughts? STOP, PAUSE and NOTICE.


Values – Knows What Matters


When we spend too much time regretting about the past and worrying about the future, we lose our focus on what matters to us. This could be as simple as being happy, to show love to others or be compassionate to oneself.



Committed Actions – Do What It Takes




Once we are able to identify our values, it is necessary to look at how to go about fulfilling those values. The steps required (goals) help you work towards your values. That is to accept what bumps along the way and be consistent in working towards a values-based life.

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