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Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) Paperback – November 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Trying to "change" negative thoughts through cognitive gymnastics is like trying to win a war single-handedly. Why waste a life trying the impossible? In Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, advocate Dr. Steven Hayes escorts the mildly depressed, angry, and anxiety prone through a new approach to handling suffering--universal human suffering caused by language's illusions. Rather than fighting off bad thoughts and feelings with internal pep talks, Hayes beautifully explains how to embrace those pessimistic and foreboding mental voices (much like welcoming home one's cranky, play-worn children), "defuse" them with respectful attention, and commit to leading a purposeful life that includes their occasional ranting.

Intriguing exercises help readers identify their core struggles, parse these into manageable pieces, and develop effective ways to move beyond rumination. The work progresses easily, thanks to Hayes' engaging style and his grace in coaching readers. Critics of cognitive and behavioral therapies will warm to Hayes' logical explanations of language's pitfalls (even language used by other therapeutic approaches); his sometimes goofy--but surprisingly effective--exercises; well-timed etymology lessons; and his uncanny ability to predict and skillfully address reader reactions throughout the workbook. Ironically, the path to life clocks many hours in the mind; plan to dedicate an intensive month of introspection to this program. Anyone who has been accused of thinking too much, who begrudges compliments, pines for a different life, or feels trapped at a mental dead end can benefit from Hayes' superior guidance.--Liane Thomas

Dr. Steven Hayes answers a few questions about his book, and describes how his research was inspired by his own struggles with panic and anxiety.

Questions for Steven Hayes Can you give us a lay person's primer on acceptance and commitment therapy?

Steven Hayes: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is based on a rather remarkable fact: when normal problem solving skills are applied to psychologically painful thoughts or feelings, suffering often increases. Our research program has shown this in thousands of patients, in almost every area of human suffering. Fortunately, we have discovered why this is and we have developed some ways of correcting it.

The basic research underlying ACT shows that entanglement with your own mind leads automatically to experiential avoidance: the tendency to try first to remove or change negative thoughts and feelings as a method of life enhancement. This attempted sequence makes negative thoughts and feelings more central, important, and fearsome--and often decreasing the ability to be flexible, effective, and happy.

The trick that traps us is that these unhelpful mental processes are fed by agreement OR disagreement. Your mind is like a person who has to be right about everything. If you know any people like that you know that they are excited when you agree with them but they can be even more excited and energized when you argue with them! Minds are like that. So what do you do?

ACT teaches you what to do. I will say what that is, but readers need to understand that these mere words will not be useful in and of themselves. Minds are too clever for that! That is why the book has so many exercises and why we have a free discussion group on line for people working through the book ( What ACT teaches is acceptance of emotions, mindful awareness of thoughts, contact with a transcendent sense of self, and action based on chosen values. This constellation of skills has shown itself in controlled research to help with an amazingly large range of problems, from anxiety to managing the challenges of physical disease, from depression, to stopping smoking. Some of this work is said to have come from your own battles with anxiety and panic. How did these ideas apply to your own struggles?

Steven Hayes: It was my own panic disorder that first put me on to the problem we have now confirmed in our research. My panic disorder began a little over 25 years ago. I watched in horror as it grew rapidly, simply by applying my normal problem solving skills to it. Anxiety felt awful and seemingly made it impossible to function, so it was obvious to me that I first needed to get rid of it before my life would improve. I tried lots of things to do that. But this very effort meant I had to constantly evaluate my level of anxiety, and fearfully check to see if it was going up or down as a result of my efforts. As a result, anxiety quickly became the central focus of my life. Anxiety itself became something to be anxious about, and meanwhile life was put on hold.

After two or three years of this I'd had enough. I began to experiment with acceptance, mindfulness, and valued action instead of detecting, disputing, and changing my insides.

I remember a moment that symbolizes the change in direction. In the middle of a panic attack, with a guttural scream like you hear in the movies, I literally shouted out loud to my own mind. "You can make me feel pain, you can make me feel anxiety," I yelled. "But you cannot make me turn away from my own experience."

It has not been a smooth path and it was several years before anxiety itself was obviously way down (getting it to go down was no longer my purpose, remember, but ironically when you stop trying to make it happen, often it does), but almost immediately life opened up again. ACT is the result of over 20 years of research, following the lead this provided. You are a language researcher and chapter two of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life is called "Why Language Leads to Suffering." Can you tell us why you suggest that language is a source of human suffering?

Steven Hayes: Human language (by that I mean our symbolic abilities generally) is central to effective human cognition. It evolved to keep us from starving or being eaten--and it has done a pretty good job of that.

The key to symbolic processes is the ability to relate events in new and arbitrary ways. Our research program has shown this ability even in 14 month old babies, and we now know it comes from direct training from parents and others as part of normal language development. It is a wonderful skill. It allows us to imagine futures that have never been, and to compare situations that have never actually been experienced. That is the every essence of human verbal problem solving.

But that same process has a downside for human beings. For example, it allows us to fear things we have never experienced (e.g., death). It allows us to run from the past or compare the dull present to a fantasized future and to be unhappy as a result. And in my case it lead to the common sense but ultimately unhelpful idea that I needed to get rid of anxiety before I could live well.

We get a lot of training in how to develop and use our minds, but we get very little training in how to step out of the mental chatter when that is needed. As a result, this mental tool begins to use us. It will even claim to BE us. The overextension of human language and cognition, I believe, is at the core of the vast majority of human suffering in the developed world and human technology (the media) is only amplifying the problem by exposing us to an ever increasing stream of symbols and images. Learning how to get out of your mind and into your life when you need to do that is an essential skill in the modern world.


“With kindness, erudition, and humor, the authors of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life educate readers into a new way of thinking about psychological issues in general and life satisfaction in particular. Their combination of cutting-edge research and resonance with ancient, tried-and-true practices makes this one of the most fascinating and illuminating self-help books available. If you’re tired of standard psychological parlance and still frustrated with your quality of life, this book can be a godsend.” —Martha Beck, columnist for O Magazine and author of Finding Your Own North Star and Expecting Adam.

“This manual, firmly based on cutting-edge psychological science and theory, details an innovative and rapidly growing approach that can provide you with the power to transform your very experience of life. Highly recommended for all of us.” —David H. Barlow, professor of psychology, research professor of psychiatry, and director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University.

“This is the quintessential workbook on acceptance and commitment therapy. Written with wit, clinical wisdom, and compassionate skepticism, it succeeds in showing us that, paradoxically, there is great therapeutic value in going out of our minds. Once released from the struggle with thought, we are free to discover that a life of meaning and value is closer at hand than thought allowed. This book will serve patients, therapists, researchers, and educators looking for an elegant exposition of the nuts and bolts of this exciting approach.” —Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., the Morgan Firestone Chair in Psychotherapy and professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Toronto and author of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.

“This book is a user-friendly tool for clinicians who may be looking for adjunct handouts for clients with a wide variety of issues. Exercises found within can help deepen, structure, or guide experiences contacted in session. As a stand-alone self-help book, it brings to light the guiding principles that make ACT such an empowering approach. I highly recommend this book to clinicians and laypeople alike.” —Sandra Georgescu, Psy.D., assistant professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1st edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572244259
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572244252
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.2 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

333 of 342 people found the following review helpful By Ruth A. Baer on November 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a different sort of self-help book. It's not just for depression, or panic attacks, or phobias, or how to stop eating or drinking too much, or how to improve your relationships, or how to get your finances in order, although it can help you with any of those things and many more. This book is about discovering what you care about the most, what your top priorities are in life, and about getting your life moving in those directions. It teaches you how to keep psychological obstacles, such as fears, worries, sadness, anger, negative thoughts, and bad memories, from getting in your way. Strangely, it doesn't tell you how to get rid of those obstacles. In fact, it shows how trying to get rid of them often makes them worse. Instead, it teaches how to work with them so they don't run your life, so that you can make room for them and go where you want to go. The book has many exercises that are sometimes funny, sometimes a little odd, and always illuminating and thought provoking. This is a different way of looking at life and its challenges. For people who feel that their lives aren't working and are willing to consider a new perspective, this is worth a serious look.
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171 of 175 people found the following review helpful By GatorSLP on February 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm a layperson, can't afford therapy, so I do it self-help. I've bought many self-help books, and while they have been interesting and true, they've never had any lasting worthwhile effect, except for me to look at myself and say, "Oh, I'm doing that wrong also, again!" This book is really what the other reviewers say it is. It was a total paradigm shift, which is what people need and why the myriad of other self-help books haven't helped your self! It is not an overnight fix, it is a bit heady, but take it step-by-step, do all the exercises, and it will be very worthwhile. I'm still trying to put it into practice into my everyday life, but little by little I'm seeing change, and at least now there's hope where there was hopelessness. Thanks so much to the authors for writing a book for the masses. There are many of us out there who don't have money to spend on therapy sessions that we would like to do.
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259 of 275 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard G. Petty on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Psychological treatments, like most forms of therapy, have been developing and adapting for centuries. In recent years the best treatment for depression, as well as a host of other psychiatric disorders, has being centered on a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The behavior therapies largely replaced psychoanalytic theory. The transition from psychoanalysis was not smooth, and as an attempt to ridicule psychoanalytic ideas, some notorious behavior therapists used to train people with mental illness to perform simple actions and then they would watch with amusement as psychoanalytically trained colleagues concocted creative but often bizarre symbolic interpretations of behaviors that had just been created.

We may now be on the cusp another revolution in therapy that could ultimately relegate CBT to the history books, rather in the way that CBT did to psychoanalysis. This new approach has sprung directly from the Buddhist traditions, and revolves around "mindfulness and acceptance". In the Buddhist worldview, each moment is complete by itself, and the world is perfect as it is; That being so, the focus is on acceptance, validation and tolerance, instead of change, and experience rather than experiment as the way to understand the world.

For many patients it feels profoundly liberating to be able to see that thoughts are just thoughts and that they are not "you" or "reality." This realization can free an individual from the distorted reality that they often create and allow for more clarity and a greater sense of control in life.
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117 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Abdul-Malik on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been in and out of therapy for over thirty years,and have read at least fifteen self help books. Basicly I was told, kill the negative self talk,say positive affirmations and one therapist said, "just snap out of it."

I constantly battled with my self. I also suffer from anxiety attacks. I've work for 20 years for a very large orginazation with a few thousand employees. Once it became obvious that I was suffering from anxiety and self esteem issues, I became the subject of the rumor mill. I really don't know how I lasted on the job so long.

But this book changed everything. I've learned to seperate myself from my thoughts and feelings, accept them, and then move on to live the life that I want. I realize now that my life will never be pain free, but in spite of that pain I can live the life I want. I don't have to battle my painful thoughts any more. They don't last as long, hurt as much, or stop me from doing my thing.

This book is not for everybody, but neither is any religion or spouse. But I can bear witness that it has changed my life for the better.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Un amigo on December 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suffer of OCD and panic attacks (if Hell exists, and I believe so, I am sure it has to be something like an eternal panic attack). My life had been, for many years -about 15-, all about my obsessions, compulsions and fears. I lived in a continuous reactive mode to my mind. If my mind was over-curious or stressed I felt fear and just followed it. I would be amazed at myself and my continuous, unstopping over-thinking.

I started by reading Tolle's "The Power of Now". The book, instead of helping me, caused me panic attacks (well, the book and my personal circumstances too). I was feeling like "Well, my thougts are different from myself and my self-identity, but... if I am not my mind, if I am not my thoughts, then who am I?". Afterwards, I read "Brain Lock". Great book! Still, I was living in continuous reactive mode: if an obsessive thought would come, I would react with the book methodology (Realize one is having a thought, realize one has OCD, find something else to do and, finally, stop giving importance to the obsessions). The book was a breakthrough for me into CBT. But, walking down a library some day, prey of a depression after a panic attack had spoiled a relationship, I came across this book (Get out of our mind...) I bought it with a bunch of other books.

What makes this book so great is that it takes you by hand to ACT (a form of CBT) and actually has compassion at yourself. It goes slowly. It repeats the ideas several times and makes amazing analogies. It explains, in plain English, the mind-trap of trying not to think something and how this is a loophole (the less you try to think on an elephant, the more you think of it). It contains plenty of exercises. I did them (Do them! They actually get yourself out of your talkative mind) and started feeling the change.
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