Let go of control - Do yoga for the mind w/Aisling and Trish

Nexum bi-weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in change management.

Hosted by Morten Kamp Andersen

Psychological flexibility is key to change. And a crucial part of psychological flexibility is how to deal with your emotions. Know that you are not responsible for your emotions. But you are responsible for the way you choose to react to them. In this episode of What Monkeys Do, I have invited Trish and Aisling Leonard-Curtin to teach us how to let go of control and accept our unwanted emotions. Essentially, how to become more psychologically flexible.  

Being present, making meaningful towards-moves and accepting our emotions is essentially yoga for the mind; They help us become more flexibile. Psychologically flexible. Aisling and Trish are experienced therapists and have written the excellent book "The Power of Small". They will explain how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help us move forward.


  • Why you should stop trying to control what is in fact out of your control 
  • The power of small. Leave your comfort zone once a day. Just don't go too far. Instead, move into your Self-care zone
  • How to accept your unwanted thoughts and emotions – don't blame yourself for having them
  • How to commit to the present and the Life Worth Fighting For
Unless we look at those unwanted thoughts and emotions as they arise and learn new ways of responding to them, we're likely to keep the same patterns.
Aisling Leonard-Curtin, Co-director of ACTNow


In case you don't have the time now, here are a few key takeaways from the episode. I hope it inspires you to go listen to the episode. 

#1 Flexibility is key

Change becomes easier when we are psychologically flexible. That means to stop worrying about the past and the future and to stay present in the moment. We must find a way to accept unwanted experiences and emotions. That's what Trish and Aisling are here to help us with.

#2 Take small steps

We believe in the power of small. Don't go all-in when trying to make a change. You should take small steps outside your comfort zone every day and let the experience guide you. And let the small step be withing your self-care Zone.

#3 Accept your emotions

We are often put in unwanted situations or experience unwanted emotions. But that's just how it is. Accept your emotions; you can't control them. What you can control is your reaction to them. Don't let them hold you back. 



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If you want to know more about change and how to make a change stick, you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google or Stitcher or read more on our website: www.nexum.eu


EP5 - Aisling and Trish Leonard-Curtin

Mon, 9/7 1:49AM • 46:01


people, emotions, act, change, important, life, acceptance, bodies, values, trish, comfort zone, feel, feeling, thinking, run, unwanted, unwanted thoughts, moment, person, piece


Morten Andersen, Aisling Leonard-Curtin, Trish Leonard-Curtin

Morten Andersen  00:05

Hello, and welcome to What Monkeys Do. My name is Morten Kamp Andersen. And this is a podcast about what it takes to make a change and make it stick.

Morten Andersen  00:21

In What Monkeys Do, we explore what it takes to make a change. Today, we will look at the principles of ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to facilitate change in yourself and others. I was 14 years old, the first time I did public speaking, I was in private Mary school, and my teacher got the idea that one from our class should go into the class next door and tell them what we had learned about the Vikings. And out of the blue. She pointed at me and said, Morten, why don't you go in and do that right now? Being introverted, didn't help. But the worst thing was that the girl I was trying to impress at the time was in that exact class. And I was I was terrified. I was sweating. And as I stood in front of the class, I could not remember anything about the Vikings. I stuttered, I stopped, I looked down, and the teacher dismissed me and I went back to my own class. Even today, I have that feeling in my body every time I do public speaking. Sometimes we end up in unwanted situation, and we experience unwanted emotions, that's part of life. And change is often something imposed on us. So change, sometimes create unwanted situations and unwanted emotions. My father advised me not to think about it. Think about something else was his advice. Later, I learned that I could change myself speak so focused on the voices in my head. Others suggested that I should really go for it by signing up for a big speaking event to overcome my fears. Today, we know that those pieces of advice probably did not help me. But how should we overcome unwanted emotions which can affect us so much and hold us back as we try to change. My two guests today are experts in helping people change by making them accept unwanted emotions as a catalyst for change. They have written the excellent book, The Power of Small which has just been launched in America. They are the founders and directors of ACT NOW the largest provider of act workshops in Ireland. Welcome to you both Aisling and Trish Leonard-Curtin.


Thank you very much.

Morten Andersen  02:33

First, let me say that your book is really excellent. I enjoyed reading it and especially your daily small steps at the end of each chapter that was very engaging. So a great shout out for that book. What do you think is the most important thing for a person to be aware of or do for a person who wants to make a change or change a feeling or breaking a habit or something else? What do you think is the most important thing for that person to Do

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  03:01

well one thing I think that's really important for the person to aware of,  that it's not a case of one size fits all. It's kind of half a joke. But there's a lot of truth to that if there was just one thing that we all could do that would help us to make changes, we'd all just do it. They'd be no psychologist, there'd be no coaches, there'd be no therapists, it would just all be very straightforward. And also, often the advice we get is extremist advice. Like the advice you've got from your father, don't think about it, if there was that switch in our brain that we could just stop thinking about things, it would be just wonderful, you know, and or the other thing is, like this idea of like, go big or, go home, go for the biggest thing and, and actually, for many people that will just kind of take them into overwhelm. So I think there's something or in checking in with Well, you know, why do we want to make this change in the first place, and really rooting and anchoring in the motivation underlying that change? And then just to be aware of that all or nothing extremist thinking that we are all exposed to day in day, the minute you turn on your computer, or you turn off the television, and just actually grind and say okay, What can I do? That's one small step toward this. And also to recognize that we have psychological blocks and barriers as well, we encounter unwanted thoughts and emotions. And unless we actually kind of look at those thoughts and emotions as they arise and learn new ways of responding to them, we're likely to kind of keep them the same patterns. 

Trish Leonard-Curtin  04:18

The Carl Rogers used to talk about that balance between acceptance and change, which seems like kind of a bit of a paradox. But we can really only change what's fundamentally important when we accept the way we are because if we're coming from a place of lack of acceptance of who we are and the way things are, we fall into the trap of being quite harsh with ourselves and and being really regimental and beating ourselves up on our inner critics can really get in the way of that change process and keep us exactly where we don't want to be.

Morten Andersen  04:51

Hmm. So you're both psychologist and you work with ACT. Many of our listeners may not be familiar with act, can you just sort of give a brief introduction to what is That's and how do you work with that?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  05:02

Yeah, of course, act stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And it's always that as the word act rather than the letters A C T, and It just fundamentally a very open approach. And it's really all about taking meaningful action. And the idea behind ACT is that just like we can build our physical flexibility through doing things like yoga, and pilates and stretches and eating certain foods and eating less of other foods, so too, can we become more psychologically flexible. So it's important to say being psychologically flexible doesn't mean being immune to unwanted thoughts and emotions. However, what it is, is that there's almost like a separation between our unwanted internal experiences and our actions, so that our actions are firmly grounded in our bodies and what matters most to us. We're all being pushed around by unwanted thoughts and emotions that tell us what we can and cannot do. So there are three pieces that can lead to us being psychological. inflexible, I suppose it's important to say here there isn't anybody who's 100% psychologically inflexible, and I'm sure some of the listeners are thinking, Well, I know somebody who is. So I don't want to take your listeners kind of ideas away. But usually there's nobody who's 100%, psychologically inflexible, but also there aren't people who are 100% psychologically flexible. So when we're psychologically inflexible, we're basically disconnected from the present moment, we're not really in the here and now. So rather than me having a conversation with yourself Morten and my wife, Trish, I'm kind of in my head thinking about well, what's Morten going to ask next, what if more and ask me something that I can't answer. What if I stumbled on my words and all of this? What if my cat rocks in front of the computer she's just about to do now and I'm going to using an example of an animal but actually animals are really great at being in the present moment. If they get a fright, they shake it off. They don't try and appear calm, cool and collected. They just shake it off, and they're back in the moment. But for many humans, we find it very hard to be in the moment more More often than not, we're going over the past going back over things in the past past regrets wishing that things were different, or going back to a time when we feel like things are better in the past than they are now. And kind of just in that wishing for things to be different, we go out of context, the present moment. And the other place we go to is the future. What if this What if that, and we can be going to favorable outcomes or unfavorable outcomes? At the moment, a lot of people are like, what if you know, things around COVID-19 and the impact that that's going to have on health systems and an impact that's going to have on our economy and everything, and that's very natural, but sometimes we can get so caught up in that that we are so out of contact with the present moment that we're not truly effective. And the other thing we can do is I've known people as well like a cup of water if they win the lotto, and that all sounds lovely, but if my dreams that win the lotto are preventing me from enjoying time with my friends now, that's a problem. Yes, the other part here and Trish Feel free to jump in at any point as well. Is that We start to be unwilling to feel unwanted experiences where we become unwilling to try new things where there's the possibility of failure or the possibility of rejection. And we can recall things like what you wish you recalled earlier, Morten when you were 14 years old. I'm not going to ask your age, but it doesn't look like that was today or yesterday, you know, as it wasn't for me either way. But we can still remember things from when we were younger. And we have we have such fear of if that happened again, what would that mean? And it's almost like if I became red in front of people, or if I messed up in some way, and we're so afraid of messing up that we don't get a chance to appreciate and gain new skills and experiences. So that's the second part is when we're unwilling to have new experiences or unwilling to do things that might bring up a lot of thoughts and emotions. And let me tell you now and I'm sure you know this yourself, Morten. Whenever you do anything new and anything that's worthwhile, a lot. Have unwanted thoughts and emotions arise. You mentioned, you mentioned our book. When we started writing our book, I went from feeling very confident and competent. As an ACT therapist. I've been called luck expert before, thinking I don't really know this at all. And now by writing this book, it's going to be obvious to everyone. I don't know if that happened when you heard the podcast, it's just like, Oh, yes. And the last part of psychological inflexibility is when we become disconnected from what matters to us, or life becomes about survival, just managing day by day. And we don't really have a sense of of what we're doing and why we're doing it. It just feels a little bit like Groundhog Day. So when we're caught in those kind of traps, that's when we become psychologically inflexible. It's like our thoughts and our emotions and our desire to feel certain feelings, and have certain thoughts are driving where we do and don't go. And then psychological flexibility.Is the flip side of that. 

Trish Leonard-Curtin  09:51

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we kind of I think, in a way, stop living or stop living well, according to what's important to us. If I might share my personal experience because your introduction really resonated greatly with me, and I still struggle to a certain extent with social situations, especially large groups, and talking in front of groups and public speaking, so it's still gags me. But it really wasn't until I found ACT the principles that things really started to shift for me. I will never be doing this podcast I wouldn't be doing book launches. I wouldn't be doing anything that I'm doing without it because I too, have tried everything. I've tried not thinking about it. And I've tried you in the intensive boot camp. I've tried in the coaching. I've tried everything and really, it was only when I made space to notice. Oh, look, I noticed that my cheeks are turning red. Hmm. I noticed that my voice is quivering. I noticed that I said something wrong there. But none of it was a good enough reason to stop what I was doing. Because On the flip side, I was connected To why it was important for me to be getting the messages that I wanted to get out there. And when I was connected with my values for public speaking, it no longer became about somebody who's gonna laugh at me, somebody who's gonna think I'm silly, somebody is going to ask me a question. And I won't know the answer. When I'm making space for my experiences. None of that matters because I'm doing what's important to me.

Morten Andersen  11:23

And there's a couple of important concepts both in what you just said there, but also in your book, The Life Worth Fighting For is something that comes back again and again. And it seems something which is very meaningful to me is connected to my values. And it seems to be something that is very important in how you work and you're thinking about what is important for us to change. Can you talk a little bit about why this is so important and what is our life worth fighting for?

Trish Leonard-Curtin  11:53

I personally was quite late in life when I came to realize that a good life is not necessarily a happy life. And a happy life is not something that you can consistently have every day and chasing happiness is, is really chasing an illusion because the happiness comes from a life well lived in terms of doing things that you might be afraid of, or doing things that are important to you and feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And happiness I think in many ways, it's the sense of contentment it's a byproduct of living the life that may be outside your comfort zones taking chances, it's opening yourself up so for me I'm what we would kind of communicate to others is that you know, that life worth fighting for is when you are living with purpose and meaningful relationships and connections. You don't have to chase happiness. You don't have to work so hard because it's just it naturally comes that way. Mm hmm. So people focus on and that's why a lot of our work as well as helping people to come to an understanding And the connection at a really deep level, what what exactly is this life about for you? What do you want to stand over? What do you want it to be about? And we would spend a lot of time in our work on with ourselves reflecting on that before we even make those changes, because the changes that come from those deeply held values that we have inside ourselves, tend to be the more meaningful, long lasting changes than ones that we might be, you know, doing because somebody has told us it's a good idea or recommend to us, or advertising or marketing tells us we'll be happy if we just have this device for this time, or this car.

Morten Andersen  13:35

How do you go about doing that? So in your book, it was actually one of the small steps for a day to find our values. I thought that was that was a big, small step that you had asked me to do. But so you basically say sit down and write some of your core values down But I have to admit, every time I do that, I am struggling to get into my real core values. I sort of end up with some of the things that I feel I have to write or I have to have or it would be imprudent of me not to have that value, low practical, how do you actually get to help somebody finding their core values and therefore the meaning in their lives?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  14:12

Well, I think what you're talking about there, Morten is a very common piece that comes up for people because sometimes we do not even know what our values are because we're so socially conditioned about what we think other people want the values to be. So often when I do this exercise with people in groups are one to one might have a lot of different values and kind of prioritizing, you know, very important, kind of important, not at all important, and then picking the five most important values and then going about living those values for the next week. And then through the action and through the reflections, the are these actual values, and many people come back and say, You know what, I chose that because my parents would want me to choose that are my children want me to choose that are my partner What are my work colleagues? So what I would ask you is that if you didn't have to show your values to anybody, or you didn't have to explain them to us Anybody might be different than the ones that you chose.

Morten Andersen  15:03

I mean, I don't really share that kind of information. Generally I speak to my wife about it, but it's not at my work colleagues are not overwhelmed with my values that I've written down in the weekend. But, but if I knew for certain that I wouldn't have to share it with anyone, I probably would pick others or formulate them in a different way. Maybe.

Trish Leonard-Curtin  15:23

Yeah. And sometimes what will happen is some things will be different, and some things will be the same. And it always stays with me there was somebody that did a group with me, and it's over 10 years ago now. And when he came into the group, he was he was any 60s at the time and he said that he felt like he'd been living his whole life living everybody else's bodies, living his wife bodies, living his children's bodies. I think he grandchildren at this point, or colleagues that he had no idea who he was. And he said that through act, he kind of got a chance to connect with what was really important to him. He said, the thing that was surprising to him is that many of the values were the same as the values that he thought he was living for everybody else, but they started to feel different. When they were his rather than something that he felt like he should do, or he had to do or that he needed to do in order to be lovable, are to be worthy of acceptance from others. And I think that's the piece around the values is that, you know, and it's kind of a more of a question, but at the, on my last day on earth, if I was to look back on my life, what would I want my life to have embodied to have represented? And the idea is that we ask these moral questions that do bring up unwanted thoughts and emotions because we would prefer for you to have someone want to tell us in emotions now when you've time to change us rather than in your last day or it's or it's too nice.

Morten Andersen  16:37

So, what I understand is that for act, one of the core ideas in Act is that in order to become more psychological flexible, which is a key concept, then making toward moves to a meaningful life or how you have defined a meaningful life is very important. So true change really you must have a sense of what your values are and what your meaning in life is, before you can make a true change. Is that

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  17:06

yes and no, yes and no. So it's an important piece in October, sometimes people will know what their values are until they start testing the most.

Morten Andersen  17:15

Hmm. Okay,

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  17:16

and people can get lost in the waiting room or spend years in the waiting room if they're like, but I'm not sure that these are the right bodies for me, so I can't really work on them. So the idea is that bodies are like this constant kind of almost cornerstone. However, we're holding them lightly yet we're pursuing them vigorously. So if we pick these three or four or five guys never say being courageous, being compassionate, being authentic, might not be sure that those are my values. But I start to live more consistently with those and I start to check in with myself. And kind of like what Trish was saying, you know, happy or content life isn't being happier content in our moments, but it's being able to being proud to stand over ourselves. So I know, often when I'm courageous, I feel better in my skin in the long run, but when I'm in courageous and authentic sometimes I'm saying stuff that I don't think somebody else wants to hear. But I try to say in a compassionate way, but afterwards, I feel better about myself rather than if I just stuffed it down afterwards. Because sometimes we only know our bodies through our actions and through reflection. And the idea is that even though it's at the start of the power of small that we look at what our values are, the ideas that you're kind of looking at them on an ongoing basis, and you're open to them changing and if we have big life events, they will shift our bodies that are important. So if somebody has a big bereavement in their life, or they move to a new country, or they change job, very likely different bodies will come to the forefront because they need a little bit more time and attention given that life circumstances

Trish Leonard-Curtin  18:41

and there are some people who are naturally very reflective and may have figured out who and what they want to be abase. for other people. It may be that the way they are in relationships and in those moments and noticing the average age towards and away moves is what allows them to recognize what's Important on that bigger level. So if I am Hirsch that a friends has not contacted me back or may have said something to upset me and I look and I realized, you know, I'm hard for a reason it's important to me. Is it? Is it important what what exactly is important to me? Because it's not about the friend. It's what's important is what's that bringing up on me? So is that need to be respected? Is that a need to be attended to? Is it a need to be loved? So we kind of look into our towards and away moves on a daily basis and see, okay, well, in this moment, forget about my whole life and what I want to be remembered for, but in this moments, what is important, and then we can take those moments and they can become the building blocks of our days and we can get to know our values and ourselves in that way too.

Morten Andersen  19:59

So You have some important concepts in your book. Two other concepts are the comfort zone. We all know that. But then you also talk about something called the self care zone. And you advise us that we every day, spend a little bit of time outside of our comfort zone. But inside our self care zone, can you explain a little bit about what that is and why it's important to move outside of your comfort zone every day?


Yeah, so I suppose the pieces if we stay in our comfort zone, nothing changes. And I know I'm guessing if people are listened to a podcast that's all about making personal changes, people probably want to make some changes. So if we stay in our comfort zone all the time, those changes aren't going to be possible. But what sometimes people do that they pendulum swing from being in their comfort zone, to going so far outside their comfort zone that they're also outside their self care zones that might be doing too much too quickly. The example that comes to mind is that I'm not sure what it's like over on Copenhagen, Morten, but in in Ireland and Dublin, every January. I have clients who have injuries Because they went from doing very little exercises to go to going to the gym five days a week for like an hour and a half, two hours, and they end up doing an injury that then they're not able to exercise for a long time again. And this is a really simple example but I'm guessing from your smile it happens at least a little bit

Morten Andersen  21:18

That's very much the same in Copenhagen and for me personally.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  21:22

And sometimes people do not as well food they go from having a diet that's kind of has a lot of sugary, starchy foods to being like, Okay, well, I'm not gonna eat any of that, you know, just gonna eat vegetables and fruits and everything is going to be right now I do know there are a small number of people who can keep a raw diet going, but most people, myself included, do not do that well with those extreme changes. And also, let's say from if you've trouble with with public speaking, and it's really challenging, it will be like, Okay, well, let's go out and do it in front of you know, 10,000 people or something and it just might be a bit too much. And what happens if we try to do too much too quickly. We're actually likely to get overwhelmed, sometimes even traumatized. And then what happens is rather than actually making more changes, we actually go running right back into our comfort zone. And we're even more scared to leave us than we were beforehand. Hmm,

Morten Andersen  22:12

small steps and not too far out of our comfort zone.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  22:17

Absolutely, and to take care of ourselves as well that if we are challenging ourselves to go outside our comfort zones, we will inevitably meet unwanted thoughts and emotions and bodily sensations. So what can we do that nurtures and nourishes ourselves? So just like we wouldn't expect our car to go without, whether it's petrol, diesel or electricity now too, we often expect our bodies to kind of keep going so what can we do that's nurturing and nourishing? And I know you've mentioned about being an introvert more than I know my wife Trish as an introvert comes to so they won't be nurturing and nourishing. If you're an introvert is like taking some time on your own and little things. I'm probably more of the extroverted side of things. So I need to be aware. I certainly do need some time my own yet. I do need to be around other people as well to, to set out to be self caring, and most of us need a balance of both of those aspects.

Morten Andersen  23:07

And do you think that many people know what their self care zone is and how that looks like and where the boundaries to that is? So is that something you need to teach them?

Trish Leonard-Curtin  23:17

I think that that comes from knowing your own limits. And we really were conscious when we wrote The Power of Small that one of the specific approaches or the aspects that were really important to us was the compassion. So how could we allow people a compassion space in a non judgmental space to explore these things for themselves? Compassion is so important. I think a lot of the time people can kind of get confused that compassion is all about you know, being really chapleau going for that hot boss and just shutting out the world and maybe not you know, if I if I don't feel like doing that, I won't. But compassion can be tough. It can ask us to do things that You know, if we're known if we know our limits, then sometimes we might have to say no to the neighbor and friend that's asking us to do something that we just don't have the space for. And it can be really uncomfortable to say no to people. And that can take a lot of practice. And so the self care zone is is about knowing what your limits are. And being honest with yourself that may be you know, you might be able for a little bit more than you think you are, and and then gently pushing yourself. But I think it's something that you get to know over time. And to that honesty, I'm not being gentle and compassionate with yourself, okay? And it's, it's a balancing act. We go in and out of it, there's no staying life happens. We get thrown curveballs. So we mostly go in and out and we maybe float back into our comfort zone and hang out there for a while and then come back out again and maybe go into overwhelm and come back. So I don't know anybody who's constantly in their self care zone. Me neither.

Morten Andersen  25:00

The first letter in enact is called acceptance and already there I find myself resisting. I mean, when somebody is creating a situation where I feel negative emotions or unwanted emotions, acceptance is the last thing on. Can you say a little bit about what acceptance actually mean and how do you get to that point?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  25:22

Well first things first Morten you are not in your own. Most of us The only reason we ever come to acceptance is when nothing else works. We will try everything that we can to avoid feeling a certain thing, which isn't there's nothing wrong with that by itself. However, when we're rigidly or excessively trying to order emotions, we can do so in a range of ways it could be sugary, starchy foods, it could be binge watching Netflix or Amazon Prime, it could be alcohol and you know most of these things in moderation, there's no problem but when we start doing it rigidly and excessively it becomes problematic. So I suppose the big thing about acceptance is it doesn't mean that we need to like love or one tower Feeling it and I suppose the piece here is that we notice what aspects of our lives are within our control outside our control. And there's a chapter in The Power of Small it's called the power struggle and it looks at what's within our control and what's outside our control. And the reason why we look at acceptance is because the more time and energy I potent, trying to control aspects of my life outside of my control, I have very little time and energy left for the aspects of my life that are within my control. So the more I'm trying to control other people, the more I'm trying to control anxiety, sadness, anger, or what have you, the more out of control these aspects of our life often gas, and we do know reading vary from the research does. The more time and energy I put in trying to control silence, the more likely I am to develop depression, the more time and energy I put in trying to control anxiety, the more likely I am to develop an anxiety disorder. And it's the same for post traumatic stress disorder addiction. So there's a lot of research reasons, just solid, kind of just data Just to say that trying to avoid when we do it rigidly and excessively does not work. Also, if I'm overly concerned about trying to control other people's perspectives of me, I don't get a chance to actually realize my own dreams. So when we talk about acceptance, it's not liking, loving or wanting, it's just kind of recognizing, I don't have control over this aspect of my life. And rather than struggling against things, it which the anxiety is really inside of myself. So rather than struggling against myself, can I put that same time and energy into the compassion aspect that Trish mentioned there a few moments ago, and compassion is on recognizing suffering and committing to alleviating suffering? So let's say I get a tough email or a tough call, and I'm feeling anxious, or I'm feeling sad, I'm getting angry about it. Rather than trying to avoid it and start saying, I shouldn't be exercise. I should be an adult about this. There's no reason for me to feel this way. I'm just gonna go and I'm going to get a take away or I'm going to drink a bottle of wine. You know, it's more so saying, right? I don't want Feel like this and you know what the way that I'm feeling makes sense, given the context, I worked really hard on this. And I got an email on the point of everything that I did wrong. There was no acknowledgement of the efforts that I put into this. And you know, what, if my best friend if my loved one was feeling this way after getting this email, I would say of course, you're feeling that way. So how and it's learning a lot to ourselves.

Morten Andersen  28:23

So acceptance is not so much acceptance of what the other person did. It is more acceptance of this is actually okay to feel this way. And this is an appropriate emotion to feel. So I accept that emotion.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  28:36

Absolutely. Because that's one of the things people are saying, Well, are you saying that people accept being in abusive situations? Absolutely not. But what we what we are saying is probably worth accepting is that thoughts and emotions I call from being in abusive situations, and then to consciously make a choice around what is aligned with your bodies in terms of what to do or not do and I suppose the hope is that many people can get out of these abusive or challenging sexual If there is no valuer within those

Trish Leonard-Curtin  29:03

Yes. And we can also apply The Power of Small directly to acceptance as well. Because sometimes if we're asked to accept a big situation or maybe really overwhelming emotions, that can be a big ask. But a really important part of ACT and the way we work is also mindfulness. And we can break things down further into moments. It's like what's going on in my body in this moment? So if anxiety is a is a ball or a knot in my in my tummy, can I just sit with that ball of numbness without going into the story? If I'm feeling anger is a tightness in my fists or my chest? Can I just sit and accept that sensation? Without going into the story of how dare they and what do they do to me and I'm just often acceptance can be just about sitting with what's happening in our bodies,

Morten Andersen  29:55

because I guess the How dare they and why don't they do this and so on. Can can take up so much mental time and energy that you really don't have time to feel and be in the present moment. Absolutely. Yeah.

Morten Andersen  30:18

Great. I want to try to be a little bit practical and try to see how would this work in in a couple of examples. So let's say that your company has decided to merge two departments, I know you have your own company. So let's let's play along. And so as a result, you will, you'll work closely and daily together with the person that you really dislike. You've had a conflict with this person and you don't like this person at all. And every time you see her you are overwhelmed by negative emotions like anger, hurt resentment, irritation, rejection and things like that. How can I act and how can The Power of Small help you in a situation like that? What would be the first step do in order to overcome and accept this change that has been imposed on you.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  31:06

So the first thought that comes to mind is the power struggle that we've talked about already. And that's to look at, you know, how much time and energy is being wasted trying to kind of control this this other person or what have you, and how much time and energy is being spent wondering about what our thoughts are about you and so forth. So, the aspects of our life that are a sign of our controller other people's thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions in the past, present and future, our own thoughts and feelings and body sensations, the Past, Present future and I always say but what do you mean our thoughts and feelings are outside our control? So what I mean is that none of us choose to feel anxious none of us choose to feel shame. None of us choose to feel angry. When those thoughts or emotions arise. We do have control and choice and power to choose how we respond to them once they're within our awareness, but we don't choose or have control over those thoughts or Emotions are bodily sensations that come up in the first place. And the other parts are to actions values in the past or in the future. So what I would imagine in this situation is that probably this person is spending a lot of time thinking about how unfair This is how they prefer to before, this probably a whole list of judgments around the other person, how can I get things to be better? Or can I move to another team or all of this kind of these pieces? And so the first thing is just to say that person that all of those thoughts feelings are completely normal and natural, given the situation that's going on. So is the desire to want to change somebody, change somebody else. I think most people have at least one of those people in their family and at least one of those people in their workplace and if you only have one of eah to read, Moses have multiple. So the piece here is around looking at well then what are your body's attitudes and actions, okay, you wouldn't choose for this person to be working with you. You wish that it was different. Of course. Since thIs the situation, what are the things that you can do? In some situations, there might be something like to talk about, you know, projects that you could be doing together or apart or kind of in terms of like, how do you make a kind of work in the best possible way, have a conversation around? How can you be respectful of one another play to one another's strengths, sometimes there may be a possibility to move to another department. And it may be just about having the courage to ask about that. But also be aware that you don't have control over whether the person says you kind of were moved to the other department or not. So all of this is around empowering the person who's having the challenges to make the changes that they can. And then at this could be a really useful point to practice some of these acceptance skills that we've been taught.

Trish Leonard-Curtin  33:44

Yeah, this is a really difficult one. I've been situation many times myself and I've worked with people who it's very hard to let it go when you bring it home and you start to talk to your partner about it and in the mag detail and they did this today and then they did this You believe they said this and you forget that you've kind of you've got a family and you've got a life outside work, and then you might go to bed and have restless nights and dream about it, but it can become all consuming. I think there's a really important concepts while we've given a chapter two in the book of moving from a place of kind of willfulness, to willingness, you know, so that willfulness is like this shall not be happening. And if I keep talking about it, and if I involve everybody, I know in this, we're going to crack it, the person's going to change or they're going to leave but something's going to happen. But having the space for the willingness to show up and as Aisling said, work on what is in within, within your control and allowing that person you know, because we've we've all got rules that we live by, yes, we sometimes have them unconsciously for ourselves, and sometimes they can come to the surface of You know what, oh, you know, one of my rules is my belief that people should be you know, reading conscientious that work and give that extra mile That's not everybody's rules for living or everybody's rules for working. Some people just want to show up and do the bare minimum and get the paycheck. Yes, and spend the rest of their their life living life, you know. So it's as well it's kind of like Have I got the rules for myself in terms of what it means. And I can't actually extend those roles to others because they've got their own rules. And as they should, it's, we each have our lives as as we can choose the best we can.

Morten Andersen  35:26

There's a couple of things actually, I thought I really liked. One was that you say, we're not responsible for our emotions. I remember when I read that I thought that was that was new for me. But what you're saying is we are not responsible for our emotions, but we are responsible for how we react to our emotions. And I think sometimes I feel I shouldn't be thinking that I shouldn't be feeling that. And what you're really saying is that's fine to feel that but how you react with that emotion is really up to you. And I think that was actually worth reflecting on. So that takes away some of the guilt for even having that emotion. But instead of thinking about what should I do here, the second point you mentioned there is that except what you can do and what you cannot do. So, when we are at our workplace, there will always be things imposed on us. There are people who make decisions on our behalf and we cannot change that. There might be some times when we can go in and make some alterations, suggestions work arounds, but ultimately there are things which we have no control over. And then there are some things we do have control over and focus on them actually empower you, instead of feeling powerless and give you a sense of energy to I can I can make a change in this situation.



Morten Andersen  36:45

Excellent. Generally, I find it amazing how long time events can be stored in our bodies and affect our lives. It's not too long time ago, I spoke to a woman I guess she was in her mid 50s. And we were talking about energy I think I guess I said something about running in the morning was a good way to get some energy for the rest of the day or something like that. And then she told me that she never runs. And I asked her, why do you never run? And she said, Well, when she went to primary school, and this is 45 years ago, or something like that, she said that one of her girlfriends had remarked that you run in a funny way, and she could still remember that. And as a consequence of that, she'd actually never run a day in her life. And it's not very much that we can remember from our primary school when we are in our 50s. But that stuck with her and that actually made her not run because she was very self conscious. And she didn't really question whether her friend was right or not. She just had that as a consequence and, and that was also the same for me and my public speaking. It is a long, long time ago and it is still in my body. Every time I do public speaking, I do it despite of that feeling. So using the idea of comfort zone, self care zone and the life force Living? What would you suggest to this woman who has not been running for 50 years but probably should be thinking about whether that is holding her back sometimes.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  38:09

I think the first thing that comes to my mind is on whether this person wants to run or not. Because sometimes the person might be happy out not running. And it can be, you know, the way we were talking a moment ago how we maybe have roads around, but I think it's healthier for you if you're wrong, and the rest of it so the first thing is around by the person wants to run or not the phrase that comes to mind that they say a lot and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is letting experience be your guide rather than your mind. So it might be even just to go out and experiment with running for two or three minutes and noticing how she felt afterwards. Because it's probably going to feel a bit different if she's choosing not to run rather than she cannot run because, you know, people will make fun of her.

Morten Andersen  38:52

And you say this here again, act is really, you should try to do something and see how that makes you feel and let that be a guide. I think That was a that is an excellent idea. And obviously, it's not the first time you do something that you have a great experience and therefore, you will continue to do that. Sometimes you do have some, I suppose mental barriers that hold you back but they are still holding you back and you need to barge through them I suppose. But act i suppose the letters obviously stand for A C T is has an acronym, but it also means you need to do something

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  39:24

absolutely and, and big pieces to move from having to do something to choosing to do something. And I think that natural tendency is to barsha things at the parasitologist around kind of just kind of gently expanding and there's ongoing, ongoing way because we're barging through things that takes up so much time and energy, then then it's hard to kind of maintain the momentum. So like, in some ways, what we're saying is like, you know, take your time doing it, and be as fully conscious or connected as you as you possibly can be, and and keep going because our natural tendency is to set the bar so high for ourselves that we will do one of two things. We did Don't get started because it feels overwhelming. Or we start off all guns blazing, and we run out of steam pretty quickly. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah,

Morten Andersen  40:08

that's a good thing to bear in mind that don't sign up for a marathon in order to overcome your fear of running, but take it in, in small steps. And that's the name of your book, The Power of Small and that's also one of your key advice is to take small steps, get a little bit outside of your comfort zone, you know, let experience guide you and build up psychologically flexibility as you do that. Finally, if you should give our listeners three good advice to begin embracing the power of small what three advice would you give them?

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  40:43

The first thing that comes to mind is just to kind of recognize when you're starting to label your options is good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative. And instead to look at well which actions for me closer towards my bodies and which actions bring me further away, and I know we've been using the language of toward and away Throughout the interview, because it's like second nature to us, I know you've read the books of second nature every two, two months. But actually, it's quite, it's quite a shift for people because we're usually say, I didn't go today because I got on top of my emails, but because of what age or how much I exercise, and rather than that, because it kind of gets us caught machines cycle and the shame loop when we do that is to actually it's more accurate to say, a lot oxes won't be closer towards who and where I want to be and what actually got me farther away. And then tomorrow, rather than being good or positive again, what can I do that will be a twoward move?

Trish Leonard-Curtin  41:32

Because I think we forget that one of the things that we do have control over is the language that we use to describe things and how we talk to ourselves. And towards in a way is very different from saying, you know, if I'm having a good day, I'm only having a good day, so long as I'm avoiding the bad days. You know, I'm only a good person so long as I'm not being bad. And if I have a bad day, then you know, your whole identity can really get caught up in that. We could start talking to ourselves in our own head. differently. So I'm terrible person or I'm having a bad day is like, you know, I'm noticing or I'm having this whole thought this is a bad day, or I'm having the thought that I'm angry right now or I'm noticing the emotion of anger. It just helps us get that little bit of wiggle room where we can maybe see different perspectives. And another one that really helps me in terms of just changing slightly how I talk to myself and how I perceive things in my head is, you know, like I mentioned my social anxieties like, I would love to give that speech but I'm too anxious. I would love to get up and tell you what I really think about this topic, but I'm afraid that you will laugh. I would love to tell you all that I have to tell you about this topic. I'm passionate about it. And I noticed that there's some anxiety coming up for me. One does not cancel out the other there's space for both. I can be anxious and I can speaks to the best of my ability about what I'm passionate about. I'm replacing that booklet and has really opened up my comfort zone in terms of what is possible for me to engage in.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin  43:11

Yeah, ultimately, I think it's moving from fighting against yourself to supporting yourself on whenever you notice you're fighting against how you're thinking and feeling. See if you can move to space of it makes sense that I think and feel this way, given my unique life history, my life challenges today. And this just tells me that I am somebody who cares deeply about this, this topic.

Morten Andersen  43:32

Fantastic. Thank you very much to the both of you for giving us these advice and giving us an insight into The Power of Small, I read the book, I did all of the exercises every day and you call them small steps, though some of them I think, are large steps, but they're all of them. So I really enjoyed that. Thank you very much for coming here. Both of you for this interview. I really appreciate

Trish Leonard-Curtin  43:54

your well. Thanks so much for having us. Thank you. 

Morten Andersen  44:00

Act is a specific type of therapy. And therapy is essentially about change. And some of the methods and mindsets from act are really useful for anyone. I took three things away from the conversation with Aisling and Trish, one, we change easier if we are psychologically flexible. That means that we must be present in the now accept our unwanted experiences, and that we are connected with what matters most the life worth fighting for. I like that phrase a lot. Two, take small steps. If you want to get into shape. Don't go all guns blazing. You should take small steps outside of your comfort zone each day and let the experience guide you. And that goes for all changes. Break it down and take small steps every day within your self care zone. three, accept your emotions, we are often put in unwanted situations and experience unwanted emotions in times of change. That's just how it is. You don't have to accept what happens. But you should learn to accept your emotions. That way, you will easier be able to respond well to them. There is a reason why act is fast becoming one of the most popular and effective ways of therapy. And I was really pleased to get an insight into act. So thanks to Aisling and Trish for their insights. If you liked the interview and you want to hear more, please press the subscribe button. Also, if you did like the interview, I will appreciate if you will give the podcast a five star feedback. It really helps a lot for our reach. Until next time, take care

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