The Near Enemy of Psychological Flexibility

I recently presented an ACT workshop with NeLi Martin and she spoke about the concept of the ‘near enemy’.

In our attempts to become better people the near enemy can actually be more dangerous than the far enemy.  For example, the far enemy of compassion is hatred but the near enemy is pity. It is easy to differentiate compassion from hatred but much more difficult to spot the more subtle differences between pity and compassion.
In this blog, I often mention psychological flexibility because it is associated with well being.  Steve Hayes defines psychological flexibility as:

The ability to contact the present moment
fully and without defence
as a conscious human being
engaged in life as it is – not as your mind says it is –
and, based on what the situation affords,
changing or persisting in behaviour
in the service of chosen values.

The far enemy of psychological flexibility is ‘experiential avoidance’ – making inflexible choices that aren’t aligned with values and that have the core aim of avoiding painful thoughts, feelings or memories.  Experiential avoidance is associated with all sorts of poor outcomes.

But the near enemy is to turn the choice to live a value laden life into a harsh, ‘fake it ’til you make it’; ‘suck it up’; ‘carry on regardless’ approach.  I think if we want to avoid this near enemy, we need to have a stance of self-compassion when we are doing our best to live our values.

2 thoughts on “The Near Enemy of Psychological Flexibility

  1. All that matters is performance. Being stoic, never getting upset, doing what matters regardless of how you feel, knowing your feelings don’t matter, not letting anything bother you. Competence is judged by our level of emotional control.

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