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W is for Willingness

Willingness is the ability to face your emotions without immediately trying to escape or avoid them. This idea is everywhere in social media and many self-help books, often shown with pretty fonts on calming backgrounds, urging people to "just feel your feelings." The concept is simple – take a deep breath, let go of what no longer serves you, understand the message it might convey, express gratitude, and move on with life. Problem solved. Easily done.

If this sounds like magic, that's because it is. Willingness is a key part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). However, despite seeming simple in theory, it's vital to remember that practicing willingness without professional assistance can have risks. This is especially true for individuals with severe mental health conditions, trauma survivors, those with limited emotional regulation skills, or those in an acute crisis. The intensity of sensations and imagery that may come up can cause more distress than anticipated. Without the ability to navigate and manage emotions effectively, willingness outside of a therapeutic setting is more likely to backfire.

I don't intend to undermine the value of willingness; it's a powerful tool when used in a safe space with the right approach. However, with the surge of new age advice in books and on the internet, it's important to recognize that mental health problems and their treatment are often oversimplified. While this advice may come from a place of care and love, it may not be universally helpful. People and their bodies have unique needs, and one person's experience doesn't necessarily mirror another's.

If sitting with your feelings brings a sense of calmness, that's great. However, if it triggers a spiral of distress, it's essential to stop and seek serious help. In the end, those glossy affirmations aren't inherently bad, but it’s better to take them for what they are: Pretty reminders to take care of your mental health.

Do you want to learn more about willingness?

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W is for Willingness
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