Truth is paradoxical

Bruce Clark-Kennedy, psychologist, posted this bit a musing at the yahoo group, ACT_ANZO listserv, that's ACT - Australia, New Zealand & Oceania.


Lao Tzu, once said, “The words of truth are always paradoxical.”

In struggling with my own understanding of ACT, I see ACT resting on the bedrock of individual workability with primary dimensions of psychological flexibility and inflexibility. I believe that flexibility incorporates the ability or inability to accept, and even embrace, paradox and ambiguity.

The workable and the unworkable appear as opposites or extremes of their own continuum and we may rarely be at either extreme that much. The polar dimensions of flexibility and inflexibility can be seen to form a continuum on which we all are somewhere different in different contexts. I am more flexible in some things and at some times and in some contexts than in others…and so on.

And so fusion and defusion may be bipolar but they are on the same scale, two sides of the same coin, Yin and Yang, each meaningless without the other etc. - each extreme of which probably wouldn’t be very workable in many contexts but may be workable in some. What cognitions could be workable when 100% fused with, and likewise what cognitions may be workable when 100% defused from?? What values could I truly be 100% fused or defused – not many methinks. Can I accept that and not remain stuck in a quagmire of indecision?

Being able to hold beliefs lightly even with deeply-cherished beliefs may seem paradoxical. These beliefs may be held firmly even unto death in some contexts but not in others. The ACT mantra is to move towards psychological flexibility, to allow our observer selves, our pre-frontal lobes to decide behaviour in the here and now; and not just from habit, early handed-down rules of others, or maladaptive rules of our own.

The paradoxes are endless. Can I live with true acceptance AND valued action? Can I choose for myself those actions that lead me to my own values yet in different contexts still choose other actions? And can I accept that and still move on? Can I accept my feelings and thoughts about this and still take valued action?

So our recent contortions and machinations on the ACT listserves regarding fusion and defusion especially and also on assisted suicide reflect our ongoing need to describe, simplify, teach, disseminate, and deepen our understanding of ACT – yet can we do this and still accept that we may always struggle like this to some extent because we may be dealing with elements of truth that “are always paradoxical.”

Maybe all of life is paradoxical.

Bruce Clark-Kennedy
Psychologist
Brisbane