Where ACT differs from most other approaches to pain, is that we don’t try to avoid or get rid of the pain; instead, we aim to fundamentally change our relationship with it. And as we do that, the pain itself transforms; it no longer holds us back, or brings us down; it is no longer toxic or life-distorting; it loses its impact and influence over our lives.
When we look at our pain mindfully – i.e. with a genuine attitude of openness and curiosity, in much the same way that a young child might look curiously at a ladybird or a butterfly - we discover it is different to the way we initially perceived it. It’s no longer the horrible, terrible thing we thought it was. It may still be painful, and unpleasant – but it’s no longer something we need to fight with, run from, or get overwhelmed by. When we look mindfully at a painful thought, image or memory, we call that ‘defusion’. And when we look mindfully at a painful feeling or sensation, we call it ‘expansion’ or ‘acceptance’.