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  • Writer's pictureAustin Aloysius Tay

Saying goodbye to your internal monsters

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Depressed businessman sitting under trouble thought boxes

It is not uncommon that everyone tends to get stuck with negative thoughts and emotions almost every day. Humans are good at allowing themselves to rationalize the why and the what of how they feel and think. It becomes a constant struggle with these internal ‘monsters’.

Individuals use various ways to tackle these ‘monsters’.  One of these is a confrontation. When individuals use this approach, they seek to ‘unpick’ or try to ‘solve’ (eliminate) the negative thoughts and emotions (the monsters). While this can create momentary relief, the bad news is that these monsters are not going away! They will return to challenge and fight our teeth and nails to defeat us. So, as humans, we keep fighting (this is what we are conditioned to do) until we can fight no more.  We then become even more depressed than we were before.

So, what can we do to get rid of these internal monsters? We can learn to A-C-T.

A – Accept your negative thoughts and emotions as they are

C –  Connect with what is important to your life (your values)

T –  Take committed actions to work towards your values

Yes, it is so simple. Let me explain. A-C-T aka Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, unlike other forms of therapy, does not make you actively perform symptom reduction. Instead, it encourages you to notice, accept, be in the moment, focus on what matters to you most (your values) and work towards that. Strangely, in doing these, the symptoms you experience will reduce by themselves. To give you a better perspective of what ACT is, let us look at the hexaflex below

ACT (Simplified model)

Russ Harris (2009) – ACT Made Simple

To understand the six different parts of the hexaflex, let me use a contex. I will use an example of someone who is stressed.

Contact with the present moment – Be Here Now

In ACT, you are encouraged to be in the moment and notice what is here and around you. Humans tend to let our thoughts and emotions dictate how we behave.  In doing so, we are often caught in a state of rumination.

bepresent blackandwhite

We reminisce and worry about the future. We do not enjoy the present and will let it pass. Learn to stay in the moment, and you will learn how to see and live your life differently.

Acceptance – Be Open

Can you be open when you are feeling stressed?

Thoughts like, “I do not seem to have enough time to complete the tasks on hand” or “I am to have a severe migraine” can come into your head. There is you, and then there are those thoughts and emotions. It is like a constant struggle. Just as depicted in the picture below.

The more you pull, the monster will pull even harder. So what should you do?

My suggestion is to drop the rope. The moment you do so, your focus will no longer be on pulling the rope; instead, you are learning to accept that the monster is there. No more struggling.

Mindful – Watch Your Thinking

Humans often dwell too much on our thoughts, allowing them to form what we believe to be reality. This creates more anxiety, and we get into a loop of rumination.

Stop! Do not let your thoughts lead you to a bottomless pit of uncertainties, anxieties and fear. Your thoughts are just thoughts, and your emotions are just emotions. They are just that, no more, no less.

Self-As-Context – Notice

When our minds are filled with negative thoughts, we leave no space for other things. We are too busy trying to attend to those thoughts and fail to see how all these thoughts are affecting us.

Let those thoughts come and go, don’t entertain them. However, take a step back and see how those thoughts affect you – physically and physiologically (viewing them from your perspective). What else are you missing when you are focused on these thoughts? STOP, PAUSE and NOTICE.

Values – Knows What Matters

When we spend too much time regretting the past and worrying about the future, we lose focus on what matters to us. This could be as simple as being happy, showing love to others or being compassionate to oneself.

Committed Actions – Do What It Takes

Once we can identify our values, it is necessary to look at how to fulfil those values. The steps required (goals) help you work towards your values. That is to accept what bumps along the way and consistently work towards a values-based life.


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