Even funny stories and myths can help us see the truth behind negative thoughts. Comedy shows us that we don’t always have to take out thoughts too seriously.‘Myth is a directing of the mind and heart, by means of profoundly informed figurations, to that ultimate mystery which fills and surrounds all existences. Even in the most comical and apparently frivolous of its moments, mythology is directing the mind to this unmanifest which is just beyond the eye.’
Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Ask the client to choose a cartoon character he thinks might represent or symbolize how he feels or behaves, and particularly a character he could never take seriously. Using thoughts that are typically sticky for the client (i.e., that prevent psychological lexibility or pull him away from his values), have him imagine these thoughts being spoken in the voice of that cartoon character. For example, a client who’s anxious and detail oriented might pick Brainy Smurf because Brainy is always worrying over every little thing, yet the other Smurfs dismiss him and never take him seriously. In this case, ask the client to hear his negative thoughts in Brainy’s annoying but comical voice.
The hope is that the client won’t be able to take those thoughts seriously. Instead, he will see that it doesn’t matter whether they’re right or wrong, and that he has a choice about whether to attend to them or not.’
Jill A. Stoddard and Niloofar Afari (eds.). The Big Book of ACT Metaphors. A Practitioner’s Guide to Experiential Exercises & Metaphors in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.
* In a series of posts I call mythology Monday, I look at quotes from the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and consider them alongside extracts from books and papers on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and related publications.