Behind the scenes: The bus metaphor

In chapter 3 of ‘on being me’ I illustrate one of my favourite metaphors – the bus metaphor. This metaphor is an exercise from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I use ACT both personally and professionally. For me it is the perfect combination of existentialism, mindfulness, (a bit of) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and pragmatism. My one sentence description of ACT is ‘A therapy that helps you identify and become the person you want to be’. ACT places emphasis on values, choice, and living in the present moment.

The bus metaphor is designed to help me become aware of my choices and values (by identifying where I want my bus to go); my control over my choices (by emphasising that I am the only person who can drive my bus); the process of living a choice (making a choice can be the easy bit – it’s living a choice that I can find difficult); and my vulnerabilities, doubts, hesitations, and anxieties (the passengers on my bus).

The bus metaphor isn’t about wrestling with my vulnerabilities, controlling them, or changing them – it’s about recognising that it is normal to feel vulnerable but that I can feel vulnerable AND still choose to live my choice. My passengers might shout in my ear – but I don’t have to do what they say.

ACT isn’t about making life ‘easier’. It’s not about ‘reducing discomfort’. It’s about constantly asking myself ‘Am I being the person I want to be’ and recognising that often the process of being ‘me’ will feel uncomfortable. Discomfort is normal. Some of the most meaningful aspects of my life, such as being in love, come with a heavy dose of ‘discomfort’. The bus metaphor invites me to explore whether I am letting my fears and anxieties shape my choices – or whether I am able to live my choices with my feelings of vulnerability.

In the chapter I hint at the idea of having some compassion for my vulnerabilities – in many ways these fears and doubts are my way of protecting myself. But my vulnerabilities can hold me back from being the person I want to be. This is something I explore in my workshops on vulnerability – and it’s something that I’ll be covering in more detail in a later chapter.

You can expect ACT to feature throughout ‘on being me’. If you’d like to find out more about ACT then visit this site. For an excellent self-help book that is based on ACT I recommend The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.

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