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A Liberated Mind

How to Pivot Toward What Matters
Written by: Steven C. Hayes
Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"In all my years studying personal growth, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is one of the most useful tools I've ever come across, and in this book, Dr. Hayes describes it with more depth and clarity than ever before." (Mark Manson, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck)

Life is not a problem to be solved. ACT shows how we can live full and meaningful lives by embracing our vulnerability and turning toward what hurts.

In this landmark audiobook, the originator and pioneering researcher into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) lays out the psychological flexibility skills that make it one of the most powerful approaches research has yet to offer. These skills have been shown to help even where other approaches have failed. Science shows that they are useful in virtually every area - mental health (anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, PTSD); physical health (chronic pain, dealing with diabetes, facing cancer); social processes (relationship issues, prejudice, stigma, domestic violence); and performance (sports, business, diet, exercise).

How does psychological flexibility help? We struggle because the problem-solving mind tells us to run from what causes us fear and hurt. But we hurt where we care. If we run from a sense of vulnerability, we must also run from what we care about. By learning how to liberate ourselves, we can live with meaning and purpose, along with our pain when there is pain.

Although that is a simple idea, it resists our instincts and programming. The flexibility skills counter those ingrained tendencies. They include noticing our thoughts with curiosity, opening to our emotions, attending to what is in the present, learning the art of perspective taking, discovering our deepest values, and building habits based around what we deeply want.

Beginning with the epiphany Steven Hayes had during a panic attack, this audiobook is a powerful narrative of scientific discovery filled with moving stories as well as advice for how we can put flexibility skills to work immediately. Hayes shows how allowing ourselves to feel fully and think freely moves us toward commitment to what truly matters to us. Finally, we can live lives that reflect the qualities we choose.

©2019 Steven C. Hayes (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"In all my years studying personal growth, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is one of the most useful tools I've ever come across, and in this book, Dr. Hayes describes it with more depth and clarity than ever before." (Mark Manson, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck)

"Steven Hayes possesses an extraordinary trifecta of skills: A brilliant theoretical and research psychologist, he’s also a compassionate clinician and a wonderfully engaging writer. A Liberated Mind is packed with jewels of insight and information that could change the way we deal with suffering as individuals and as a society. A compelling, revelatory read." (Martha Beck PhD, author of Finding Your Own North Star)

"Written for a very broad audience, Dr. Hayes is able to clearly translate the science and clinical complexity of this treatment into concrete guiding principles for people's lives. These principles not only apply to psychological suffering, but also to physical illnesses, relationships, corporations, societies, and cultures. The book is honest, compassionate, and profoundly insightful. It will transform your life by liberating your mind." (Stefan G. Hofmann, PhD, professor of psychology at Boston University)

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A liberating book

The new book by Steven Hayes is the culmination of a lifetime’s research and clinical practice. It provides readers with a how-to guide to psychological flexibility, the ability to do what matters, no matter what. It is also a deeply personal book. Read it and it might profoundly change your life. I know, because Steve’s work has profoundly changed my life and that of the people I most care about.

In the first part of the book, Steven Hayes describes how his personal struggles with anxiety and panic disorder yielded key insights into human psychology that would eventually lead him to develop Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is an evidence-based approach that has had a profound and lasting impact and changed the face of psychotherapy. For years Steve struggled with anxiety. This fight gradually engulfed his personal and professional life. Then one night, in the middle of his most frightening panic attack, Steve discovered that as much as his mind could urge him to rush to the emergency room, it couldn’t make him do it. An observer part of him noticed the ongoing drama of the panic attack, and chose to regain control of his life rather than continue surrendering it to anxiety. As a clinical psychologist and researcher, Steve made it his life’s purpose to investigate what psychological processes his insight were rooted in and how to turn them into a new science-based path to human liberation.

Over the next forty years, Steve became the originator of a new evidence-based approach to cognitive-behavioral therapy. He also helped develop Relational Frame Theory (RFT), a new way to understand human language and cognition. RFT describes what makes language a double-edged sword. We owe it both our uniquely human ability to control the world outside our skin, and our uniquely human ability to suffer—even in the midst of plenty. In a highly relatable way, weaving personal recollections, illuminating accounts of research and experiential explorations, Steve guides his readers through how our minds’ abilities to relate everything to everything undergirds much mental suffering. Crucially, he demonstrates how traditional methods such as trying to understand the historical roots of our difficulties, regulating emotion or disputing unhelpful thought patterns can get us stuck. Far from the path to liberation, these attempts more often entangle us in rigid storytelling and emotional avoidance. They can make what we try not to think about ever more mentally present while diminishing our ability to lead a vital and fulfilling life. ACT in these energy-draining traps, readers are invited to discover six crucial pivots that can help transform the energy of the struggle into the source of a vital life.

Lest you think that RFT is but a new fad in psychology, it has over 30 years of research behind it demonstrating it can help children with autism and development disabilities acquire crucial language, perspective-taking and empathy skills. It can also help increase IQ through the deliberate training of the basic relations that RFT shows underlie much of complex human cognitive abilities.

The second part of the book takes readers onto a practical exploration of six pivots that can help our lives move from stuckness to flexibility. Rooted in six fundamental human yearnings, these pivots are key to liberating our minds from their mental shackles. By learning to distance from our mental chatter and better notice where particular thoughts patterns would take us, we can meet our yearning for coherence—not at the level of dry logic as our minds would push us to, but at the more fundamental level of what truly works for our lives. Through acquiring a broader sense of self, free from the narrow limitations of ego and connecting to our fellow humans, we can meet our yearning for belonging. By compassionately accepting difficult experience, we can meet our yearning for feeling. By mindfully focusing our attention to the present moment and what matters, we can meet our yearning for orientation. By contacting and embodying our most deeply held values, we can meet our yearning to create meaning. Finally, by deliberately engaging in actions in line with our personal values, we can meet our yearning for control and competence. Together, these six skills combine to help us pivot toward psychological flexibility, which turns out to be a meta-skill lying at the core of optimal human functioning.

The third part of the book illustrates how to apply the skills thus far practiced to the broad range of life challenges: adopting and keeping healthy behaviors, facing up to mental disorders, nurturing relationships, helping our children grow, combating abuse and overcoming prejudice. It also shows how to use ACT to improve work and sports performance, overcome procrastination and foster learning. ACT can also help nurture spirituality, cultivate forgiveness and face up to chronic illness, disability and cancer. The book concludes with how ACT could contribute to social transformation.

A Liberated Mind is the most comprehensive exploration of ACT so far, written in the distinct voice of its main originator. It explores ACT’s scientific roots and place in the broader scientific field in a language anyone can understand. Meaningfully, the book offers a deeply personal account of Steve Hayes’s personal and scientific path to liberation from the mind-stoked suffering that makes up our human condition. Steve’s heart resonates in every page. I have known Steve for over 12 years and reading the book felt like an intimate conversation with this towering figure of 21st century psychology.

My only gripe, having been a participant to a number of Steve's workshops and conference is that the book was not read by him. However, the reader is very good and brings the text to life in such a way that after a couple of chapters it felt like a conversation with Steven Hayes himself.

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the best iteration and expression of ACT so far

I did not learn act in grad school and left grad school feeling under equipped for the problems I was treating as a junior therapist. the foundation in values and Value Guided action is the clincher for me. I sometimes integrate interpersonal psychodynamic tools. I am curious and will seek answers from further trainings to see if this practice is consistent with the thinking of the greater ACT community.

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This book has the potential to be life changing

An excellent resource for anyone dealing with an anxiety disorder or other forms of mental illness, as long as you pay attention and engage actively in the mental flexibility exercises detailed in this audiobook. Logical and heartfelt throughout, this book really helped me understand how to address and improve my psychological health.

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Good content

The narration makes this audible very difficult to sift out the content which is quite good. The narrator is comparable to a piece of dry toast... it’s awful!

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Essential skills for future of being being better.

ACT therapist, so I've heard (most of) this content. Yet I found this speaking to me personally, challenging me to more regularly and deeply apply flexibility skills for myself.
Sort of wish I'd bought the book or had access to the more diagram-y and exercise-y sections in visual form; narrator does fine, recommend listening to Steve on TED or elsewhere to get a sense of his voice.
Listened once so far, now have to go back n write down exercises one at a time and use them.

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  • tzvi richman
  • 2019-09-17

Great book!!!

I'm a social worker in the field of mental health rehabilitation and practice ACT.
Im in the middle of the book but I find it so informative and inspiring that I decided to write a review now!
The book is so great because of the way Steve Hayes skilfully walks the reader through the science and practice of ACT while keeping it Authentic and genuine. Even though Im just in the middle of the book but I know I'm going to come back to it again and again
Thank you!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-09

The freedom of love in words

Steve wrote many books and articles, but this book reaches new dimensions. The capacity to deeply touch me, that have been working, developing and researching in the area for more than a decade and to also be able to resonate with my partner that is as far as possible one can be from psychology or psychotherapy is an art. And yes, this book expresses the heart of not only Steve, but the heart, hands, and art of our CBS community (Contextual Behavioral Sciences).

To be able to put all the evidence in Part I in a way that is interesting for the general public is per see something unique. Then part 2 digs into how to do meaningful and relevant pivots in life with the 6 core processes for att finally in part 3 learn how to create your own way to increase your behavioral flexibility, the capacity to navigate difficulties in life without getting stuck in old and dysfunctional avoidance mechanisms and thus, being able to grow and blossom.

Highly recommended!
Graciela Rovner, PhD in Rehabilitation Medicine

9 people found this helpful

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  • Fountain of Chris
  • 2019-09-06

Good as an action manual for those in need

I went into this book expecting a sort of history of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy combined with a pop-sci feel. While it certainly covers the history of psychotherapy and the development of ACT, it is very much also a workbook filled with actionable steps and exercises for people currently in need of an improvement in their mental well-being.

One thing I appreciate about Hayes is that he is a dedicated scientist. He makes it clear where ACT has strong scientific support and also points out where the studies are lacking. I am not experienced enough with mental health methods to judge the validity of ACT versus CBT or any other approach, but I do like when an author not only has spent decades refining what he/she advocates but also is upfront about its limitations.

While I didn't read this in order to address any current issue I was personally having, there are MANY exercises in the second and third parts of the book for those of you who are seeking help, and I know all of us can use a mental tune-up from time to time. Still, my general recommendation for this book would be not as something everyone should read (just b/c I gave it 5 stars), but rather as a tool to read when it becomes necessary (for anxiety, depression, etc.).

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mats M
  • 2020-02-06

Disappointing. A 14 hour long defense of ACT.

First of all I need to say that I think "Get out of your mind and into your life" is one of the most important and helpful books ever written. This book, in my humble opinion, adds little new to Steven's magnum opus.

On the contrary, it seems like 2/3 of this book is rehashing the old ideas, and the remaining 1/3 is quoting studies about how some researchers have found ACT to be helpful against everything ranging from late stage cancer to dealing with the frustrations of not finding a good parking spot outside your local grocery store. That's all fine and good, and from my understanding of ACT, I could see how that might be the case. But the incessant repetition of quoting studies seems like a very defensive thing to include to this extent, leaving little of practical value for the reader. Surely a appendix of interesting relevant studies at the end would be the best way to go about including this information, for the minority of readers who want to deep dive into the scientific literature on the subject. On the topic of studies, many of the mentioned studies seemed to have obvious shortcomings. For instance, comparing outcomes of two groups, where one only receives a pamphlet and a newsletter, versus another group who receives training, newsletters and follow up calls is obviously an apples to oranges comparison. Again, this is criticism coming from someone who is fully "fused" with the idea that ACT can be of help in nearly all challenges life can throw your way.

Finally, the parts about implicit bias, or unconscious bias, were disappointing. Most with knowledge of these studies know that the findings are inconclusive at best. Quoting their murky interpretations as facts is very unhelpful to being taken seriously. So is the un-ironic use of the word "mansplaining". Though the principle of being aware of the labels your mind can put on people is sound, the overemphasis on the idea that any white man is inherently evil and clueless as to the struggles of anyone, is a very unnecessary and narrow minded caricature of racial/sexist mind-content to fuse with. As the author might say; viewing things in this simplistic way is a "very familiar pattern."

I did like the chapter with some practical examples of how to apply ACT in certain situations such a training, etc.

In summary, to be brutally honest, this book adds little other than hours of justification for the efficiency of ACT. Whether this is to function as defense, or hubris for ACT is difficult to say, but it certainly is of little benefit to the practically inclined reader.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-11-25

wonderful read!

so many wonderful, heart warming stories! every chapter kept on surprising me with valuable insight and so many real life examples. This book is a valuable tool if you approach it with an open mind. If you have heard of ACT and want to know more about how to apply it to your own life, this is a must read. Thank you Dr. Hayes.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Patrice Strange
  • 2019-09-14

A New Classic

Dr Hayes has summarizes the history of leading methodologies in our field and presents this information in a meaningful perspective. His work brings science and spirit together to provide the most effective methodologies.
His work is respected and is popping up in other fields including behavior analysis.
Dr Hayes is generous in sharing his methodologies as well as his research. It is exciting to find a resource for anxiety that I can use both professionally as well as personally.
Although I enjoyed the audio version, I will order the printed book for future reference.

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  • Colin
  • 2019-09-06

Open up to what really matters

Having read and loved Steven’s previous work, this book takes those ideas and greatly expands both the science and how these pivots can create deeply positive impacts in your life. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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  • brad f kluck
  • 2020-08-05

great way to jump into ACT

over all a great view into ACT. some wacky leftist politics about whiteness best the end.

but the basic structure and content is strong. great practical tools and analysis of the ACT protocols

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  • Robert Bannister
  • 2020-05-09

Great - Insightful - Straightforward

Dr. Hayes does a remarkable job at explaining our circumstances and what we can do.

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  • Nadia
  • 2020-04-25

Creepy

Honestly.. I love to read all kinds of books. But this one, a little strange. The author seems to put a lot of emphasis on women being sexually melosted, raped, and mistreated. I get the feeling that he himself enjoys writing about it. And each chapter is such a long discussion with sooooo many words on one small point I forget what he is taking about again. Should condense some of the points he puts out and be more wise on explaining some explicit parts in the book. There are much better books that will point out the key point and explain rather in a healing and positive way than a deceitful disgusting way.