Self as context
 Contact with the present moment is intimately related
with the development of Self as Context.
 The therapist might say ‘And as you notice that, notice
that there is a part of you noticing all these things’
 The point of self as context is to connect with the
‘observing self’
Distinguishing the conceptualized self
from self as context
 The question ‘What is the self’ has troubled scientists,
philosophers and theologians for hundreds of years
 From an ACT perspective there are two important
senses of self
 Self as conceptualized (which is useful to human
survival but can also lead to great suffering and
 Self as context (which is liberating and an avenue to
decrease suffering)
The conceptualized self (self as content)
 Over the course of time we learn to build a coherent story
of ‘who we are’
 Unfortunately, these stories, which are created by our
minds, can function to restrict our behaviour in certain
 For example, I cant go the party because I'm not a ‘social
 The conceptualized self refers to the many stories that we
have built up about ourselves over the course of time
 Indeed all the many ways we say ‘I am……’ are all beliefs
about who we are
 And we tend to believe these as labels that represent who
we ‘truly’ are
 There is nothing inherently wrong with these stories
we build up
 For example, they often help us to function well – we
may act professionally (turn up for work on time)
because it fits in with our view of who we are ‘I am
 Unfortunately however, these same stories which may
control our behaviour in positive ways can also restrict
us to live within their confines
 Whole lives can become dictated by our attachment to
the conceptualized self
 Think of the abused child who makes most of his
decision based on the story ‘I'm damaged goods’
 The bottom line is that we do not know each day of our
lives, we instead make broad generalizations about
‘who we are’ based on a small amount of information
 These stories might represent ‘truth’ in some capacity.
But would you rather believe your stories as ‘truth’ and
live a limited life, or hold those stories lightly and live a
life that your value?
 The stories that we have can sometimes imprison us. It
is for the this reason that Steve Hayes said ‘Kill your
self every day’
Self as context
 Self as context is the sense of self that is continuous, stable
and always there
 It is the sense of self that can step back and observe the
conceptualized self in action
 It is often referred to as the ‘observer self’. The self that
doesn’t get caught in believing the content of the
conceptualized self (I am damaged goods) but the sense of
self that can see such stories for what they are
 In ACT, fostering self as context empowers the client to
observe experience more freely and get on with the
business of living, instead of trying to eliminate negative
feelings before any valued direction can be taken
 The main goal of fostering self as context, in the
therapy situation, is to help the client to establish or
re-connect with the continuous sense of self that is
involved in observing the moment by moment flow of
thought and emotion as on-going experience, rather
than as believed or disbelieved instances of thinking to
which the client must respond
SAC in Therapy
 A variety of techniques are used to help people make
contact with themselves as observers, and to let go of who
they believe themselves to be (conceptualized self)
 Metaphor
 Chessboard metaphor
 Brief interventions
 Suit analogy
 Experiential exercises
 Mindfulness exercises (observer self exercise)
 The point of these exercises often boils down to the
question ‘who is noticing that experience?’
 For further details of these techniques, refer to the book
 Lets look at the video

Lecture 5 – Self as context