#39: Getting Unstuck with Greg Bodin, MFT

#39: Getting Unstuck with Greg Bodin, MFT

Greg Bodin, MFT

Today, Marielle interviews Greg Bodin, MFT, a therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area who practices Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT.  Greg specializes in anxiety, trauma, men’s sex issues, and is also a certified EMDR therapist. 

ACT and DBT have a lot in common. One of the core tenets of ACT is learning to accept where your life is right now and committing to making changes so that your life reflects what matters to you. It’s both a therapy approach and a way of understanding how humans behave, how they get stuck, and how to get unstuck.

Show Highlights:

  • What do you value?
  • What actions are you going to take that will help you live a life that is aligned with your values?
  • We have more choices than we often realize
  • Visualize what you want your life to look like six months from now, a year from now, five years from now
  • Differentiating between values and goals
  • What matters is not necessarily the same thing as what makes you happy
  • Chasing happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to a meaningful life
  • The value of being willing to be uncomfortable
  • DBT skills can help with tolerating discomfort
  • You can’t take risks if you’re not emotionally regulated
  • Learning how to have psychological flexibility
  • Using mindfulness to stay in the moment
  • Using mindfulness to notice and name thoughts, rather than just believing everything you think
  • The language we use to describe ourselves and the world has power 
  • Moving away from diagnoses and labels, which can be limiting
  • Many people just follow a path that’s been laid out for them and haven’t questioned what is important to them
  • What can you be in control of in your life?

Resources

Greg’s Website

Ask us a Question

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Please note that questions, and this podcast in general, are not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.


#39: Getting Unstuck with Greg Bodin, MFT Transcript

Marielle Berg 

Hello and welcome to the skillful Podcast where we explore DBT and aro DBT skills to help you reduce emotional suffering, improve your relationships, and become more present in your life. I’m your host, Mary Oberg, a psychotherapist at the Bay Area DBT and couples counseling center.

Marielle Berg 

Hi, listeners. Today’s episode is a little bit different. I’m having a conversation with Greg Bodin, a San Francisco psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, trauma, and men’s sex issues. He uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with his clients, and he’s also a certified EMDR therapist.

Marielle Berg 

Greg and I actually recorded this episode quite a while ago, probably nearly 10 months ago. But I still think, even though some of the things we talk about in terms of current events and the state of the pandemic have really changed since then, the core concepts and ideas from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can still be really useful for listeners. So I’m hoping that you’ll get something out of this. If you’d like to get in contact with Greg Bodin, he can be reached at gregbodin.com. His last name is spelled B O D I N. Enjoy.

Marielle Berg 

So welcome, Greg, I’m really looking forward to talking with you today.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

I’m very, I’m really happy to be here.

Marielle Berg 

So Greg and I were talking about having him on the podcast because he’s a big fan of DBT, although his therapy practice mainly utilizes kind of complementary forms of treatment. And we thought it might be interesting for our listeners to hear about ACT, which Greg focuses on, and how it can augment and supplement some of the learning and skills that we talk about in DBT.

Marielle Berg 

So why don’t you get us started, Greg with telling us what ACT is because there are so many acronyms in the therapy world. And for your average listener, they’re like, what, what the heck does that stand for?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Sure, yeah. So it we actually just to start it off with we actually say act. So instead of saying the letters ACT, we say act, because the main theme is talking about taking action. So talking about changing behavior. And so when we talk about Act, the letters stand for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so it’s learning how to accept where your life is right now, and committing to what matters to you. And I’ll break that down further. But that’s, you know, the, what the word stands for. And it’s a specific therapy approach. And so you can certainly work with an act therapist, but it’s actually also a framework for understanding how humans behave, and why they get stuck, and how you can help them get unstuck. And it’s also a framework for promoting psychological health. So any therapy can utilize this approach to help promote psychological health and well being and to better understand how to make change happen.

Marielle Berg 

In what, what populations or what kind of folks do you feel like can benefit, in particular from act?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So one of the things I love about act is it’s probably been around for, I’d say, 25-30 years now. And there has been a lot of evidence and a lot of research to show that it works for a variety of issues. My specialty is anxiety. So that’s a large portion of who I work with. And it definitely works well for people who experience anxiety, also depression and mood disorders.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

What’s been amazing is it’s also been really great for severe mental illness. And so there’s been a lot of work around people who struggle with really severe symptoms as well. It works for specific phobias, things like tinnitus, you know, ringing in the ears, chronic pain. So there’s a lot of areas where it works. Where I can speak most closely is around anxiety because that’s what I often am working with. And really, though, I’ve seen research in a variety of areas for variety of mental disorders as well as symptoms.

Marielle Berg 

So anxiety, let’s talk a little bit about that. Because there has been such an uptick in anxiety, in myself in the people around me, with the folks I work with, and I just feel like in the world during this time. And I’d love to hear from you a little bit about how you’re thinking about anxiety during this uniquely challenging period that we’re living through?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Well, you know, it’s a good way to kind of introduce what act is all about. So, if you think about it, you know, here’s this, you know, pandemic we’re living through, as well, as, you know, issues around racial justice, here in California wildfires, wherever you’re at. It can be very easy to let the anxiety of everything going on that’s not in your control, hijack you. And we struggle, we sit there and we struggle with it.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And, you know, I think in that first couple of months into the pandemic, we were sort of in a reactionary mode of, you know, oh, my goodness, what is this, and it was very scary, and nothing’s really known. And then, you know, certainly for myself and with my clients, I see as time has progressed, and we’re still dealing with this. We humans learn and adapt. And so certainly we’ve been looking at, okay, well, how am I going to live my life in this? And where act comes into play is, yeah, what would your life look like? What would be a meaningful life? Even during the pandemic, even when things make you really anxious? And you have no control over large areas of what’s going on? What actions would you take that would make your life feel more meaningful?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And that, at the core is exactly what act is about, is starting to decide, well, what is meaningful? What would make my life feel vital, feel rich? And when we’re talking about that, we’re talking about your values, and values are a huge part of act.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And then, in the context of a pandemic, it’d be like, here we are living in a pandemic, struggling with so much, and what action are you going to take, that’s going to let you live a life that’s in the direction of your values? And so that’s often what we’re talking about right now. And certainly a big part of, you know, working in therapy is, well, how am I going to cope with the day to day? How am I going to make some meaningful change happen? But it’s always in the context of, I still have choice, I can choose today to live a more meaningful life, and what would that look like?

Marielle Berg 

I like that. So even when things are incredibly stressful, and many hard things are out of so many people’s control, making a choice on a daily basis, like how can I shape my life to reflect my values?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Absolutely. Yeah.

Marielle Berg 

You know, in DBT, we talk about values work too, it’s one of the skills we teach. And we do that in our skills group once, through one round of DBT. And, of course, we always encourage people to stay for more rounds of DBT. But I always think when we do that skill that it’s so it’s so big, that you need, or one needs, often a process around identifying values.

Marielle Berg 

So tell me a little bit about how you you start that work with someone who might be confused, like, I don’t really know what my values are, are these my values or my family’s values? Or how do you begin to dive into that?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, I It’s a, that’s a really important point. There are a lot of different ways, and I kind of tailor it to who I’m working with. But one of the easiest is, and I usually do this at the very start of therapy with my clients is I want you to imagine six months from now or a year from now, what would you like to see different? And, and in fact, you know, if, if I ran into you on the street in five years, and you’re like, Greg, I’m, I’m living exactly the life I want to be living, what would that look like?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so it’s really kind of giving yourself some space to visualize. If you weren’t struggling so much with everything in your life right now, with all the emotions, all the thoughts that are so distressing, because with anxiety, that’s which I work with, that’s often the case, what would life look like? And that’s when people start to say, I’d have a different relationship with my partner, it would be one where we’re supportive, I’d be a different kind of parent, I’d be more creative. I would, you know, have a job where I felt like I was actually contributing something. And notice those words are really broad. It’s not, values aren’t goals, right?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Values aren’t things like, I’m going to have a six figure job. That’s a goal. But you always will have your values. Like this is where you want your life to go until the last day that you have, that you’re alive. And so often I’ll ask people to project in the future and just sort of get a sense of what it would look like.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

I’ll even do it on a daily basis. Like I want you to imagine tonight you’re getting in bed and you’re kind of getting ready to go to sleep and you reflect on the day and what would it look like for you to feel like it was the kind of day you wanted to have? I do that because it can get much smaller scale right? You know, today I I reacted differently when my partner got angry at me. Today, I, you know, practiced some of my DBT skills that that I’ve been working on would be an example. And I felt like I had a more meaningful interaction at work. But those are ways I do it. I kind of fast forward into the future and kind of get a felt sense of what would look different? So that can often help people who often are influenced by other people or aren’t sure, but often we can land on yeah, my life would look like this.

Marielle Berg 

That seems like a really important way to begin teasing out with folks, or to begin identifying with folks, like what really matters to them.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah. And by the way, I want to mention, what matters, what’s meaningful, what’s important, is not the same as what makes you happy.

Marielle Berg 

Oh, interesting. Say more.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Well, well, I have a lot of people who come into my office, and they’re like, I just want to be happier, I just really want to be happier. And I can’t really guarantee that as a therapist, right? I should have it in my small print in my intake forms.

Marielle Berg 

We should all have that. Do not guarantee happiness.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Exactly. But you know the thing about it, and I especially, I mean, an easy example I can I can give is for those people who are parents is there’s some really hard days of parenting, where it is a struggle the entire day. And nothing is easy, and everything is painful. And yet, if you asked that parent, would they want to do anything different? And they’d say, No, this is exactly what I want. I want this kind of life where I parent this child, it’s extremely meaningful to me, even though it was an incredibly hard day.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so I really kind of deemphasize chasing happiness, and more noting that what’s what’s going to be meaningful is actually what’s important. And people get it. At first, they might not, but they start to get it as they see that we really are going to have to learn to live with some pain. But that doesn’t mean our life won’t be rich and full.

Marielle Berg 

I like the parenting example. Because I mean, I concur that chasing happiness is can set us on a path where there’s kind of short lived positive emotions.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yep.

Marielle Berg 

That don’t really necessarily move us in the direction of an overall fulfilling life. And sometimes the things that are most meaningful to us, are very often goals we’re working towards, or a project we’re working on, are challenging or hard.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, exactly.

Marielle Berg 

But they’re satisfying in a in a particular way.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Absolutely. And so, being able to, and this is another concept in Act, but the willingness to have pain is an important skill we work on. So it’s almost, you know, if you say, I really want this for my life, but to get there, I’m gonna have to be willing to have some discomfort, I’m going to have to willing be willing to have some anxiety, some feelings of self doubt. You know, I’m gonna, I’m gonna have to be in an uncomfortable situation where I don’t feel skillful. But if I don’t, I’ll never get where I want to go.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so we talk about that willingness to have discomfort, which DBT does a lot of as well, you know. How to, how to, in fact, I think DBT offers a lot of skills around what to do with the discomfort. But I think that’s an important part of act as well.

Marielle Berg 

Yes, DBT does have lots of skills, I’m thinking of all the Distress Tolerance skills that can help people kind of manage the discomfort, so they can kind of calm down enough to then access what we call our Wise Mind, to move towards making those values a reality in someone’s life, to move towards those goals.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, actually, I’m glad you said that. Wise Mind would be, I actually invoke that with my clients. I’m like, what would Wise Mind wants? You know, what, what would the direction be Wise Mind would want you to go in? And it’s, it may not be an easy direction, but they know on that Wise Mind level that that’s exactly what they want for their life.

Marielle Berg 

So it sounds like when you start working with people, there’s some pretty profound conversations right at the beginning.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, one of the one of the ones I do is I basically start with a lot of my clients, they come in, and they, you know, want to they want to get rid of the pain. They’re like, my life is, you know, painful. And while I want to create some space to talk about that, I actually also want to talk about, well, if you didn’t struggle with this pain, what kind of life would you have? And I always start there.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Somewhere in the first few sessions, I’m asking questions like that, because ultimately, that should be the focus. You know, and that’s kind of what we’re learning in Act is how to focus on living life rather than struggling with pain.

Marielle Berg 

Do you have people come in who have led a life where there’s been so much suffering and multiple traumas where it might be hard to kind of dream or hope or envision a more satisfying life? Because I know certainly, that’s not that uncommon for folks who come in to do DBT work.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah. Yeah. You know, and it’s interesting. You’re absolutely right. And in fact, often, where I, where I get curious, and I didn’t come up with this, I learned this in a training once and I just thought it was brilliant. But ask people to talk about their pain. And, and you know, what makes life so extraordinarily painful.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And I often get curious around it, because in some ways, and this is just a generalization, but I find like, for if you look at any anybody, myself included, we think about what makes life painful, and what struggle there is, usually you can kind of flip it upside down and almost like, what would the opposite of that be? And that’s actually, you know, what they’re struggling against kind of points to the kind of life that they’re hoping to live.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And sometimes, we don’t have a clear idea of that. It could be for some of my clients that are like, I just don’t want, I want I just want to be calm at home. Okay, right. That might be one, where I’m not in fights all the time, or I have a relationship that isn’t constantly falling apart. We start there. So we start working there, and often, that’s where I’m applying some DBT skills. Well, how do we work so that your relationships don’t constantly fall apart?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And then once you start engaging in a relationship that’s not falling apart? What about the relationship are you enjoying, or are finding worthwhile? And boy, doesn’t that point to your values? But sometimes we need to get through some of that pain work to get to that. But often, I mean, everybody’s got that, it’s just a matter of clarifying and finding out what that is, you know, and so once some of those skills are learned, and people feel a little more effective in relationships, they’ll often say, now that I actually have this, I’m noticing that this is why I really want to engage in these friendships. So it’s kind of a process.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And certainly, I will say this, um, you know, when I talk about, hey, being willing to have pain, I would be doing my clients a disservice, if I just said, well just deal with it. And that’s certainly not the case. You know, working on distress tolerance is huge, you know, some of the skills from DBT, definitely. I’m also an EMDR therapist, and I got into that work, because sometimes we really need to address the underlying issue that’s causing such big emotional pain before we can ever look at acceptance. And so often, I’m working on treating trauma. And then once it feels like the feelings stay in a more manageable place, then we can start looking at well, how are you going to live your life now?

Marielle Berg 

That makes sense. So once some of the harder stuff kind of quiets down, then people can think more broadly, and more, I was gonna use the word ambitiously, or hopefully, about what they want their life to look like they can envision or dream.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, yeah, totally. If and I see this a lot with my clients who come in, and it’s like, all I do is struggle with my feelings. They’re that big. And it’s funny, because, you know, they, they’re so used to walking through life thinking, what’s wrong with me. And once we start finding skills that will work for them to kind of keep them in that emotional regulation zone, you know, where it’s like, Alright, I’m having a tough day, but I’m still working with this, I’m managing it, they can do exactly that. They can start to have a little bit of hope. I can, I can get through this, which means I can take some risks, I can take some chances, I can kind of try some new things. And then life starts changing for them.

Marielle Berg 

And tell us more about the commitment part. I mean, we’ve kind of been weaving that in.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

You know, we call it act. And so it is about taking action, changing behavior. And I often, you know, tell people when they’re, you know, interested in working with me, I tell them, and this is this is also sort of like DBT, but act is an active therapy, we do stuff. You have techniques, we have exercises, you’re going to have homework. And I wish I had a better word than homework. It’s not a burden. It’s more like, let’s practice this and see if it helps you. Let’s see if this is useful.

Greg Bodin, MFT  

So the commitment is, what change are you willing to make? What behavior change? And you know, certainly, if things were easy, people would have done it by now, right? And so when we talk about committing to valued action, like actions that will move you toward your values, I get it. It’s not going to necessarily be a big, huge, magnificent, dramatic change. It might be much more subtle, much, much, much more small, on a daily level. But what are you willing to commit to? And what are you willing to have to do that?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So I guess that’s what was talking about earlier. It’s just like, oh, Most acknowledging that, wow, if I change my behavior, and that could be doing something like I’m thinking of, there’s a DBT skill around saying no, and you can dial it up, and you probably know the name of it better than I do. But you can like sort of say no in different ways. If you have to hold a boundary. And, you know, maybe the the thing you’re willing to commit to today is trying to practice saying no, and you may have to acknowledge, that’s gonna be really uncomfortable, I’m gonna really fear being rejected. Okay, well, what can we do to support you in that feeling, so that you can take that action anyway, and commit to it? And in a way, I feel like that’s the whole point of Act is what are those little things everyday you commit to that move your life forward?

Marielle Berg 

You know, it’s similar to DBT, because we do talk a lot about change in DBT. And we also talk about acceptance. And both are sort of equally or simultaneously valued or important in DBT. We’re always kind of toggling between the two. And it sounds like with act, there’s definitely a lot of overlap. And that the the commitment to change are kind of like maybe the bite sizing of change actions, over time, is probably incredibly empowering, for folks who come to work with you.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Oh, yeah. And I’ll share a, it’s a standard one that I use with my clients. And you know, I’m a firm believer, I’m going to share this with anybody if it’s helpful. So even though I use it for my clients, I think it could be for anybody. You know, a standard one that I often I learned and was helpful for me is, you know, well, what if I told you, you needed to jump off a cliff, to make your life more like you want it or make it better? And of course, your reaction is no way I’m not jumping off of a cliff. And then what I do is I say, Well, what if that cliff is only six inches high? Would you be more willing? Of course, yeah, sure, I can walk off a six inch cliff. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Well, what would that six inch cliff look like? What would be the thing you could commit to doing today?

Marielle Berg 

This makes me think of our, the DBT skill Build Mastery, where you know, so there’s just a lot of overlap with trying to help people figure out how to stretch themselves, just like a little bit beyond their comfort zone. So yes, a big cliff into the abyss will be terrifying. Most people won’t want to do that. But that six inch one, like, okay, I can do that. So like a little bit of challenge, but not so much that you want to kind of give up and say forget it.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Right. Because that overwhelm is you’re spot on. Right? Why would I want to put myself in that situation? I already suffer enough.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, yeah. And then I know, Greg, we had talked about like, the six stages are the, or I can’t remember what you said they were. Like, should we talk about those a little bit?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Sure. Yeah. So whenever we’re working in Act, we sort of use six processes that we’re always paying attention to. And you know, maybe a way to look at it is, these are all things that move you toward psychological health. And a term we use an act, and I think it’s an important one, it because it’s kind of a an important definition of Act, is the concept of psychological flexibility. And that’s really, it’s a lot of word, a lot of syllables, but really, what it is, is it’s, you know, learning to choose different behaviors than you’ve used before.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So learning to flex in the moment. And so, you know, you come in and you tell me, I always get stuck here, here’s where my relationship always falls apart. Or here’s where my emotions get really big. And then I act this way, right? And so psychological flexibility is, in those moments when when things get hard, can I flex a bit and try a different behavior up? So that’s everything we talk about is always toward doing that.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And we sort of have six areas, if you will, that we think about that move you in that direction. And I think there’s a lot of overlap with DBT around these. The first one is mindfulness. It’s like starting to notice what’s going on in the first place. What are your thoughts, your feelings, memories, urges, body sensations? Just the ability to observe some of this stuff automatically takes you off of autopilot and get you in the driver’s seat. You start to be like, Oh, look, I’m I’m feeling this again. This is when things start to become problematic for me. And so mindfulness is one key area.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And that also kind of dovetails into another one, which is getting back into the present moment. And so rather than being hijacked by memories, or regrets or things you’ve done in the past, or getting super anxious about what’s going to happen in the future, getting back into the present, and the reason that matters is it’s the only place you have that you can take action, and we can really make a choice. In that moment in the present moment, you can say, what I want to do right now I’ve always done this, is there something else I could do?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And then that leads to so what would I do, right? So I would take action, I would, I would take some action that would would change things for me. And hopefully, so that’s, that’s another area. And hopefully those actions would be in alignment with my values. My values, it would be in the direction of what I think really matters. So that’s another area.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

There are a couple of others that are a little more act specific, but I think they’re important to talk about. So I mentioned mindfulness, being mindful, staying in the present, choosing actions that are in alignment with your values.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So those are four, and then the other two are really around your thoughts and how you see yourself. And so this is an act specific term, but it can be really helpful to think about. The term is cognitive defusion. And, okay, I’m gonna break that down, basically, cognitive is thoughts, right. And if you think about it, how often we get hijacked by our thoughts. We, we literally are influenced by them, that we think the thought, our feelings get affected, and then we change our behavior based on all of that. You know, thoughts, influence feelings, influence behaviors. And we become fused with them, that’s the technical term, we literally become stuck in them and tangled in them.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so one big part of Act is learning how to defuse. How to untangle from thoughts, how to not buy into them, but to simply observe them. So to use some of that mindfulness and be like, I’m having that thought.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

 And here’s a classic example that I love to share, it’s like, I’m gonna say a thought, I am a complete failure. And, you know, when I say that, just think about what comes up for you. It’s like those words, even though this is just vibrations that are digitized, and then you, you know, you hear them in your ears and your brain translates them. They connect to memories and images and feelings of feeling like a failure, and they can really start to do a number on you, right?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And so what we want to do is take some of that power away. And a simple example would be to label it. And so to say, I’m having the thought that I’m a complete failure. Or another one could be, I’m noticing myself having the thought that I’m a complete failure. And when you notice that, I don’t know about you, but has a little less emotional impact. And so we can start to create some space, we can start to take away some of the influence of some of these really challenging thoughts. And we call that defusion we, we defuse from the thoughts.

Marielle Berg 

So interesting to me how I mean, there’s so much overlap and different theoretical approaches to healing and different ways that therapists work. But I say, much of what you’ve said, in our groups, when I talk about the DBT skills of the what skills, observe and describe,

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Uh huh.

Marielle Berg 

that it’s very different to have the thought, I’m a failure, versus kind of engaging that witnessing part of our minds that can step back and be like, Oh, I’ve just had the thought, I’m a failure, or I’m going to fail. And how does that feel in my body, and it’s, you disidentify, and you have some breathing room? And so this, it’s, I was just kind of like, wow, as I was listening, that you know, how much similarity there is.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah. And it points to the power of language. And that’s actually something one of the call it the theoretical foundation of Act is just how powerful language is right? And so, you know, you say that sentence, and it’s got an impact on you, and can we detach from that influence is really what it’s about. Because those thoughts really are influential.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

The one other thing that’s related, and this is the final concept, when we work with act, you know, we really try to help people to get a more flexible idea of who they are. And let me tell you what I mean by that. So often, we use labels for ourselves.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So for example, my example I like to give is, I’m a baseball fan. Okay. So if I say that you already got some ideas of what that means about me, you know, like my behaviors that engage in, sort of the kinds of things I do, the kinds of things I don’t do. And so those labels are sort of shorthand, that kind of give you a framework for how people live. Well, that can be helpful, it can also be really limiting.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

So think about something like I’m an anxious person, or I have a borderline diagnosis. And when you’ve got that kind of label, it can be really influential and you can start hearing things like well, I can’t really do that because of my anxiety, or I’ve never been able to have that kind of job because I’m an anxious person. And those labels really start to limit us. And so we want to start kind of loosening that context, right, like, and so we can often start doing a little bit of perspective taking, like, Well, how would other people see you right now? You know, they see you as an anxious person, well, maybe maybe not. We try to we try to loosen that up so that we can start seeing that there are more possibilities out there than just having a diagnosis or a label. So that’s, that’s one other area that act likes to focus on, again, all in service of can can we move your life more to where you want it to be?

Marielle Berg 

That makes me think of what you mentioned a moment ago in terms of psychological flexibility. And that being an over arching kind of goal of of Act therapy?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yes.

Marielle Berg 

How can we be flexible in our thinking, in general, but also in how how we view ourselves? And how does kind of inflexible thinking, keep us stuck, and closed off to new, new experiences.

Marielle Berg 

And I’m just thinking, I mean, this is kind of a small example. But I’m starting a virtual book group with some friends. And we were that I was sort of spearheading, and I had ideas about what I like to read, and I’m pretty fixed in that. And someone who’s joining the book group suggested something that normally I would be quite dismissive of. And I really challenged myself to be like, I’m going to try this. I’m going to be open to it. We haven’t read the book yet. But allowing new experiences in because it might be interesting. Who knows, maybe I’ll find out I really don’t like that. But to, to kind of work against the impulsive need to be closed off.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, yeah, the concept would be, I don’t read that kind of stuff, right? And which, you know, it basically defines how you live your life. And so you’ve just sort of broadened it and gotten a little more flexible. And it’s kind of into discovery mode. And you’ll have data, right, you might now be confirmed, I really don’t like that genre. Or you might discover some whole new world. But that flexibility allows that it kind of broadens life, and makes life a little more expansive.

Marielle Berg 

Which also makes me think about this idea of uncomfortability. And I know, you know, people are dealing especially during this time with much larger problems, but when I think about reading a book that I don’t think I’m gonna like, I’m trying to be open, I feel like, maybe I’ll have to suffer through it a little bit. But then there’s learning that can come from that.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah. And and I guess that goes back to the whole idea of acceptance, and being willing to have some discomfort, because then you could do you could have something you actually want. You know, there’s a saying and act, and I’m not gonna probably get it exactly right. But it’s sort of like, Here I am, right now, having these thoughts and feeling these feelings, and living the life I want.

Marielle Berg 

And so this is something that you’ll encourage people to kind of, say to themselves?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Sure, yeah. Like when we’re, you’re kind of in the middle of the day, and it’s, it’s overwhelming, and you’re getting caught up in behaviors, you’re like, I’m doing this again, I’m doing this again, I’m doing this again. And so it’s like, Alright, here I am, I’m noticing these thoughts, I’m noticing these feelings. And I’m gonna go ahead and take action that feels like it’s the right thing for me.

Marielle Berg 

And there’s, you know, I wish I could think of a different word other than empowering or agency, which is a word we use in the in the therapy world that think for many people, they just sort of follow like a path that’s been laid out for them, and don’t necessarily question, and then wonder why they’re unhappy. And they have found themselves in a job or living in a particular place, or a kind of life that doesn’t really fit.

Marielle Berg 

And that questioning of like, what what really matters to me, what do I want, may not have ever factored into the picture, and all they know is like, I’m feeling really depressed, I’m super anxious, or I’m just unhappy.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, I agree. And I think about like, with relationships, where it feels like a lot of my work with clients is around having different relationships and you know, trying out new things in relationship and realizing wait a minute, I don’t have to feel this way all the time. I could feel differently or I could think I could have a different experience.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And but then that means doing some hard work like holding boundaries, asking for what you need, you know, different kinds of things that make relationships more effective. But but you have to try these things, right, and then and be willing to have some of the discomfort of trying it, only to realize I really liked how that went. This was a lot better and I’ve never experienced this in my life.

Marielle Berg 

So there’s a certain amount of risk taking?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Oh boy, yeah, every day. What are you willing to risk? And we even, we even say it just like that. I normalize it. I say this is absolutely about you’re going to have to take some risks to make change happen. Jumping off the cliff, we’re gonna have figure out what a six inch cliff risk would be, but yes.

Marielle Berg 

I’m also thinking about this idea of risk taking and psychological flexibility as extra important during this time where people’s lives have really shifted so dramatically. And so for some people, that means losing their jobs and dreams associated with that, you know, certain fields that have, hospitality or tourism and, you know, different industries that have just sort of gone up in smoke, which is maybe a terrible expression to use right now, while we’re in California with wildfires everywhere. And people’s homes really have, you know, burned to the ground. So there’s been so much to adjust to. And I’m thinking about how this this concept is particularly useful during this time, even for people who haven’t lost much and are now just working from home, there’s still been a tremendous amount of flexibility internally required to, to live now.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, you’re right. And the things that I mean, the way I think of it is sort of like, there are things that were in place that helped kept you feeling okay, and safe. They’re gone. There are other things that helped you feel okay and safe. They’re not available right now. And so here you are, and feeling unsafe, feeling not okay. And what kind of action do you want to take? And how would your life feel more meaningful, sitting here in that discomfort? And I feel like honestly, and I joke with my clients, I’m like, I did not get a pandemic manual in grad school, when I was learning to be a therapist, I wish I had.

Marielle Berg 

Wow, Greg, I totally got that. I’ve read it from cover to cover.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And I tell them, I’m like, I’m figuring this out with you. And I think what I’m figuring out is, oh, wow, it’s all uncomfortable. And we still have to decide, well, what’s going to make my life more meaningful, more vital? Like, I got to take some control? I got to put my hands on the steering wheel a little bit.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah. And then would look differently now, when options are limited, and a lot has changed, than probably, you know, it did a year ago.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and actually, it’s interesting, you know, just one little point I’ll bring up, I get a lot of people coming in to grieve the stuff that’s no longer available to them, which of course, absolutely. And we want to create some room to grieve, you know. I had this, I no longer have this. It could be something as big as losing a job or housing, or it could be something smaller, like, you know, I met my friends for dinner at a restaurant every Friday, I loved that.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And we can still we can obviously create some space so people can have that experience of grief. But also, what are your values around that? What was it about that that made it so meaningful? And how are you going to move toward that now? You know, what was it about that that, that you’re grieving, the loss of that was so meaningful? Because that still matters to you. So we have to also figure out well, how do you bring that into your life in a new way?

Marielle Berg 

And I liked that, and I’m thinking and again, this is, I’ve also been impacted in some big ways. But in the smaller ways, I have just been missing going to the movie theater. Like this, I don’t know why that has been on my mind a lot. And as you were talking, I was thinking, oh, you know, and then I think, well, I can watch a movie at home. But it’s so different. And so got my mind going thinking about hip, there’s something about that experience. And I think it’s the ritual. And there’s a certain engagement in a storyline that I don’t really get in the same way when I’m in my living room where I am, so much of the time these days. So it’s it’s just a fascinating way to think about how to bring in some of the elements of the things that we have lost that have been meaningful, or helpful or just enjoyable for us how to, how to get a little bit of, or a bit of that kind of flavor, back in some new and different way?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yeah, totally. I love that example. Because, you know, what you basically told me is, well, I like movies. But that’s not the only meaningful thing of going to a movie, and you listed some other ones. And I thought about how during the pandemic, I love travel and exploration and travel’s been significantly curtailed. But what I realized it’s not just going somewhere, it’s the exploring new things. And so how do I adapt that? How do I fire up that part of my brain that feels like I’m exploring something new? Because that’s actually part of travel for me. So the fact that I’m not really getting on a plane much, I have to grieve that a bit. But I also have to think, Well, what was it about getting on the plane and going somewhere in addition to the actual going to a new place? And it was that sense of exploration. So where where can I come into contact with that? Your movie example is great, though, I think and then so you, you kind of think, how do I create those experiences, you know?

Marielle Berg 

And that can help with the feeling of loss, or the helplessness that I have felt. Like well, I guess I’m never gonna go to a movie again, which isn’t, of course true. But for a very long time.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And it also can help I mean, I’ll speak here I think it also can help give you some self control, like, all right, all of this going on around me is out of my control, can’t go to the movie theater can’t travel, this is what I can do, I am still in control of my life.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

And that to me, you know, now this is me speaking as a trauma therapist, I feel like half of the time with trauma work, it’s helping my clients feel like they have some control. And so anything you can do toward that, I think is important.

Marielle Berg 

It’s such a great reminder when things can feel so out of our control, that there is so much and moment to moment, we have control and we have say, over what we’re doing, you know, very often over what we’re doing it and what we’re thinking.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

I agree. And I think that’s a key component right now, you know, that that we have to access, because the things that we used to feel in control have been longer there. They’re no longer available. So where do you have it?

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, that’s a really nice note to end on. Thank you so much for coming on today, Greg, to talk about, not ACT, but act.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Yes. Now you know why. Gotta take some action.

Marielle Berg 

Do you want to let listeners know where they can find you online?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Sure. My website is my name. So it’s www.gregbodin.com, G R E G B O D I N. And, yeah, if anybody has questions or wants to know more, and they’re, here’s the best part about Act. The entire therapists, researcher psychology community really wants to get it out there. So there are a lot of great resources available. I write a lot on my blog. But there are a lot of amazing resources out there for anybody who wants to apply some of this stuff.

Marielle Berg 

Nice. Thank you. And you’re available, you’re located in the San Francisco Bay area, but you’re available to see clients from all over California is that right?

Greg Bodin, MFT 

That’s right. We’re all doing video these days. Speaking of adapting and taking control where you can so yeah, I see clients all around California via video.

Marielle Berg 

Okay, thank you.

Greg Bodin, MFT 

Thank you very much. It’s great to talk to you.

Marielle Berg 

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. To learn more or if you’re in the Bay Area and want to get started with therapy you can find us online at bayareadbtcc.com. That’s BayAreaDBTCC.com.