Thinking Traps: Dr. Steven Hayes on Depression and Psychological Flexibility

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Acceptance is the full embrace of our personal experience…it’s choosing to feel with openness and curiosity, so that you can live the kind of life you want to live while inviting your feelings to come along for the ride – Steven Hayes 

This podcast is about the power of dealing with negative thoughts and emotions more obliquely. It’s a central shift from focusing on what you think and feel to how you relate to what you think and feel. Its effectiveness is somewhat paradoxical because struggling to stop or change a thought or emotion can have the opposite effect – and compound the problem. 

My guest is Dr. Steven Hayes. Dr. Hayes is a Nevada foundation professor of psychology in the behavior analysis program at the University of Nevada. He’s an author of 46 books in nearly 675 scientific articles. His TEDx talks and blogs have been viewed or read by over 3 million people he has ranked among the most cited psychologists in the world. He’s especially known for his work on acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT, which is one of the most widely used and researched new methods of psychological intervention over the last 20 years.

Steven has received the lifetime achievement award from the association for behavioral and cognitive therapy and his popular book, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: was #1 bestseller, and his new book, which is also discussed on the podcast. A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters has been recently released to wide acclaim.

Struggling to stop or change a thought or emotion can have the opposite effect – and compound the problem. 

Some of the topics we cover during our chat. 

  • Current depression rates and the impact of the pandemic  
  • What he thinks is exasperating depression and anxiety in the U.S. 
  • The differences between sadness and depression
  • How our brains and emotions can often work against us
  • How automatic and complicated our thinking processes are
  • ACT and process-based therapy, and the challenge of a purely cognitive model What is relational thinking
  • The problem with treating negative thoughts as problems 
  • How we can relate to our thoughts to create space from being caught up in them 
  • An explanation of the diffusion and multiple techniques to apply it 


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