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Psychological Inflexibility with Dr Richard MacKinnon
Episode 4728th March 2024 • People Soup • People Soup
00:00:00 00:38:09

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Hi there and a very warm welcome to Season 5 Episode 47 of People Soup – it’s Ross McIntosh here. 

P Soupers - here's the start of a mini series - it's a new collaboration with Dr Richard MacKinnon from WorkLifePsych - where we delve into all things related to psycholgical flexibility and ACT - we're aiming to show you how relevant it is - not only to your work life, but your whole life. Listen on as we launch the mini series with a chat about psychological inflexibility and psychological flexibility- and what they can lead to in our lives.

People Soup is an award winning podcast where we share evidence based behavioural science, in a way that’s practical, accessible and fun. We're all about Unlocking Workplace Potential with expert perspectives from Contextual Behavioural Science.

Another first for Season 5 is that I'm adding a transcript, wherever possible. There is a caveat - this transcript is largely generated by Artificial Intelligence, I have corrected many errors but I won't have captured them all! You can also find the shownotes by clicking on notes, keep scrolling for all the useful links.

You can find all the details of my ACT in the Workplace Train the Trainer Program over on our partner's website, Contextual Consulting.

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Transcripts

Psych Flex

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[00:00:07] can really be a feature of this inflexibility, perhaps our mind is in time travel mode, where we're just anticipating, if your mind's anything like mine, all the catastrophic things that, it's not the catastrophic things that might go wrong, it's the catastrophic things that will go wrong, if I start to move towards this thing that matters to me.

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[00:00:42] Richard: happen and it's terrible. So do whatever it takes to avoid it happening. that inertia stops us from doing stuff that we know is important or worthwhile, or even in our best interests. Maybe not right now, but over time. And of course, we treat those images as facts.

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[00:01:20] Ross: P Supers, here's the start of a mini series. It's a new collaboration with Dr Richard McKinnon from Work Life Psych.

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[00:01:49] And what they can both lead to in our lives. [00:02:00] now, for those of you who are new to PeopleSoup, Hi, hola, Welcome to the community. We're an award winning podcast where we share evidence based behavioural science in a way that's practical, accessible, and fun.

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[00:02:22] let's just scoot over to the news desk because reviews are in for our last episode which was part three of my chat with Michaela Thomas and we talked about her spacious adventure. On X, Dr Rachel Leigh said. Hi Ross and Michaela.

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[00:02:55] Now, pea soup as you might have heard that the bookmarks have landed. Each review that's read out on the show will receive a couple of our freshly designed bookmarks. Dispatched by my dad in the Global Distribution Center in the Northeast Powerhouse. what more of an incentive do you need to write a review on social media or on your favorite podcast platform? please do keep reviewing, writing, sharing, and talking about the podcast. when you do that, you'll help more people find us, and all the useful PeopleSoup stuff.

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[00:03:37] Details are in the show notes, including a discount code. For now, get a brew on And have a listen to the mini series, Part 1 of my collaboration with Dr. Richard McKinnon.

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[00:04:09] Ross: Hi, I'm Ross McIntosh. I'm delighted to be here, possibly slightly giddy, and I'm an organizational psychologist and coach.

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[00:04:48] So I'm delighted that we're making a start today.

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[00:05:09] Richard: Absolutely. I would love if each of these episodes became a bit of an evergreen, thing thing that people could go back and revisit in the future when they want to know a little bit more about that. Bit so it's probably worth listeners and viewers understanding that it is each of these are standalone But they link with the preceding and the following episode and we'll do that Signposting for you so you can see how each of these episodes links with the others builds on the others And we're going to follow a bit of a story As we go through it as to the why we have it in a certain order.

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[00:06:08] It's often referred to as acceptance and commitment theory because we're not talking about therapy necessarily. And it's brought to life in a whole range of different contexts. Yes, the therapeutic, but also education, social work. coaching in the workplace, uh, training, uh, for life skills. So we'll talk about ACT as a framework, and we'll talk about psychological flexibility as the skill we develop once we've practiced, the skills that make up the ACT framework.

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[00:06:40] Ross: Beautiful. In fact, I was captivated there. I thought, oh, I'm just, I'm just listening to an episode of My Pocket Psyche and then I thought, oh God, he's asked me a question.

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[00:07:10] It doesn't matter. What we're really keen is to get these ideas and these skills in front of the biggest audience possible, so as many people as possible can start putting them into practice and reap the benefits of doing that.

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[00:07:40] Richard: Absolutely. And I would argue, and we're not lone voices in this regard, that a focus on these skills, these are skills for life. These aren't just for the workplace. These are skills that help us navigate. life full stop. So maybe, you know, what are the benefits of this? We're making a plea to [00:08:00] say, Hey guys, listen to this and start doing it.

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[00:08:09] Ross: I'll have a go, yeah. I think, well, first of all, personally, for me, if I think about the impact these skills have had on me, I'm quite an anxious fellow. I come from a long line of catastrophizers. So, if I think about how my mind can escalate an everyday occurrence to utter catastrophe in nanoseconds, then it's really fundamentally changed my own relationship with my anxiety. Which has freed me up to pursue more about what matters to me. What has importance to me? What deep down without societal pressures, those shoulds and those musts, how am I creating the route that I want to take in life, that has meaning and purpose for me, and I'm not overly, um, what's the word I'd use?

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[00:09:19] But I would never have done that because I tend to map it out ahead of me. You know when you're like making a recipe, I'm the sort of person who has everything weighed out, like they do on Blue Peter. Blue Peter was a children's program, folks. I don't think it's around anymore.

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[00:09:41] Ross: exactly, exactly with Valerie Singleton and John Noakes.

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[00:10:04] And I'm not saying it's all been sangria and sunshine, and it's been amazing ups and downs, particularly challenges caused by bureaucracy made more complex by Brexit. let's not go down that

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[00:10:20] Ross: But um, it's allowed me to pursue what matters. And then, am I giving too much too many examples here Richard?

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[00:10:27] Richard: They're fantastic because what I love about those, it's about the everyday. Okay, relocating doesn't happen every day, but it's about a life decision and how practicing these skills doesn't make life perfect. It just enables you to get on with life and not stumble, stumble, stumble. Or avoid difficulties, um, stumble at the first hurdle.

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[00:11:09] And I'm like, well, it's important. It's. You know, either I need to give this person feedback. I need to ask them why they haven't paid their bills. I need to disappoint them somehow. You know, I'll just do it. And that's a big win for me. Has it created zen calm within me? It has not, um, but it's enabled me to notice when I'm winding myself up inside.

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[00:11:32] Richard: enabled me to get really clear like you on what matters and do more of that stuff. Even though. In the moment, it's maybe not easy, but it's worthwhile. And that's something maybe we'll return to next time. This notion of time traveling, um, in the mind, it's enabled me to be more realistic about noticing my predictions or my unhelpful predictions.

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[00:12:13] I'm in this meeting now. And that has enabled me to focus on the person in front of me, maybe on video, maybe here in my office. But I'm focused in the here and now on that person. And that, that is just what I should be doing. As a coaching psychologist and not disappearing into my mind. So yeah, just some of the ways it's, it's been really beneficial.

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[00:12:50] Richard: So what we thought would be, good, helpful would be to, and we try and avoid good versus bad, don't we? But no, what would be helpful in this episode? We'd, we'd maybe, give you a preview of what we're going to cover and then elaborate a little bit on what is for many of us, the starting point, you know, a sense of psychological.

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[00:13:34] We're going to talk next time, about how we can be more present, in the moment. Uh, we're going to talk about how we can get clear on what matters to us in life, those values, how we can step back from thoughts that aren't so welcoming or pleasant, how we can take action in the direction of what matters, even though it might be a little bit difficult and how we're able to have a sense of self [00:14:00] that isn't overly rigid, that isn't limiting our options and, and, um, be more, attuned to the me now, not the me that used to be, or the, the bit of me that isn't going to be around forever like a job title and be more about the the here and now and um something that is going to come up again and again is the acceptance that some of this is uncomfortable and tough but we'll do it anyway because it's important to us it matters to us and each one of these skills is separate but they all link together so we're going to keep making that point how they mutually support and how they combine to give us those nice results that we've been talking about. What can listeners expect if they continue to tune in? And we hope they will. What can they expect from us over the next few episodes?

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[00:15:12] And give you some tips, some top tips to allow you to go away and practice and play, get experimental and curious to support your journey. And I think it's really important what you said earlier Richard is. These aren't just skills for work. These are skills for every area of your life, whether it's a relationship, whether it's your own leisure time, your time outside of work, or whether it's your own health.

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[00:15:58] Richard: You know, some of the ways that [00:16:00] we describe these can be fun and light. So what we're not going to do is do a big download of neuroscience in your direction. There's plenty of other places you can find that. One of the things that first attracted me to the whole practice of ACT was its reliance on imagery and metaphors and taking these incredibly complex things and making them accessible.

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[00:16:55] You know, this is something we all have because we all have a mind and these are ways it can show up or be developed or be dealt with by all of us. So as we go through these, I'd love to share those examples from both of us because I don't want anyone listening to this to be under any illusions. We're both fallible humans and knowing this stuff is not the same as doing this stuff, right?

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[00:17:41] Ross: you're absolutely right. In some of the, the research we've done, we've actually interviewed people. This is in my partnership with Dr. Paul Flaxman at City University of London. We've interviewed people who've been trained by me and the things that stick in their mind quite frequently were. self disclosure from me about [00:18:00] my life.

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[00:18:10] Richard: Absolutely. Absolutely. So it's not, the, the Ross and Richard therapy hour or anything like it. It's more a case of here, here's an example. And you know what? We'd love to hear your examples. We'd love to hear how you're, uh, how this is landing with you and how you're putting it into practice over the next few episodes.

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[00:18:50] Ross: Yeah, I think so.

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[00:19:01] Ross: I think one way, it would be just that, I'd say, hesitation or inertia. The incapacity to move, to take that first step, the step you don't want to take, to quote a poem, which we'll probably come back to at some point, but launching yourself. Just that rigidity of fear or perhaps not being clear on how it's going to end up or the direction we're going in.

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[00:19:50] So I think that's one of the things that can just stop me. in my tracks and keep me glued to my seat if you like. And it's [00:20:00] almost the certainty isn't it your mind is telling you, this will

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[00:20:25] We treat those catastrophes as inevitable. And it has an impact on our behavior now, which is how we start to notice this, this rigidity, this inflexibility. We're almost missing out on great opportunities because of a story our mind has told us. It's what it boils down to.

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[00:21:09] And they're getting in their own way.

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[00:21:35] Their self concept includes, I'm no good with numbers. So they hold themselves back from doing anything with numbers. Yeah.

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[00:22:06] And I said, well, what have you just described to me? That feels very creative or the other one that I sticks in my mind is adventure.

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[00:22:16] Ross: I'm not the adventurous type. And for some reason, people I talk to about adventure. They say, oh, I'd never do a bungee jump. And I, what the hell has adventure got to do with a bungee jump?

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[00:22:36] Richard: Yeah, absolutely.

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[00:22:42] Richard: going, changing the walk you take to work, mixing things up a little bit. But, and these sound very pedestrian, but they're often symptomatic of, uh, uh, an inflexible view of yourself that's self limiting. I'm only, I can't, I just, I must, I have to.

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[00:23:44] So our identity, our self concept is hugely complex,

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[00:24:06] But, God damn it, we're achieving

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[00:24:41] And, One of the leading lights in this space, Professor Frank Bond. I remember being in front of him when he gave a presentation and he did this really physical movement about life getting smaller and smaller, you know, because you're avoiding your, your discounting opportunities. You don't want to take the risk of, and so you stick to what is certain and how many things are certain in life.

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[00:25:10] Ross: Absolutely, and that not being prepared tolerate any sort of uncertainty, not being prepared to sit with ambiguity, uncertainty, uncomfortable feelings inside of us. Not just being able to give ourselves the space to sit with that is something that we often touch upon in either group training or, or coaching.

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[00:25:56] Richard: Well, it translates, yeah, it translates into [00:26:00] everyday things like, you know, I don't want the discomfort of being embarrassed, so I won't ask the question. I don't want the discomfort of being wrong, so I won't answer the question. I don't want the discomfort of being rejected, so I won't apply for the job, you know.

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[00:26:35] We're not talking about pain or risk to life and limb. It's sensible to be aware of those. That's how we've evolved and our mind has evolved to keep us safe. But it, it can from time to time, overplay that risk averse nature and tell us things are dangerous when they're not, they're just uncomfortable.

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[00:27:16] Ross: Yeah, absolutely. That's okay.

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[00:27:44] It's not about reducing symptoms. It's about giving you a different perspective on the nature of thoughts and feelings so that you're not focused so much on them and you're focused more on doing the stuff that matters. And in the everyday, it's worth reminding everybody that [00:28:00] practicing this doesn't.

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[00:28:24] So life in the world doesn't get easier, but you're more able to deal with the stuff it throws at you and not stop yourself from taking that first step. And I think this is a really important point to make because next time we're going to be talking about present moment awareness or being mindful in the moment.

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[00:28:59] Ross: Yeah, the and is so important.

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[00:29:21] Different contexts will be more difficult, will be easier. And each of us, as you're listening to this, you'll think I'm pretty good at that. I've never even thought of that, and I know that that's really difficult for me. So view these as separate qualities rather than label yourself as good or bad at psychological flexibility, because I guarantee it's not the case.

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[00:30:14] the nature of those thoughts, things like comparisons, comparing me to someone else. They are very attractive, they're very engaging, they're sticky. That's still difficult. But I would say now in 2024, at least now I know how to deal with those and they don't get me stuck and they don't prevent me from doing the thing anyway at some point.

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[00:30:50] Richard: Yep.

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[00:31:05] Notice what my mind's up to and as you say knowing that my mind is just doing what it was evolved to do to keep me safe and then choosing what to do next. Thinking how do I want to be in this moment.

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[00:31:20] Ross: Yeah, that's a, that's a tricky one to,

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[00:31:24] Ross: to kind of conceptualize and grasp and convey sometimes in training. Hmm.

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[00:31:50] because of how you think about it. We always have options as to our direction of travel, as to how we engage with other people, and how we deal with the stuff that comes our way. The bad news, [00:32:00] the ambiguity, the loss, the disappointment, or even, you know, the, the, the good news. How many times have I received good news, enjoyed it for a moment, and then thought, oh no, but how many ways could this go wrong?

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[00:32:19] Richard: They're just being nice. They're

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[00:32:20] being nice.

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[00:32:31] Richard: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So all of these, these ways that our mind can get in the way of us being, I would boil it down to being the kind of person you want to be. Ideally, how would you like to be in the world? Practicing these skills allows you to do more of that more often. doesn't create saints, it doesn't create perfect people, but it enables you, like any skill, if you practice it, to do more of it.

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[00:33:29] If you're interested, you can go on and do that. Read a little bit more or watch or listen, whatever it might be. But really, if you took away what we're talking about in each episode and put that into practice, it's going to give you a real boost. It's a great, great starting point. But I know from my own experience as a practitioner, there are some people who just want to know a little bit more to understand a little bit more or have more context before they take a leap of faith.

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[00:34:18] So we're going to keep pointing it back to the same page and you'll be able to find that at worklifestyle. com slash. Psychological flexibility. That's the page that accompanies this series. Everything we reference, we're going to put there. And hopefully that will remove some of the friction of, they talked about this thing, but I don't know where to find more.

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[00:34:38] Ross: Beautiful. So, Richard, it feels like we've set sail.

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[00:34:44] Ross: It's daunting.

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[00:35:08] I'll close with a repeated call to hear from you. Let us know what you think. Let us know how it's working for you. Let us know what your questions are. one of the easiest ways to get in touch with us is via email. and you have, you have choices here. It doesn't matter who you email. We'll look at the emails together.

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[00:35:35] and if you want to email me, you can just, uh, get in touch podcast at worklifepsych. com. But either way, it doesn't matter. We want to hear from you. And of course, if you're just watching this on YouTube, you can leave a comment below and we'll, we'll add that to a future episode and we'll cover it in depth.

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[00:36:09] Ross: Next episode, we're going to be going into our first skill, the first skill from Act, and we're going to be talking about present moment awareness, what it is and what it isn't, and how that mind wandering can really Be really unhelpful for us at times and really stop us being the person we'd really like to be.

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[00:36:52] Um, and so next time we'll, we'll look at that. And really importantly, the small things we can do to develop this muscle, this, this present. moment awareness muscle. And from our perspective, the other skills flow from that. You know, it's very hard to do these other things if we're not aware of the moment that we're in.

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[00:37:25] Ross: Yeah, thanks for your curiosity and being prepared to experiment and explore, Richard. And everyone for listening.

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[00:37:35] Ross: Bye for now.

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[00:37:39] Oh, you're back. There we go.

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[00:37:45] I'll just have a look at my network. Are you struggling, pet?

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[00:37:50] Ross: You alright, love? Looks alright. I don't know what I'm looking [00:38:00] at, but the lights are all on.

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[00:38:04] Ross: Oh, it's because I'm in police protection.

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