The author introduces the special section on mindfulness: four articles that between them explore the correlates of mindfulness in both cross-sectional and treatment studies. Results from these studies, taken together, suggest a close association between higher levels of mindfulness, either as a trait or as cultivated during treatment, and lower levels of rumination, avoidance, perfectionism and maladaptive self-guides. These four characteristics can be seen as different aspects of the same ‘mode of mind’, which prioritizes the resolution of discrepancies between ideas of current and desired states using a test-operate-test-exit sequence. Mindfulness training allows people to recognize when this mode of mind is operating, to disengage from it if they choose, and to enter an alternative mode of mind characterized by prioritizing intentional and direct perception of moment-by-moment experience, in which thoughts are seen as mental events, and judgemental striving for goals is seen, accepted and ‘let go’.
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Hayes and Shenk make a plea, however, not to exclude other non-meditative techniques and practices that may help the de-literalization of language. This is an important point, and it reminds us not to fall into the ever-present danger of building walls between different schools of therapy and practice.
Note that this is closely analogous to the rapid word repetition task in ACT—bringing about a weakening of the usual hold that the verbal label of an object has on us. Just as the word ‘milk’ repeated rapidly for a minute can end up as a neutral sound that has temporarily lost its association with a white cool creamy drink, so deconstructing objects in the auditory or visual field helps give more degrees of freedom when confronted by the object, its label and reactions based on the labelling.
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Williams, J.M.G. Mindfulness, Depression and Modes of Mind. Cogn Ther Res 32, 721 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-008-9204-z
- Discrepancy-based processing