Dropping Anchor: Sitting With Distressing Thoughts and Engaging With the Moment
At Mountain Valley, we work to incorporate strategies to help residents embody the “bring it on” ERP philosophy into their everyday lives. It is common for people to try to avoid, get rid of, or otherwise disengage themselves from their distressing thoughts and feelings. However, what you resist often persists. The counterintuitive way of managing these distressing thoughts and feelings is to lean further into the experience.
One of the tangible skills we use to teach this concept is “dropping anchor,” which stems from the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) framework. Dropping anchor is used to help someone stay in the storm of their distressing thoughts and feelings so they can continue to engage in the moment. Rather than try to avoid or get rid of the thoughts and feelings, dropping anchor encourages one to lean into their experience – to name it, acknowledge it, feel it, and move through it.
ACE, or Dropping Anchor, in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Dropping anchor uses the acronym ACE to depict the steps one should take when trying to stay present with their emotions of the moment:
- Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings – Try to be curious about what is coming up inside of you. What thoughts are you having? Can you say them aloud? What feelings are you experiencing? Can you name them?
- Come back to your body – While acknowledging what is going on in your mind in regard to thoughts and emotions, also bring awareness to your body. Can you push your feet against the floor? Is your back up against a chair? Can you feel your hands or wiggle your fingers? Can you notice your breath?
- Engage in what you are doing – Once you’re aware of your body, now become aware of your surroundings. Where are you? What do you see? What do you hear? What are you supposed to be doing? What’s the next step you should take?
Leaning into discomfort – naming it, noticing it, moving through it- is not an easy task. It takes practice, consistency, and the appropriate frame of mind mindset. It can be helpful to practice dropping anchor sporadically throughout the day, so it becomes more second nature during times of distress.
However, you engage with this concept, just remember, distressing thoughts, feelings, and emotions are meant to be embraced, not avoided – that’s the secret to turning fear into freedom.