I was browsing the web for interesting therapy materials, when I came across the worksheets for Acceptance & Commitment Therapy for Anxiety Disorders on the website of one of the authors, Dr. John Forsyth. I’ve never done ACT, but I’ve done a lot of reading about it, and it makes a lot of sense to me.
One thing that I found particularly interesting is the White Bear Suppression Inventory, which I’ve copied verbatim from the linked site; the material is copyright (1994) by Blackwell Publishing Company. All questions are rated from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree:
1) There are things I prefer not to think about.
2) Sometimes I wonder why I have the thoughts I do.
3) I have thoughts that I cannot stop.
4) There are images that come to mind that I cannot erase.
5) My thoughts frequently return to one idea.
6) I wish I could stop thinking of certain things.
7) Sometimes my mind races so fast I wish I could stop it.
8) I always try to put problems out of mind.
9) There are thoughts that keep jumping into my head.
10) Sometimes I stay busy just to keep thoughts from intruding on my mind.
11) There are things that I try not to think about.
12) Sometimes I really wish I could stop thinking.
13) I often do things to distract myself from my thoughts.
14) I often have thoughts that I try to avoid.
15) There are many thoughts that I have that I don’t tell anyone.
I was already aware that I tend to use avoidance as a fall-back strategy, but this inventory reminded me just how much I end up doing this. I would rate myself a 5 (strongly agree) for questions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, and 14. Yikes. Yet with the current state of my treatment-resistant depression, I wonder if this suppression is the only way that I can manage to keep it together most of the time. That sounds avoidant in and of itself, but I think it’s a legitimate question; with an illness that’s only partially responsive to treatment, are there limits to how much my conscious mind can handle? And from a mindfulness perspective, is it useful to think about things related to past and future that I have limited control over, or is it better to just keep on chugging in the present moment? I really don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t know that I’m prepared to trust anyone enough to dig into that further.
Did this suppression inventory tell you anything new about yourself, or did it confirm anything you already knew?