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Understanding Psychological Flexibility

Psychological flexibility is an important mark of mental health and developing it is an important goal of therapy. The notion of psychological flexibility pertains to one's mental agility and adaptability.

Healthy individuals can toggle flexibly between the strategies of moving toward, away, or against dealing with others. They are attuned to the demands of the situation and other contextual features. Unhealthy individuals are stuck in one gear. Rather, they tend to overuse one of these strategies, generating conflict and confusion.

Three common "boundary disturbances" that may hinder full healthy contact are confluence, isolation, and introjection. Confluence involves a loss of distinction between the self and others. Isolation happens when the boundary becomes so impermeable that it does not allow any connectedness. Introjection refers to "swallowing" outside influences whole, without proper vetting and discretion.

Good, flexible boundaries allow for alternation between connecting and separating and facilitate a vibrant exchange and assimilation of ideas and influences, therefore enabling learning, growth, and health. Psychological flexibility allows you to calibrate your responses to the here-and-now situational demands, to focus your attention and direct your energy effectively, to be able to take the long term perspective even in the midst of emotional turmoil, and to behave in ways that honor your core values and facilitate the attainment of your meaningful goals.

Original Article written by: Noam Shpancer, Ph.D.