by Russ Harris New Harbinger, 2009 Review by Maria Niemi, MSc on Jul 13th 2010
Written by the Australian author and trainer of many psychologists and other health professionals world-wide, ACT (pronounced 'act' rather than A-C-T) with love is a down-to-earth self-help book for strengthening intimate relationships. Entwined with a number of practical exercises, the basics of mindfulness-based acceptance and commitment therapy are explained in a concrete, step-by-step manner. The basic tenet is that any long-term relationship is bound to have its ups and downs, where the feelings of love may come and go and disagreements will be inevitable when two human beings with a unique set of values, feelings, wants, habits, likes and dislikes are in relationship with each other. The pitfall of most relationships is described as being due to belief in the four myths; 1) that the "perfect partner" exists for each of us and can be found, 2) that perfect partners "complete each other" so that nothing else is needed, 3) that true love should be easy, and 4) that "everlasting love" in the form of an unwaning feeling can be found with the right partner. After seeing the false nature of these beliefs, one is encouraged to maintain perspective in the midst of the day-to-day turmoil that may arise in a relationship. This can be done by finding ones core values for what one wants in life and what kind of partner one wants to be, and keeping reminding oneself of these with help of a number of acronyms such as "LOVE" (letting go, opening up, valuing and engaging). While some of the presented exercises can be performed together with ones partner, the book can be very useful even for those who work through it alone. However, as the author stresses, this book will not be of any help if only read through, but requires practical engagement in the practices of mindfulness-based acceptance and commitment in order for one to learn to see beyond the usual "psychological smog" that we are immersed in, and for long-term benefits to be realized.