Blog‎ > ‎Psychology‎ > ‎

You are the chessboard

posted Jun 3, 2016, 12:07 AM by Jake Vosloo   [ updated Jun 10, 2016, 10:59 PM ]
"Imagine a chessboard that stretches out in all directions. There are black pieces and white pieces fighting against each other, working as teams. This is a game of war.
You can think of your thoughts and feelings as the chess pieces. Like the black team and the white team, we tend to imagine our thoughts and feelings as teammates. There are “good” feelings, like self-confidence and happiness, and “bad” feelings, like anxiety, fear and sadness. Just as in chess we pick the side that we want to win. We want the good feelings to defeat the bad ones, and so we mount our battle against the enemy. We try to eliminate it from the board.
There's a problem with this. Trying to eliminate something within us (that is part of ourselves) only makes it stronger. The more we fight the enemy pieces, the bigger they become. It's a game that cannot be won.
Hayes asks. “What if you don’t play one side or the other? What if you aren’t the pieces or the player? What if, instead, you are the chessboard itself?"
When you choose a side, the game must be won, as if your life depends on it. But if you are the board, there is no reason to invest in the game. The board simply contains the pieces. It is the context in which the dynamics of the game exist. The game cannot exist without the board, but the board has no need to defeat one side or the other. From the board's point of view. There is no good team or bad team."

(Hayes, Strosahl, Wilson 1999) as cited by Shawn T. Smith 2011, "The User's Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It"
Very interesting overviews here:

"Of the several processes that purportedly contribute to psychological flexibility, that of enhancing self-as-context, or transcendent perspective taking, has been the least investigated. To address this omission, we conducted two analogue studies with college student participants examining the relative impact of a brief exercise for enhancing the contextual self on pain tolerance ( n = 22) by comparing it to control-based ( n = 22) and attention-placebo ( n = 22) protocols. In Study 1, the self-as-context intervention was a generic one that we modified only slightly from the 'observer exercise' presented in Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (, pp. 193-195). Significant, but equivalent, increases in pain tolerance as assessed by the cold pressor were obtained for the three protocols, with the largest effect size noted for the control-based condition. In Study 2, we compared a self-as-context protocol ( N = 22) that was contextualized to the experience of pain to data from Study 1. The contextualized intervention significantly increased pain tolerance compared to the generic self-as-context and attention-placebo conditions of Study 1. The increase was statistically equivalent to that obtained for the control-based condition of Study 1, but represented a greater effect size, suggesting that the relative impact of a generic self-as-context exercise is increased when contextualized to a specific psychological challenge. We discuss the implications of these findings for future research investigating the impact of interventions targeting self-as-context within both analogue and clinical research."

Carrasquillo, N, & Zettle, R 2014, 'Comparing a Brief Self-as-Context Exercise to Control-Based and Attention Placebo Protocols for Coping with Induced Pain', Psychological Record, 64, 4, pp. 659-669, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 June 2016.