Dancing with the ACT processes to maintain psychological flexibility in the face of the pandemic challenged Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Birrer, Daniel (2 October 2021). Dancing with the ACT processes to maintain psychological flexibility in the face of the pandemic challenged Tokyo 2020 Olympics International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19(S1), pp. 82-83. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/1612197X.2021.1982479

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The goal of acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) is to help people to enhance their psychological flexibility in order to bring them closer to living a valued life. Generally, the world of elite sport is very outcome oriented and living a valued life means for many athletes to strive for performance and prove their ability in competition. In many sports, participation and success at the Olympic Games is considered the pinnacle of an athletic career. Accordingly, the cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has unsettled many athletes and put them under stress in various forms and to varying degrees. Psychological flexibility has never been more in demand than in these days of global pandemic with the uncertainties of canceled competitions, postponed selections and the uncertainty about the feasibility of newly announced competition calendars. The value system of many athletes and their acceptance of what is in consciousness and what may arise or come into consciousness has been questioned and questioned. This made guiding athletes during this challenging time a perpetual and repetitive dance with the 6 ACT processes. This short presentation uses examples from working with athletes in preparation for the 2020 Olympics to show how the ACT processes were used and what it means to build real acceptance, readiness, and openness. It showed that the Self-as-Context process is a central link between Values, Acceptance, Present Moment Awareness, Defusion and Committed Action. Sportsperson with strong athletic identities sometimes seem to have ego-boosting obsessions and manifest a strong tendency of self-esteem protection. Relying on performance as source of self-worth is not possible when athletes are not allowed to compete. Working on the Self-as-Context process can reduce absorption in the self (e.g., being focused on a constructed and conceptualized ego), which is also implicit in the practice of mindfulness within a Buddhist context and sometimes forgotten in a more secular and culturally adapted western form of mindfulness. Being able to let go of a problematic conceptualized self can liberate athletes from non-functional attempts to protect their self-esteem and make movements towards a more balanced life even when circumstances restrict a normal way of life.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen SFISM > EHSM - Leistungssport > Sportpsychologie


Birrer, Daniel


1612-197X (Print) 1557-251X (Online)


Taylor & Francis




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Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2022 10:07

Last Modified:

12 Aug 2022 10:07

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Uncontrolled Keywords:

Acceptance Self-esteem Mindfulness Self as context Psychological flexibility





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