The Skill of Cognitive Defusion
By: Ashley Reed, LMFT 111557
Life creates many annoying thoughts that cause stress. Sometimes those thoughts bubble up as one’s head hits the pillow. While one should be sleeping, they begin to overthink and replay those thoughts repeatedly. Eventually, one becomes stuck, dwelling on a situation while asking the question, “How do I get unstuck”? Now, There are thought-stopping techniques, but they don’t always work for everyone all the time. Either way, this blog will discuss some of the ways to look at thoughts to help one handle their thoughts is called cognitive defusion.
Cognitive defusion uses language to alter annoying thoughts in defusing or minimizing the thoughts that cause stress. Thoughts are generally made up of speech, and the way one thinks about and interprets those thoughts influences their feelings. To illustrate how different someone feels when told they must wake up a couple of extra hours earlier than usual for work versus a couple of extra hours for a vacation flight out. Since there is a distinct difference between thoughts and feelings, one can defuse their thoughts contextually, leading to different feelings. Cognitive defusion is a way to look at thoughts and not accept every thought that comes to mind, an act or technique learned.
In contrast; If they dwell on a negative thought long enough, they become fused with the thought as a consequence (cognitive fusion). Cognitive fusion allows thought to have power over one’s feelings. Not every thought that crosses one’s mind is accurate, and believing every belief is irrational. Fusion also develops when one has an unwritten rule about themselves and unknowingly follows it. For example, “I am an unlikeable person,” and buying that thought led them to be isolated and not talk to people, which may cause anxiety and sadness. Not buying that thought may look like joining a social group or spending more time with family. Our brain is a word machine that creates thoughts and emotions, telling us how to respond or not respond.
Here are a few cognitive defusion skills for developing thought flexibility.
First, name your thought by applying an annoying name to the idea; One’s thought might be “I’m an ugly person.” They can call this thought “Mr. Menace” by naming it; it should seem less personal and real. When a “Mr. Menace” thought pops up, they can say, “Oh, there’s Mr. Menace again, and then tell Mr. Menace to take a hike because you’re going to ignore him. Secondly, one can use different voice tones in your mind. Speak to the irrational thought in a humorist disbelief tone in combating the troubling thought. Also, the tone of your voice should impact your feelings. You are, lastly, externalizing a thought on an object. You can write down your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then burn that paper. Also, you can write down the thought, “I am unlovable,” on a heavy brick and carry that brick with you when you believe that thought. Simply put that brick aside when you do not want to consider that thought. When you externalize an opinion, it helps build distance and eventually leads to separation from that belief.
These are just a few ways to diffuse those unwanted thoughts, but the good news is that anyone can apply these simple techniques. Listen to all your thoughts and write down only the irrational, untrue reviews and apply these techniques. Over some time, one should notice some distance from those unwanted thoughts. A therapist should list more defusion techniques that can help lead you to complete separation and victory over thoughts.