If you're feeling overwhelmed right now, it makes sense. With so much going on in the world, compounded by our personal experiences, it can be overwhelming having so many different thoughts and feelings at once. This experience should be normalized, but there is also space to acknowledge how anxious thoughts and feelings can overwhelm us to the point where it urges us to live in our heads instead of in our lives. We can quickly move away from living a valued life. Another word for this experience is fusion, or getting caught up in our thoughts and allowing them to dominate our behaviors. When we're overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, our mind often urges us to get fused to our thoughts. Defusion means distancing from our thoughts, giving them less power, and letting them come and go instead of holding onto them. Another way to explain defusion involves looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts. When we notice the processes of our thinking, we can learn through our own experiences and practice that our thoughts do not control our actions, even when it really feels like it. Defusion is beneficial to practice when thoughts function as barriers to valued living.
It can seem kind of vague or complex to think about observing our thoughts or creating space between us and our thoughts. Luckily, there are specific defusion techniques to try if you are willing! There are many different techniques, but these are some of my favorites:
Just Noticing:Use the language of observation. Say to yourself, “I’m having the thought that…” or “I notice I’m having the thought that…”
Workability: If you let this thought dictate what you do, how does it work in the long run? Does it help you create a rich, full and meaningful life?
“The Mind”: Treat the mind as an external event, almost as a separate person e.g., “There goes my mind again,” or “My mind is worrying again.”
Put it Out There:Write down a negative evaluation you are ready to defuse from, or put it on a nametag and wear it. don’t explain it to anyone for a while… Just feel how it feels to have it out there.
Insight: Step back for a second and think about what happens when you buy into this thought? How does your behavior change if you buy into this thought? What do you start/stop doing when it shows up?
Give one of these defusion techniques a try when you notice that you are getting hooked or reeled in by your thoughts. Bring your attention to how it feels to observe your thoughts, and take note of the thoughts your mind may frequently give you. While doing so, remember that it is normal to have negative or worry thoughts. The goal here is not to get rid of them. Our minds are evolved to judge, compare, and predict the worst-so your mind is just doing its job. We're human, so make sure not to judge yourself or your thoughts, and be gentle with yourself throughout the process!
-Hannah Pavett, M.A
Adapted from ACT Made Simple by Russ Harris.