As I mentioned in my last blog I planned over the next week do discuss the core skills or processes of the ACT treatment modality. These core skills are identified as, Acceptance, Cognitive Defusion, Being present, Self as Context, and Values. The skill or process I will talk about today is "Cognitive Defusion". The word Defusion can be easily confused with diffusion, which has a very different meaning. Sometimes our thoughts become so ingrained in us that we are not even able to see them, it is as if they are a part of us. We do not see them with any degree of detachment, and because of this it becomes easy to believe that the thought reveals the truth with regards to us. When the thought is so close to us and so believable we might say that we are fused to the thought. We are identified with it and it defines us. If we could see that thought from a distance or with some detachment we might notice that what it is saying about us might not be true. How do we gain some degree objectivity or detachment from a thought that is problematic. Since most emotional states are generated by thoughts, it's worthwhile to take a look at what is going on. Historically some psychologist have encouraged clients to use a technique called "thought stopping", Thought stopping has typically not been viewed as very effective. It may work temporarily, however, when it did work it appeared to leave side effects that are not helpful. I will use the following example of a thought that was problematic for a client I once treated. We will hypothetically call him Sam. Sam would come to every session stating that, "Tomorrow is going to be a bad day", As I tried to gently challenge him regarding the validity of the thought he, would become frustrated and angry with me. It turned out that tomorrow was always, in fact a bad day for him, because he believed it was true. What if he allowed me to have some influence with him and practiced saying the following. "I am noticing a thought that tomorrow is going to be a bad day", by changing the language prior to the thought, it helps him to detach from the thought to some degree, and we notice the thought as a thought and not a reality. The truth is that thoughts don't always tell the truth, and very frequently we believe them. Suppose that you lost your keys and said, "I am such a moron. Is that really a true statement. If we say it enough we might believe it. Suppose you change things up a bit and say, "I notice, I am having a thought that I am an Idiot". Again we develop more detachment from the thought. There are likely to be many thoughts that get generated in our minds about ourselves that are just not true. Many of these these thoughts limit our potential, and are often "shaming". In ACT therapy the client is encouraged to say to themselves that "They are not their thoughts", this might seem radical for many people, but what if we weren't our thoughts? For that matter, what if we weren't our feelings? What if they are all just experiences and we were actually something different? As Eckert Tolle says, "Be the Watcher". What if we could learn to be the observer of these thoughts and emotions, and learn to use them to our advantage. This is my goal, to be less detached and to use the information more effectively. I know it sounds radical. As we practice this we actually develop more awareness of our thought processes. Try it out and experiment. It is simple enough, just restate the thought by putting something like, "I am noticing", prior to your thought and see what happens. Of course it will take some practice. There are many possibilities for using "Defusion", I just mentioned one possibility in this post.
Understanding Cognitive Defusion
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