Have you heard of this useful metaphor for overly-engaging with our unhelpful thoughts?
Sometimes our mind gets fixated on certain thoughts, so much so that we can't think about anything else.
Or maybe it's not a specific thought your mind is focused on, but rather, a belief or internal rule you've made for yourself about how things need to happen, or a rigid set of expectations.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we call this concept cognitive fusion. We can become fused with our thoughts, our emotions, a desired outcome - truly, we can become fused with almost anything!
One the other hand, the concept of cognitive defusion is allowing room for our mind to consider more flexible thoughts rather than staying overly-engaged with unhelpful ones.
A common metaphor or visual that ACT practitioners use to explain cognitive fusion is this (and actually give this exercise a try):
Well, in this metaphor, your hands are your thoughts!
Our hands covering our eyes represents being overly-engaged (or fused) with our unhelpful thoughts - typically these are the ones that feel sticky, persistent, and stubborn.
When those are present, we tend to become overly-engaged with them. And that cognitive fusion with these unhelpful thoughts then typically gives way to judging ourselves, increased anxiety, stress, overwhelm, unhelpful actions....you get it.
But by moving our hands away from our eyes, we were able to see more around us again!
And that's the same with our thoughts. We can't delete our thoughts, just like we can't get rid of our hands that were covering our eyes. But we CAN move them or change their positioning, which then gives us a different perspective!
Here's an example:
You find yourself overly-engaged with the thought that you can't go out to eat at restaurants because the kitchen will always make mistakes.....
Looking for other ways to separate from your unhelpful thoughts? This video is another wonderful visual representation of cognitive fusion, offering additional practical strategies to help you defuse from your unhelpful thoughts. (Recommend this video for teens and older).
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