Another way we can mindfully let go of worries is with cognitive defusion. Cognitive defusion is a strategy from the mindfulness-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Cognitive defusion involves letting go of thoughts and worries before we become “fused” to them. Or, if we find ourselves stuck in our heads and “fused” to our worries, cognitive defusion allows us to de‑fuse ourselves and then let these worries go.
Anxious Thoughts, Worries and Cognitive Defusion
This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.
There’s a type of mindfulness based therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy. And an important concept in acceptance and commitment therapy is the idea of cognitive fusion and defusion.
Cognitive fusion describes those times when we’re so tightly stuck to our thoughts that we become fused with them. We can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts and so our thoughts become our reality. And when we’re in a state of cognitive fusion we can feel removed from the world outside our thoughts, and from what we’re doing, and from the people around us, and it can be hard to pay attention to anything outside our head.
The opposite of cognitive fusion is cognitive defusion. Cognitive defusion involves taking a step back from what’s going on inside our minds, and detaching ourselves from our thoughts. In this state of defusion we can observe our thoughts without getting caught up in or lost in them. And we can just allow them in and accept them and let them be and let go of them if we want.
One way we can practice cognitive defusion is to label your thoughts. Anytime you notice that you’re starting to become fused with your thoughts, you can simply take a step back from your thoughts by labeling them as thinking, or daydreaming, or worrying, or ruminating or planning—just labeling whatever type of thought you’re having with a one or two word description.
And doing this helps you take a step back from the thought and focus less on the content of your thought and more on just the fact that you’re thinking, or worrying, or daydreaming, or whatever the nature of your thought is. And this makes it less likely that you’ll get sucked in by those thoughts, or carried away by them, or become fused with them.
Or you can say to yourself: I’m just thinking, just worrying. And putting the qualifier just in front of the thought helps take away some of the power of that thought and makes it easier to let go. Or you can label the content of your thought as being “just a thought.” So if you’re thinking, “i can’t do anything right,” you can reframe this as “I’m just having the thought i can’t do anything right.”
Or if you’re thinking “this is going to be terrible” you can reframe that as “I’m just having the thought that this is going to be terrible.” Instead of “,nothing ever goes my way,” “I’m just having the thought that nothing ever goes my way.” And by prefacing our thoughts with the disclaimer that this is just a thought, we reinforce the idea that our thoughts are not facts. And every time we remind ourselves of this we take away some of the power that our thoughts have over us.
Or if you’re having trouble letting go of your thoughts you can imagine yourself writing down each thought on a balloon, and then releasing that balloon up into the air and just allowing that thought to float from your mind as the balloon floats away.
Now sometimes instead of just letting go of our thoughts, it can be helpful to look at the content of our thoughts, and just get a sense of how accurate or how biased that thought may be, and see if there may be a different way of looking at things and thinking about them that’s more helpful to you, which is something we’ll explore in the next video about reframing your thoughts and cognitive restructuring.
If you’re finding it difficult to let go of your worries, you can try one of my guided meditations and relaxation exercises:
In the next few posts we’ll look at how to respond to unproductive worry with CBT. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.