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“You don’t have to agree with everything I think, I don’t even have to agree with everything I think.” Adam Grant
Have you experienced thoughts that are painful, controlling and unhelpful? Then read on to find a perspective from a potent therapy. In ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ (ACT) the mind is called ‘world of language’ which included beliefs, assumptions, thoughts, memories, images, words. Publically it reflects in speaking, talking, dancing, painting etc and privately it reflects in planning, daydreaming, thinking, worrying etc. (cognition)
The pain generated internally may be due to unfavourable use of language (unfavourable thinking) and pain escalates when we do “Cognitive Fusion” which means we are engrossed, fused and stuck in the thoughts.
The useful option is “Cognitive Defusion” where we hold the thoughts lightly without clutching onto them tightly, disentangle, step back from and release the need to be engaged with thoughts. ”Cognitive Defusion” is one of the core principles of ACT. Training ourselves to see painful thoughts as thoughts only may eventually reduce pain, but that’s not the goal. The goal is detaching, being present and making the right moves.
Let's take an example:
Mary has failed the school examination. These were her compulsive thoughts: ‘I’m a failure for life’, ‘I’ve let down my parents and they won’t love me, ‘Why are others smarter?’, ‘I should run away from home’, ‘I won’t ever succeed’ etc Fusion and Defusion, in this case, can be:
Fusion: ”My thoughts are right, I’m a failure for life”
Defusion: Mary steps back and understands that these are just thoughts and they may be untrue
Fusion: “The thoughts of running away from home feels like a command or rule to follow at any cost”
Defusion: Thoughts are not rigid rules or commands, instead of following them I'll talk to my parents.
Fusion: I am feeling what will happen if everyone finds out
Defusion: Mary releases assumptions of the future and sees them as images and words her mind has put together. They aren’t true in the real world, right now.
Fusion: These thoughts feel very urgent and demand Mary’s total attention
Defusion: Mary has a choice in how much attention she needs to give to them.
Fusion: Mary can’t let go of the thought of failure and fear (even if it makes her life worse)
Defusion : Mary decides not to let it make her life worse. She doesn’t push the thoughts away, nor does she hold them. “Thoughts can come and go of their own accord.”
This example is stimulated by the revolutionary book ‘ACT made simple’ by Dr Russ Harris. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is not just to solve problems but to make life rich and meaningful. I highly recommend this therapy, do ask your therapist for it! I hope this helped to know that you can always disentangle from thought and see them for what they are. They are not you, they are just visitors in your mind. Take care!
Author: Devanshi Gala| Publisher: Kosha Life