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Defusion is a technique derived from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Rather than fighting against negative thoughts or trying to force yourself into positive thinking, you can learn to work with your mind. Negative thinking can cause people depression, anxiety, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and if nothing else it’s extremely unpleasant and distracting and a big waste of time. If you’re an overthinker who often thinks negatively about themselves and is hard on yourself for failing or not being good enough, this video gives you 4 different ways to deal with negative thoughts differently and more effectively.
What’s up everyone, this is a private video for clients and brojo members about the process of defusion. So what I’m going to be talking about in this video is based on concepts from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And if you really want to get into this, I highly recommend you get the book The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris, where he talks about techniques and others like these.
I’m going to give you 1 2 3, I’m going to give you four different techniques you can use for dealing with painful thoughts. Okay, thoughts that create painful emotions for you. I have to emphasize that none of these techniques are about controlling your thoughts, you’ve got to understand the principles underneath all of these techniques are about accepting, not trying to get rid of thoughts, not trying to make them move on faster, not trying to suppress them or trying to argue with them or change them, but to let them exist.
But also not just to let them exist, but to let yourself exist with these thoughts and not be owned by them, controlled by them, or not believe them to be true. Okay, but we’re not trying to get rid of the thoughts, we’re not even really trying to get rid of the pain. If you, if you use these techniques to try and get rid of the thoughts, they won’t work, because it’s the intention that matters. So before you even start using any of these techniques, I want you to really just nail down in your head, this is about acceptance, I’m learning to live with these thoughts. Not trying to get rid of them, which is impossible. Okay.
So first one, I’ll spend probably just a minute or two on each one, and you can practice them on your own.
Okay, so number one is called leaves on a stream. So what we’re going to be doing with this one is we’re going to be learning to create a stream of thoughts in your mind, and to take thoughts as they appear and place them on the stream and let them kind of float around or float away as they see fit. It’s a mental visual exercise.
So to begin, as you’ll begin all of these, just close your eyes and take three long, slow, deep breaths. And just feel the breath as it goes in and out of your body, in and out. In and out, in and out. And I want you to not force your breathing from here on out, but just allow it to continue naturally.
Now what you’re going to do is you’re going to imagine that there is a stream in your mind. Maybe if you’re a visual person, you can actually picture a watery stream. Or if you’re like me and you just see kind of a blackness in your mind, you just imagined that the blackness is a swirling current, that it moves. What I want you to do is I want you to allow thoughts to occur to you.
You will notice that thoughts seem to pop up in your mind. You may even get a thought about thinking when you think I’m not having any thoughts for example, that is itself a thought. Thoughts may appear in pieces of language like auditory, you could hear it in your mind, you may see it like a text, or maybe images or movies, short clips, maybe even a mixture of all or something you can’t describe, just a sense of things.
What I want you to imagine is that the stream in your mind has leaves on it floating on top, tree leaves, and every time a thought occurs to you I want you to take that thought, I want you to put it on one of the leaves that are on the stream and just let it float on the stream.
It may float around in front of you, maybe it stays there and hangs around or as other thoughts occur to you it may float away and come back later. I want you to just practice that now, just notice the next thought as it occurs, to just place it on the stream and allow it to float
And as you’ve done that and you see it floating there, allow whatever other thoughts that occur to you to arise in consciousness and place them on the leaves. Just keep doing this every time you have a thought. Place it on the leaf, allow it to float in front of you.
Perhaps already, the first thought that you placed on a leaf has floated away. And as you realize this that comes flooding back, that’s fine. We’re not getting rid of thoughts, we’re just placing them on the stream, continue to do this as thought arises, I place it on the stream, let it float, let it float away, let it swirl around whatever it does.
I want you to pause the video and practice this technique for another minute by yourself. Then I’ll talk about the next one.
Okay, the next one, very similar to the stream exercise is what I call the Star Wars introduction. And if any of you have seen the Star Wars movies, you know, they begin with this image of space, the stars and the blackness. And then the script of words comes up and moves off into the horizon of space. You know, far far away in a galaxy, whatever it says in yellow writing and it floats off into space.
Now I want you to imagine as your eyes are closed, there’s your eyes, the blackness with red dots and everything that you see when your eyes are closed, that is space. And now just like you’re putting thoughts on a stream, we’re going to send the thoughts off into space like a script.
No matter how painful the thought is, or how persistent it is, you’re just going to place it into a script and let it float off into space in front of you. Say if I get a thought of just tension or anger, I’ll write the words tension and anger, and let them float off into space. And then when the next, when the next thought occurs to me, I’ll write that underneath and float that off into space, or just have a line of thoughts floating off into space.
And whenever there’s a pause, where no thoughts occur to me, there’s a space where I wait. And then perhaps the thought will come up like oh, no, I haven’t had any thoughts in a while. And then I’ll write that one down. Oh, no, I haven’t had any thoughts in a while. And I let that thought float off into space.
So I want you to do this now, just like the leaves exercise, allow a thought to occur to you, write it down in the text of your mind and let it float off into space, Star Wars style.
If you find it difficult to put your thoughts into text, then you can send them off as images or even a moving video. Like imagine a YouTube video just floating off into space, or a square floating off into space. An image even, a statue or 3d concept, can just be put onto the script and floated off into space. Try this with your next few thoughts.
As you do these exercises, you’ll notice sometimes you lose track of doing the exercise and you get attached to a thought. The thought seems particularly gripping, interesting or painful. And you lose yourself in it. This is fine. In fact, this is definitely going to happen every time you try to do these exercises. This is not something you can overcome.
It’s just fusion – you’re attaching to a thought because it kind of caught you. And whenever this happens, just kind of laugh to yourself and notice that it happened again and send that thought floating back into space or putting it on the leaf on the stream. No matter what happens. No matter how attached you get, even if you’re attached for minutes at a time. When you finally notice that you’re attached, just grab that thought, let it float off into space. It may even come back straight away. That’s fine. Every time you attach, detach and let it drift. Attach again, detach and let it drift. You can do this infinity times without running out of energy.
If the Star Wars script thing works for you, you want to try it some more. Pause the video and try it for another 30 seconds, one minute, just practice putting your thoughts onto the screen in the float into space.
The third technique is what I call the movie director. And this is where you’re going to take one particular thought and you’re going to play with it like you’re the director of a movie. The purpose of this exercise is not to get rid of the thought, it’s just to show you that thought is not real, that the thought can be there but it’s not an accurate projection of what’s happening. In reality, it’s just a thought.
Just like a horror movie might seem scary, but it’s just a movie, there aren’t really zombies running around. Your mind is like this and plays movies and writes stories, and the stories can be very horrific, they can they can generate very strong emotions. But so can a movie and a movie is not real. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a movie and real life, it reacts emotionally to the situation, no matter what.
Your mind is like that with thoughts, you react to thoughts as if they are events that are actually happening. And one of the things that helps when you’re scared of a horror movie is you know that you can always pause it, you can fast forward, rewind. It’s not real, it’s not actually happening, you have control.
Now, you can’t control your thoughts exactly like you can a movie, but you can play with them, which will show you that they’re not real. This exercise is a little more tricky to do sometimes. What I want you to do now, if you’re ready for this exercise, is I want you to bring up a particularly painful thought that you commonly have. Maybe it appears as text like I am a loser. Maybe it’s an image, a picture, imagination of you in the future suffering in some way that kind of represents how you feel about yourself. Maybe it’s a video clip, like you imagine somebody doing something painful to you, or about you. Horrific memory, perhaps a traumatic event that you relive in your mind, whatever it is, I want you to bring it up.
Whereas every time before you’ve tried to get rid of this thought when it comes up, today you’re going to allow it to stay and not just allow it to stay, you’re going to play with it. Like you’re the director of a movie, and this is your movie reel.
What I want you to do is when you play with this image is to keep the main painful part intact. We’re not going to try for example, if the words I’m a loser come up in your mind, we’re not going to try and change those words. If a picture of you suffering comes up in your mind, we’re not going to try and change the picture to make it that you’re not suffering. That would be fighting against the thought. That it’s not acceptance.
I’m gonna start talking about what it would mean to play with a thought that looks like text. So I tend to think in terms of written language, my thoughts are often like writing in my head, because I read a lot probably. So what I could do is if I have a thought that says I am a loser, I can play with the text, I can make it bigger. I can make it small, I can make it round in a circle, I am a loser like this. I can change the color of the text from white to green to red. I can change the font, I can play with it. I can mix the words up from I am a loser to loser I am a.
I’m not trying to get rid of it thought, I’m just mixing it up and playing with it. There’s no limit to creativity, I can do whatever I want with this thought. If it’s an image, I can zoom in on pieces of the image. If it’s an image of people, I can go What are they wearing? What exactly are they wearing? Change their clothing a little bit. The painful thing they’re doing, I won’t change that, because that would be fighting against it. But I might change their hairstyle, might try and change the background, put them on the beach or on the moon. Change parts of the image that don’t change the overall message of pain. But just play with it.
I can flip the image upside down and then flip it back around again. I can add characters. I can imagine the audience watching. I can make that audience sheep. I can make that audience living trees. I can add all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Use my imagination to play with this image, to photoshop it without changing what the image is.
And if it’s a video, I can do very similar things to what I did with the image. I can fast forward and rewind the video. I can make the people move forward and move backwards and turn them upside down. I can do like a 3d spiral where I look at them from every angle. I can change the heat. I can make the hair grow as the video plays out. I can change the background, the setting. I can imagine they’re acting it out in front of a green screen. I can put anything I want on that green screen. Battle perhaps, or space.
So what I want you to do now is I want you to bring up that painful image, which you probably forgot about while I was talking. Bring it back up. And I want you to just play with it. Would you pause the video and play with it in any way you see fit, but do not try to get rid of the image. In fact, try to hang on to it while you play with it. And notice how long you’re able to hang on to it. Notice how long it takes before it slips away and is replaced by other thoughts. Pause the video and do that now.
Now I’m going to share the last and final technique of defusion for this video. There’s plenty more techniques as well, which is why I recommend you read The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris.
This technique is very simple. It’s basically a variation on mindfulness meditation. And what I call the technique is “and what else?” And this one is going to incorporate more than your thoughts. What we’re going to be doing is we’re going to try to allow your thoughts to exist in consciousness, along with everything else that exists there.
So fusion is when you zoom in on a thought, and your thought becomes your whole reality. You’re no longer aware of what else you can hear and see and smell and taste and touch, you’re just all about the thought. That’s what makes the thought thing very real, and of course, very painful. Because your whole reality is this one thought.
All we’re going to do now is we’re just going to zoom out a bit, we’re going to keep the thought there, we’re not getting rid of it, but by allowing yourselves to become aware of other things that are also happening at the same time, we’re going to reduce the size of the thought to make room for other things in the space of consciousness.
So again, what I want you to do is to bring up a painful thought, but keep your eyes closed this time, it’s a little bit easier. And as you bring up that painful thought and hold it there, I want you also to become aware of the sensation of breathing. So while you have the thought, also notice the feeling of air going in and out of your body, the scratchy feeling of air passing through your passages, of the rise and fall of your chest or stomach. The tickle with the nostrils or in the mouth, whichever you’re breathing, just notice the breathing and the thought at the same time.
As you’re doing this, every 20 seconds or so, I want you to ask the question “And what else?” as in And what else do I notice? What physical sensations occur to you when you ask that question? Do you notice a pain in your foot? The nose? The pressure of the chair against your bum? Do you notice a coldness on the back of your neck?
Just keep ask yourself And what else while trying to keep the thought. You’re not trying to get rid of it but painting a richer picture of what’s going on in the present moment.
So then you do a summary. I had this thought. And I noticed my breathing. And I can feel the chair against my body. Then of course you go And what else? And I can hear the traffic outside. And I can smell lunch being cooked. And I can see red dots on the back of my eyelids. And what else? And I can notice the pain in my foot is gone away but it’s replaced by an achiness. And what else? Now that I think of itchiness, I’ve got achiness on the top of my head. And what else?
And I just noticed the original thought has gone away. I’ll bring it back up again. There we go. Oh, I’m zooming in on the thought. And what else? Okay, there’s my breathing again, in and out. I just noticed my leg was shaking. And what else?
And you just keep asking yourself And what else? You might set a timer. Do this for five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever you can handle.
So you make space for everything as well as the thought. Not trying to get rid of the thought. This is not a technique to distract yourself or end the thought but to accept it while not buying into the lie that it’s the only thing that exists.
Now you may find that this exercise or these exercises are comforting. That’s great, but that’s not the point. The point is simply to show that you can handle and accept these thoughts existing in your life, without having to act on them, without having to believe them, take them as instructions or as anything meaningful. Just notice they’re a sensation in the mind, no different to an itchy knee or a funny taste in your mouth, tenseness in your chest, hearing the traffic outside. They’re just sensations occurring to.
Thoughts are no different any sensation that comes and goes. You’ve never had a thought that lasted your whole life, you notice that? Notice whatever thought you brought up at the very beginning of this video has long since gone. You might not even remember what it was.
So no matter how painful it was, it always goes away eventually. And you never have to do anything about it. It may provoke you into having an emotional reaction, but you don’t have to do anything about that either. Just notice it, explore it. And what else? Put it up on the Star Wars projector screen. Playing with it if it won’t go away, change the colors, change the characters. Notice the temperature in the room And what else? Put it on the stream and let it float, let it float away.
Do this as often as you’ve got time to do it. At the beginning I’d say do it once every hour at least for 30 seconds even if you’re not having painful thoughts. Just practice with any thoughts. One or more of these techniques that you’ve found effective is learned through a long term lifelong process of understanding your thoughts are not real. They are just sensations that come and go. And you don’t have to do anything about them. You just watch and they’ll go by themselves. Hope that helps. Get in touch if you have any problems firstname.lastname@example.org
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