In Acceptance Commitment Therapy… Defusion vs fusing with your thoughts

by | Nov 28, 2022 | Education

I am a big fan of acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) as rather than getting rid of thoughts, it creates a space for some difficult emotions to be there and be present without acting on it. In essence it helps me recognize how these thoughts which are not real creates some sort of reality in my head. ACT has helped me be mindful of my thoughts rather than getting eaten up by it. It has also helped me co-exist with my thoughts that are creating intense emotions and not acting on it. That being said, I thought today I will discuss about defusion and fusing which is one of the big key concepts in ACT. 

First well, what is fusing with your thoughts exactly mean? It means when we become so tightly stuck and ‘hooked’ on our own thoughts where it feels like thoughts become your reality. For example, because you perhaps missed your friend’s birthday by not saying ‘happy birthday’, you may start to think, “I am a horrible friend and I am not a good enough friend because I forgot my friend’s birthday”. When we take ourselves out of the thinking, we realise that thoughts are just thoughts. However, thoughts can bring up emotions and it may feel like reality. When we become attached to our thoughts this way, it is called fusing with our thoughts.

On the other hand, what defusion means is that we try to detach ourselves from the thoughts. You are probably wondering, well how the heck do we do that? There are several ways that we can try and detach ourselves from our thoughts. Some examples are: 

  1. The thought on streams

Whenever you get those thoughts telling how you are not good enough, or you are not doing enough, you imagine those thoughts in front of you and leaving behind on a stream of river (or wherever you wish to have this stream). Imagine it coming back again but letting it pass you.

  1. The bus driver 

Imagine those thoughts as the bus passenger and you are the driver. When you hear the people in the background (which is your thoughts), yelling and shouting, you want to almost react to them but instead you let them be there and continue to drive to get to the destination (values/goals). 

  1. Using the silly voice 

This may sound a bit strange at first. But yes, you will be using the words that you tell yourself and reading out in a silly voice. The more you hear it, it does not sound as much of a reality. Maybe try and imitate Sponge Bob’s voice and tell yourself all those thoughts over and over again. 

  1. Not giving the power to the bully

It is easy to let our thoughts take over control and make the narrative in our mind. Imagine those thoughts as a ‘bully’ and know that the less you give attention and time to those thoughts, it loses its power and they don’t appear as scary/threatening to you.

As you can see, defusion techniques can be used in different ways and perhaps you can come up with your own ways too. Reminder about ACT is not to get rid of these difficult emotions but rather than accepting and making some room for difficult feelings which leads us to feel psychological flexibility. Each time you create space for those pains/difficult feelings, you have increased your flexibility and become more and more tolerable to those feelings which helps us not feel fear or scared of them.

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