ACT and Thought Defusion

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – An Online Resource

Q: How can I get rid of troublesome thoughts?

A: You can’t, but you can learn to look at them differently.

Thought Defusion is another pillar-stone of ACT.  Learning to separate ourselves from our thoughts, to distance ourselves from our thinking is one of the key skills that we can learn to reduce our suffering.  For yes, we do cause a lot of our own suffering.

Sometimes our suffering comes to us from external events that we cannot change.  That suffering is part of the human condition.  Learning to accept it as such, as a natural part of human experience, is another dimension of ACT.

However, for now we are talking about our thinking, and how our thoughts can, and often do cause us to suffer.  Learning a different way to respond to our thoughts, what ACT calls Thought Defusion can be very helpful.

In a previous post, ACT and Worrisome Thoughts, we saw how our mind has evolved to err on the side of caution, to look for the negatives and to be on constant red alert.  This is the mind’s natural default position, if you like, and it is like that for a reason.  In evolutionary terms this kind of cautious mind helped us to sniff out danger and survive.  It is this mind-set that 21st century man has inherited, and sometimes it causes us problems.

One of the main aims of ACT is to help us to develop psychological flexibility so that we can learn to respond to the world, both external and internal, in more helpful and meaningful ways.  Thought Defusion is one of the tools that we can use to increase our psychological flexibility.

Most of us take our thoughts far too seriously.  I know I do!  I tend to think that because I am thinking something it must be important, it must be true and I must pay it a lot of attention!  None of that is necessarily the case.  ACT isn’t so much interested in whether a thought is true or false or right or wrong.  ACT is more interested in whether or not a thought is useful or not, or in ACT terms is it workable?  If it is hang on to it, if not let it go.

It helps me to remember that a thought is just a thought.  It is just a string of words, and I have made them up.  I am not my thoughts.  My thoughts are not me.  I had a lot of trouble with this, I can tell you, but learning to distance myself from my thoughts, to see that I am the thinker and not the thought has helped me a lot.

TIP FOR TODAY!

 

Our-thoughts-are-only2

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • How do you cope with troublesome thoughts?
  • Can you create distance from your thoughts and see them as just bits of content passing through?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

POEM FOR TODAY

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STRINGS OF WORDS

It comes from out of nowhere, it’s the thought we like the least,

It’s the one that most torments us, and once it has been released

It is spiralling within us, a freak storm out of control,

And we’re overcome with anguish as it seeps into our soul.

Where it comes from doesn’t matter, but the old familiar ring

Sets up the old familiar struggle, but it’s here now that’s the thing,

And we’re learning that the struggle doesn’t help us much at all,

It’s just fuel for the thinking we are trying to forestall.

And so let’s try another tactic, for we’re told another way

To respond to stinking thinking is to let it have its day

And be willing to accept it whilst it’s here, just as it is,

Maybe look at it with interest without getting in a tizz.

And it maybe that the thinking that disturbs us will abate,

Or maybe we’ll have to let it be and learn to tolerate

The discomfort it occasions, well we can do that you know

If we make a space inside and let our thoughts just come and go.

And we needn’t make them sticky, we need not with them engage,

We can stop the feeding frenzy that occurs when war we wage,

And we needn’t make them magical with powers from afar,

For our thoughts are only strings of words and that is all they are.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed “STRINGS OF WORDS”, please pass it on, and do please leave your comments.  I would love to hear from you.

And just before you go …..

A final word from ACT ……….

ACT suggests lots of techniques for helping us to defuse from our thoughts.  Some of them may seem outlandish, but if they work for you that’s all that matters. Amongst the more wacky ones are:

  • Singing a thought out loud to one of these well-known tunes

Happy Birthday

She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain

Jingle Bells

 

  • Saying the thought in the voice of someone famous, or a cartoon character like

Donald Duck

Homer Simpson

The idea behind these techniques is to try to take the sting out of our thoughts, to reduce them to just the bits of language that they are.  When we have difficult, troublesome thoughts it helps to notice how we verbalise these thoughts to ourselves.  I know when I am having these kinds of thoughts I am verbalising them to myself in a very dark and macabre way.  I am literally scaring myself to death.

If you take the same thought, the same words, and start singing it to Happy Birthday, and I have done that, the thought doesn’t seem nearly as frightening or important.  Try it and see, preferably not in public!!

For more Thought Defusion techniques Oliver, Hill ad Morris’ book

Product Details

is very illuminating, and has lots of useful worksheets. I am reading it at the moment and really enjoying it.

Which brings us to the……

ACTivation POINT!

SO …………………………..

Just-for-today-my thoughts

How about YOU?

What can YOU do just for today to ACTivate your life?

 Just for today I will …………………………..

If you have read this far, please do leave your comments. How is ACT helping you?

I am a student of ACT. I am on a journey. I would love you to join me.

With all good wishes

 

Corinne

 

 

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ACT and MINDFULNESS

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) – An Online Resource

Q: My mind is driving me mad.  What can I do about it?

A: Try a little mindfulness.

One of the things I love about ACT is the way it helps us to develop a different relationship with our mind.

If we have been inclined to be bossed about by our mind, which I certainly have, then it is really liberating to discover that there is another way of living with our mind, a different way of responding to it.

One of the pillar-stones of ACT is Thought Defusion.  Thought Defusion is a way of separating ourselves from our thoughts, learning how to defuse from them in order to observe them. It is a very helpful skill, enabling us to see the mind as a word machine, a creator of thoughts. We come to see that our mind is a part of us, but not the whole of us. When we see mind from this perspective it can help us to make different choices. We can choose not to be bossed about by it for a start!

Another pillar-stone of ACT is Mindfulness. ACT loves Mindfulness and Mindfulness loves ACT, and I love both!

Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment, of being here now. It is the antidote to the busy mind that loves to be here, there and everywhere.

Mindfulness is another way to develop a different relationship with our mind. It helps us to live more fully in the present moment, the only place where we can actually live our life.  Mindfulness springs the traps of the future-past.  It can, quite literally, help us to “come to our senses.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?

  • How do you cope with your “bossy mind”?
  • Does Mindfulness play a part in your life?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

 POEM FOR TODAY

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COMING TO OUR SENSES

The past is but a memory, the future just a fantasy,

The present is the only place where we can lead our life,

It is full of possibility, a place to live creatively,

But all this is forsaken if our mind is running rife.

For our mind is such a strumpet, it just loves to gad about,

Loves to poke around the past, discover what it can dig out,

All those hidden old resentments, those regrets, that long lost pain,

Oh the present is no match for frequent trips down memory lane.

And the future is a magnet, how mind loves to fantasize,

All those lovely little worries it can’t wait to fertilize,

And imagination’s busy spinning horror stories so

Once again the present’s surrendered to a magic lantern show.

And we could live out a lifetime in the future and the past,

If we let mind have its way it would forever shadows cast

On each precious present moment, where our living must be done,

But it’s we must call a halt, tell mind it’s time is over-run

And we’re wresting back the present, and we’re doing it right now,

We are coming to our senses, for we realise that’s how

We experience the present, and we’re mindful from now on

That as soon as mind goes gadding off, the present moment’s gone.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

If you enjoyed “COMING TO OUR SENSES”, please pass it on, and do please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

And just before you go …..

A final word from ACT ……….

I found Mindfulness before I found ACT. In fact, I had been practicing Mindfulness for a few years before I came into contact with ACT. I stumbled upon ACT by chance, and I had no idea that Mindfulness was one of its pillar-stones. Mindfulness though, was different. I sought it out.

Mindfulness was not what I expected. I knew that it had its roots in Buddhist Meditation practices and, as such, I expected it to be very exotic, very eastern, very different and very difficult. It was none of those things.

Mindfulness devotees like to say of it:

Mindfulness is simple, but it isn’t easy

 

That is a very good way to describe it.

Mindfulness is simple. All it means is “Be Here Now!”

Mindfulness is not easy. Our busy mind wants to be here, there and everywhere. Staying in the present moment, being here now, is a constant challenge.

If you want to learn more about Mindfulness then I would recommend the book that I first read when I sought Mindfulness out.  Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book “Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World” is a comprehensive and marvellous read.  Enjoy!

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Which leads us to the …….

ACTivation POINT!

SO …………………………………….

just for today

How about YOU?  What can YOU do just for today to ACTivate your life?

Just for today I will …………………………..

If you have read this far, please do leave your comments. How is ACT helping you?

I am a student of ACT. I am on a journey. I would love you to join me.

With all good wishes

 

Corinne