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The First Pivot: Defusion

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

In the book A Liberated Mind that we have been walking through, it talks about 6 Pivots that can help us gain more meaningfulness in our lives in the midst of thoughts and emotions.


"Cognitive Fusion means buying to what your thoughts tell you (taking them literally word for word) and letting what they say overdetermine what you do. This trick of mind happens because we are programmed to notice the world only as structured by thought - we see terrible this or awful that - but we miss the fact that we are thinking. In our attempts to have the world make sense, we judge our experiences and then buy into the judgement to begin with. The flip side of fusion is seeing thoughts as they actually are - ongoing attempts at meaning-making - and then choosing to give them power only to the degree that they genuinely serve us. This flexibility skill involves just noticing the act of thinking, without diving in. Our made up word for 'just noticing' is defusion....


The defusion methods in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy community has developed to help us use our minds in a more open, aware, and values-based way. We learn to become more cognizant of the automaticity of our thoughts and to watch the ones that aren't helpful from a distance, as if to tell the Dictator Within, 'Thanks, but I've got this covered.' Helpful in learning defusion is understanding the yearning that drives our obsessive self-messaging and problem solving. This is the yearning to create coherence and understanding out of our mental cacophony. It's a perfectly understandable desire that is built into language itself; messy thought processes are discomforting. We feel a sense of vulnerability when our thoughts don't fit nicely together, especially when they are contradictory. We want to know, 'Which is it? What do I really believe and what is really true?'


But there is a constructive kind of coherence that is just a pivot away: that of paying attention to the thoughts that are useful to us living in accordance with our values, letting go of a focus on thoughts that are unhelpful. I'll call this functional coherence - it channel our yearning for coherence into life expansion."


Try it on. "Now listen to your thoughts a bit, and when your mind starts to chatter, answer back with something like, 'Thanks for that thought, George. Really, thank you.' If you speak to your mind dismissively, it will continue right on problem-solving. Be sincere. You might want to add, 'I really get you are trying to be of use, so thank you for that. Anything else you'd like to say? I've got this covered.'"


Having trouble fusing with a thought just because it showed up and you noticed it? Try singing your thoughts. Trying singing or saying your thoughts in a funny or different voice out loud. Pick a tune. Allow yourself to notice the space that shows up between your thought and you, the observer. That's the space of defusing from your thought. You are not your thoughts and your thoughts are not you. They are experiences.



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