Keeping Negative Thoughts at Bay

August 1, 2017

I just finished a book called The Happiness Trap. It was a really great read, admittedly, I read the illustrated version, which I highly recommend. I sat down and finished it in less than two hours. Plus, it was filled with drawings like a comic book.


Anyway, I’m going to do a few blogs about this book, but the first one is already out. 


The book lays out three steps toward more mindfulness and focusing on values, the premise of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The steps are defusion, expansion, and connection. For this blog, I am going to focus on the first step: defusion.


Defusion, as defined by ACT therapy, is learning to defuse unpleasant thoughts and feelings that we use to limit ourselves or criticize ourselves.


Now, it’s important to breakdown our thoughts for what they are: words. We define words we speak as speech, words that are written as text, and words in our heads as thoughts. This is an important part of the defusion process. Thoughts are just words, and words are wind (for my Game of Thrones peeps). These thoughts tell us how to live our lives and become the story of our lives. These stories can be true or false. All of this is cool, until we get too absorbed in these stories.


Imagine this: a piece of paper with all of the false thoughts on it. Put that paper in your hands and hold it in front of your face. Now, imagine trying to do something, like clean the house, drive, work, anything. You can’t do that while holding this paper in front of you. Your hands and eyes are occupied. Now, imagine tucking this list under your arm. This is more manageable. You have two hands free, but the list is still there. This is the process of defusion from negative thoughts.

Think about something negative you feel about yourself. Take that thought and put the phrase “I am having the thought that…” in front of the statement. Just putting this small phrase in front of it helps to defuse us from the thought. Another way to drive this home is to sing the statement to the tune of happy birthday. You will start to feel like those thoughts don’t have as much power to them. They will start to become silly in your head. You can do the same thing with images in your head. Turn them into black and white. Turn them into cartoons.



If you are able to do this multiple times a day, it may become a habit. This will help you acknowledge that thoughts are just words. They are not always the truth. They do not have to get in your way of living a meaningful life. Give it a try!

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