In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion.
In this post we’re going to look at some things you can do to get some separation from your thoughts when your emotions are particularly strong and you’re having some thoughts you’re finding hard to let go.
Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.
In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.
Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.
In an earlier post, we introduced the concept of acceptance and talked about some of its benefits. Acceptance is one of the foundations of a mindfulness-based approach to treating anxiety and depression called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
In the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based workbook, The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression, Kirk Strosah and Patricia Robinson explain some misconceptions people often have about acceptance. First, they define acceptance:
The word “acceptance” has a lot of different meanings, some of which we want to challenge. The type of acceptance we encourage you to practice is best thought of as a voluntary, intentional stance of nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations in the context of a triggering event.