Cognitive Fusion and Defusion

 

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.

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Letting Go of Thoughts Mindfully

racing thoughtsIt’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.

When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.

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Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation

woman meditating

Free Clip Art (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia Commons

In previous posts we practiced Following Our Breathing By Counting Breaths and Following Your Breathing By Measuring Breaths. Now we’re going to learn a brief Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation.

You can do this meditation either sitting cross-legged on a cushion the floor, or on a firm chair with a straight back and preferably no armrests. You want to be in a comfortable but alert posture, with your back straight but not stiff, you shoulders relaxed, on your hands resting in your lap or on your knees.

When you’re ready, start the video below to play the guided mindfulness of the breath meditation.

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Breathing In I Feel Calm, Breathing Out I Relax

monk meditating

Free Clip Art (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia Commons

In previous posts we practiced Following Our Breathing By Counting Breaths and Following Your Breathing By Measuring Breaths and a Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation. Now we’re going to learn a great mindful breathing practice to help you calm yourself and relax.

Breathing In I Feel Calm, Breathing Out I Relax: Following your breath by silently repeating to yourself the phrase:

Breathing in I feel calm,
Breathing out I relax.

You can also shorten the phrases to:

In, Calm
Out, Relax

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