Mandy has been working in the mental health field for more than eight years and has worked with a diverse group of clients. These range ...Read More
It seems to be a worldwide affliction – over active brains that torture us day in and day out over negative possibilities that may never come to pass. We ask ourselves “what if” questions that make us worry even more. So how can we free ourselves from the constant stream of thoughts that run through our minds?
Here are a few suggestions known as cognitive defusion techniques to help reduce worrying too much…
1) Treat your mind as separate to you. Example: There it goes again, worrying me unnecessarily.
2) Acknowledge the thoughts but dismiss them and let them ‘float’by in your mind. Say to yourself something like: “I notice that I am judging myself right now”
3) Try not to ‘buy’ the negative thoughts that work against you. When you believe a thought (remember it is a thought, not a scientific fact) you are buying into that thought. Realise when you do this. Example: “I guess I am buying the thought that I will never find the right partner”
4) Imagine that your negative inner chat is like internet pop-up ads. Annoying and immediately dismissed.
5) Test the thought. When you have a thought that is stopping you from doing something, ask yourself whether it is possible to think that thought and still do the action anyway? If your thought is something like: I can’t go into that shop. The staff are snobby and will judge me” – walk into the shop anyway and prove to yourself that you don’t have to listen to your thoughts if you don’t want to
6) Passengers on the bus: Imagine that you are a bus driver and you have to drive the bus to it’s destination, from A to B. (This is the equivalent of a goal in life, A – B ie. applying for a job). The passengers on the bus represent your thoughts. One passenger might be telling you not to drive the bus because you might have an accident or get lost. Another passenger might be telling you that you are not a good driver and so on. In real life – your thoughts may be telling you that you are under qualified or not skilled enough to apply for the job and as a result you believe your thoughts and don’t apply. Remind yourself that you are the driver, not the passengers (your thoughts). Tell them all to shut up and concentrate on getting from A to B. Focus on what needs to be done – updating your CV, applying for the job and so on. If you listened to the passengers you wouldn’t even start the bus.
Don’t believe your thinking – most of the time, your thoughts are complete nonsense.
7) Who is in charge here? Treat wayward thoughts as bullies. Whose life is this anyway – your or your minds’?
8)And how does this help me? When you are buying a thought (believing it), back up for a moment and ask yourself: Does believing this thought work for me/do me any good? If it doesn’t, stop buying the thought.
9) Stop the “but”: replace “but” with “and” = more positive
10) Create a new story. If you find yourself entangled in a “logical” but sad story about your life and why things have to be the way they are, write down the normal story and the take all the descriptive factors and write the exact same facts into a different story. Repeat until you feel more open to new possibilities with your history.
Example: My mother always told me to find someone and settle. To lead a safe life. I am afraid of change and could not cope on my own. That is why I have had to stay trapped with my partner. I fear the unknown and I need stability. This makes it impossible for me to leave my current situation. I am stuck in this forever and have to make the most of it.
Rewritten: My mother always told me to settle. To lead a safe life. I have stayed with my partner. I fear the unknown. I could leave my current situation and face my fears. I have choices and I choose to stay stuck. I must accept responsibility for my choices and decisions in life and realise how my thoughts are limiting me. There are more options than I have acknowledged.
The above techniques are a great way to remind ourselves that we do not have to ‘buy’ our thoughts nor do we have to listen to them or act on them. Be the captain of your ship and focus on the thoughts that empower you. Make sure you get rid of the others that only serve to hinder you.