Cognitive Defusion (Deliteralization)

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Purpose: See thoughts as what they are, not as what they say they are.

Method: Expand attention to thinking and experiencing as an ongoing behavioral process, not a causal, ontological result

When to use: When private events are functioning as barriers due to FEAR (fusion, evaluation, avoidance, reasons)

Examples of defusion techniques

‘The Mind” Treat “the mind” as an external event; almost as a separate person
Mental appreciation Thank your mind; show aesthetic appreciation for its products
Cubbyholing Label private events as to kind or function in a back channel communication
“I’m having the thought that …” Include category labels in descriptions of private events
Commitment to openness Ask if the content is acceptable when negative content shows up
Just noticing Use the language of observation (e.g., noticing) when talking about thoughts
“Buying” thoughts Use active language to distinguish thoughts and beliefs
Titchener’s repetition Repeat the difficult thought until you can hear it
Physicalizing Label the physical dimensions of thoughts
Put them out there Sit next to the client and put each thought and experience out in front of you both as an object
Open mindfulness Watching thoughts as external objects without use or involvement
Focused mindfulness Direct attention to nonliteral dimensions of experience
Sound it out Say difficult thoughts very, very slowly
Sing it out Sing your thoughts
Silly voices Say your thoughts in other voices -- a Donald Duck voice for example
Experiential seeking Openly seek out more material, especially if it is difficult
Polarities Strengthen the evaluative component of a thought and watch it pull its opposite
Arrogance of word Try to instruct nonverbal behavior
Think the opposite Engage in behavior while trying to command the opposite
Your mind is not your friend Suppose your mind is mindless; who do you trust, your experience or your mind
Who would be made wrong by that? If a miracle happened and this cleared up without any change in (list reasons), who would be made wrong by that?
Strange loops Point out a literal paradox inherent in normal thinking
Thoughts are not causes “Is it possible to think that thought, as a thought, AND do x?”
Choose being right or choose being alive If you have to pay with one to play for the other, which do you choose?
There are four people in here Open strategize how to connect when minds are listening
Monsters on the bus Treating scary private events as monsters on a bus you are driving
Feed the tiger Like feeding a tiger, you strengthen the impact of thoughts but dealing with them
Who is in charge here? Treat thoughts as bullies; use colorful language
Carrying around a dead person Treat conceptualized history as rotting meat
Take your mind for a walk Walk behind the client chattering mind talk while they choose where to walk
How old is this? Is this just like you? Step out of content and ask these questions
And what is that in the service of? Step out of content and ask this question
OK, you are right. Now what? Take “right” as a given and focus on action
Mary had a little …. Say a common phrase and leave out the last word; link to automaticity of thoughts the client is struggling with
Get off your buts Replace virtually all self-referential uses of “but” with “and”
What are the numbers? Teach a simple sequence of numbers and then harass the client regarding the arbitrariness and yet permanence of this mental event
Why, why, why? Show the shallowness of causal explanations by repeatedly asking “why”
Create a new story Write down the normal story, then repeatedly integrate those facts into other stories
Find a free thought Ask client to find a free thought, unconnected to anything
Do not think “x” Specify a thought not to think and notice that you do
Find something that can’t be evaluated Look around the room and notice that every single thing can be evaluated negatively
Flip cards Write difficult thoughts on 3 x 5 cards; flip them on the client’s lap vs. keep them off
Carry cards Write difficult thoughts on 3 x 5 cards and carry them with you
Carry your keys Assign difficult thoughts and experiences to the clients keys. Ask the client to think the thought as a thought each time the keys are handled, and then carry them from there

These clinical materials were assembled by Elizabeth Gifford, Steve Hayes, and Kirk Stroshal