Dr. Jenny Schaafsma, PhD
Having vs. Buying a Thought
Our minds race all day long with thousands of thoughts. Some thoughts are repetitive, some thoughts come and go, and some thoughts we get stuck on and can’t let go. Thoughts can be opinions, judgments, beliefs, plans, goals, wishes, etc. They can be positive and they can be incredibly negative. Thoughts are stories we tell ourselves, they are words.
It’s common to get stuck on our thoughts and believe our thoughts are truth and reality. We can over identify with our thoughts.
This is fusion
I’d like to challenge you to look at your thoughts in a different way:
Approach your thought as whether it is helpful to you, rather than whether it is true or false
Observe your thought as a thought rather than buying it as truth, reality and important
This is called defusion
Defusion is a practice of separating from your thoughts. It is a practice of looking at thoughts rather than looking from thoughts.
Here’s a helpful exercise to start to defuse from your thoughts:
For the purposes of this exercise, bring to mind a frequent thought of yours that bothers you. For example: “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not a good parent.” “I’m stupid.” Say that thought to yourself. Now notice how you feel, what comes up for you, what sensations you experience in your body.
Next, let’s add an anchoring phrase to the beginning of that thought: I’m having the thought that… Say your thought with the phrase at the beginning. For example: “I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough.” “I’m having the thought that I’m not a good parent.” Notice what comes up for you when adding that phrase.
Let’s try another phrase! Add this phrase to the beginning of your thought: I notice I’m having the thought that… For example: “I notice I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough.” As you say your thought with this phrase at the beginning, notice what comes up for you. Was your reaction similar or different? How do you feel? What sensations do you notice?
I want to recognize this is a totally different way of relating with your thoughts. It takes continued practice to step back and be an observer of your thoughts rather than buying your thoughts.
Reference & book suggestion: The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris