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Cognitive defusion: what it is and how it is used in therapy

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The concept of cognitive defusion comes from the origins of classical cognitive theories, where the emphasis of the therapeutic process was found only on the subject's mental processes, with other aspects taking off relevance, such as innate responses to certain stimuli.

It is a technique used with the intention of modifying a patient's negative thoughts, but not by replacing them with more adaptive ones.

In this article we will review what this technique consists of, as well as some practical exercises from its theories.

  • Related article: "History of Psychology: main authors and theories"

What is sought in cognitive defusion?

Through cognitive defusion it is tried that the subject begins to see his thoughts as what they really are, thoughts, and not as irrefutable facts of reality. In this way the negative and intrusive thoughts that the individual may be presenting would tend to lose their weight specific in terms of the discomfort they generate.

According to this idea, it is not necessary for the person to change the thought of her, the really decisive thing so that she can stop suffering for him, is that understand that the act of thinking in a certain way does not significantly influence his reality, as long as it does not bring that thought to the action.

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Unlike cognitive-behavioral techniques, which focus on the fact that through the process of maieutics the individual can replace the negative thoughts by other more adaptive, cognitive defusion techniques are raised to maintain the same thoughts in the subject, they only in charge of undo the fusion that exists between these thoughts and the symptoms that the patient presents. During this process the person should come to see their unwanted thoughts as inconsequential in her life.

  • You may be interested: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?"

How is the fusion with negative thoughts?

Having made it clear that the process of cognitive defusion tries to make the subject detach from the weight generated by the negative thoughts that it presents, it is important to know how the fusion between the subject and the unwanted thought originates.

Theoretically, these kinds of thoughts come from unconscious aspects, fed by the education of the person. That is, if someone has been educated in a certain way, it is normal that during that process they have been told what is correct and what is not.

Then, when the person is fully aware that there is good and bad, right and wrong, thoughts of opposition to the norm begin to operate in his mind.

This phenomenon is completely natural in all of us, it will only be a problem when these thoughts represent limitations for the person in significant areas of his life. Thus, cognitive diffusion methods seek make the person understand the naturalness of their thoughts.

Cognitive defusion techniques

Let's now look at some tools that can be useful when applying this theory.

1. State our thoughts

When we are having an intrusive thought that disturbs us, we proceed to place a statement in the following way; we place the thought at the end of the next sentence "I am not" or "I am", all depending on what the thought is.

For example, if we are thinking of harming an animal or a person, we simply must accommodate that thought as "I am not an aggressive person, and I do not have to hurt no one".

2. Loss of consciousness

This technique consists of continuously repeating a word, or phrase that comes to mind when we are having negative thoughts, in such a way that after a while of repetition the word that is being said loses its meaning. Then we must do the same with the thought that bothers us, until we remove the sense of it, and in such a way not a thought from which we try to flee, but we will be able to cope with it by constantly repeating.

These exercises are very useful to get rid of our reality from those intrusive thoughts that can lead to be really annoying, and if we make a habit of them it is very likely with the passage of time the annoying thoughts disappear.

Bibliographic references:

  • Baker, D. B. (2011). The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology: Global Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Jarzombek, M. (2000). The Psychologizing of Modernity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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