During my guided meditation this morning, the idea of fused thoughts was brought to my attention. I had never heard the concept before, but as soon as it was explained, a light bulb went off in my thoughts sending me in so many different directions. It’s as though this concept of fused thoughts explains so much about how my mind behaves.
I knew I had to share this concept with you and did some quick research to look more into it. In “Are You and Your Thoughts the Same?” on Psychology Today, Sarah-Nicole Bostan provides the following definition of cognitive fusion:
Cognitive fusion is a construct stemming from Relational Frame Theory which forms the basis of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and is understood as a state in which one is unable to distinguish between the content of one’s own mind and what he or she is actually experiencing in the world.
It makes complete sense to me. My mind will run absolutely wild thinking of all of these scenarios, usually scenarios that involve conflict, and will cause tension within myself. Not only do those thoughts cause immediate tension within myself, they cause a sense of tension walking into situations with people in the future. It’s as though my mind only knows how to plan out future situations with scenarios involving some kind of conflict that I am involved in because others harass or bully me. I can think back to many different times that my mind has created these scenarios and then I get to the situation in question and I already feel on the defensive.
It’s time to stop these thoughts. It’s time to work on these fused thoughts and stop allowing them to negatively dictate my future. But first, why does my mind immediately go to negative situations?
I believe my mind, and probably yours too, jumps to negative scenarios because that is part of our subconscious fight or flight programming. It is easier for our minds to see the negative or potentially harmful scenarios because that is what our brain was designed to do so many years ago. Now that we all live in a vastly different world than when our lizard brain was formed, we have this pent up fear that isn’t as vital to most of our lives today. I believe that pent up fear is what causes our minds to jump to negative scenarios with the automatic cognitive fusion that we are experiencing.
So, how do we change this automatic process? We take it one step at a time and start to notice when these thoughts are occurring. Of course, we won’t be able to always identify every single instance, but if we start trying and we start identifying more and more, we will begin to take over the cognitive fusion process.
During my meditation, the lesson on how to change the trajectory of these thoughts was to first identify when they are occurring. If we can start to recognize when these thoughts are taking over, we can start to change them. The meditation suggested that once we identify the fused thought, we mark it as ‘noted’ and change what we are thinking. I want to take that a step further in how I plan to use this method. Note the thought, acknowledge it and say thank you but I’ve got this. Then change the scenario. Who was being a bitch to you? How were you getting hurt? Change it. That person is showing you more love than you’ve ever experienced from them. That situation you were getting hurt in is now a situation that you are shining in.
I truly believe that these fused thoughts are part of what keeps me limiting myself. So instead of just trying to push the thoughts away, I want to refrain them to help me grow into appreciating and celebrating myself. I want to refrain them to my advantage.
In my quick research to share this thought with you, I also came across a list of other methods to defuse the cognitive fusion. I only resonate with a couple of them, so those are the ones that I am going to share. They follow along the paths that I’ve been using for my current growth process.
Name your mind with a capital M. Using this method, the suggestion is to think of your mind as a separate entity and give it a name, Mind. When you identify one of these thoughts, or simply some anxious thoughts, acknowledge them by saying “There goes Mind again” or “Mind is at it again telling me how everybody hates me”. This method is very similar to what Andrea Owen suggests for identifying and naming your inner critic. So no matter what you name that inner voice, acknowledge it for the lies it is telling you and tell it to fuck off.
This one is a fun one that I actually adapted to how I know I can use it. Imagine you are sitting in a car listening to some awesome music, then a shitty song comes on that just makes you feel horrible. What are you going to do? You change the channel. When your mind goes into one of these fused thoughts that you can identify, change the channel. Your mind sent you down a path that your family member is telling you much you keep fucking up? Change the channel. You walk into their home and they are happy to see you and give you a compliment and a hug and welcome you in. They ask about your life and share theirs. It’s a loving situation.
No matter what method you use, or what combination of them, I know that these will help you, and me. I truly believe that if we can get a hold of our unconscious thoughts, we will be able to improve our anxieties and our life ten fold.
How are you going to work on your fused thoughts? Do you have any common ones you can identify right now?