It is rare that people think about their thoughts as nothing more than constructions of pictures and words. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) focuses on the function of thoughts (e.g., what function does this thought have on my behaviour) rather than the content or what the thought is saying (Harris, 2019). ACT uses a framework that attempts to teach clients to respond to their thoughts more flexibly and help them to perceive their thoughts as either being helpful or unhelpful (Harris, 2019). If our thoughts are being helpful, then we allow them to guide our behaviours. However, if our thoughts are being unhelpful, then unhooking from those unhelpful thoughts is a tactic that can be used to prevent those unhelpful thoughts from dominating our behaviours. These unhooking strategies are known as “defusion” techniques (Harris, 2019). Instead of being completely fused with your unhelpful thoughts, we find space between ourselves and our unhelpful thoughts. There are many different unhooking strategies or “defusion” techniques that can give you some distance or separation from your unhelpful thoughts (Harris, 2019). Experiment with defusion by picking a thought that bothers you the most (e.g., I am a failure). Then, for about ten seconds, fuse or get hooked with that thought, and believe it as much as you can. After doing that, choose one or more of the unhooking strategies below and try it. Experiment and see if you notice a difference between fusing with your unhelpful thought and then trying to defuse or unhook from your unhelpful thought. Below is a list of a few unhooking techniques:
Defusion is an important skill used in order to work towards being psychologically flexible (Harris, 2019). Unhooking prevents your unhelpful thoughts from getting in the way of doing what’s important to you. The ultimate goal is pursuing a full and meaningful life (Harris, 2019). Defusion or unhooking from one’s thoughts might seem simple but it is difficult to do; thus, it needs lots of practice. Now, start unhooking!
Reference: Harris, R. (2019). ACT made simple: An easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy (2nd ed.). New Harbinger Publications.
Written by Zeinab Ramadan, M.Sc. Practicum Student (Supervised by Alison Campbell, M.Ed., Registered Psychologist #757 with Wildflowers)