Have you ever been in the grip of a negative thought such as “I’m a loser”? Sometimes, one thought hammers away at us, echoing in our heads, over and over: “I’m a loser” or “Nobody likes me.” The thought seems so inescapably true and self-evident. In that moment, the person really IS a loser or nobody really does like them. It’s a fact. And yet at other times, times when this thought isn’t hammering away at them and their mood is more elevated, they can see that the thought isn’t true now and for all eternity. How, then, can you get some breathing space between yourself and a thought that is relentlessly pummeling you?
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, when a thought seems to be the absolute truth, the actual state of reality in that moment and therefore unchangeable, it is called “fusion.” When there is fusion, a person no longer feels like a loser, they ARE a loser, as an example, even if at other times they would feel or believe differently. So how do we break fusion? There are multiple ways, but I want to focus on one in particular right now.
You may want to find a place where you can be alone for this technique, so you aren’t worried that other people will think you’ve lost your mind. You’re also going to want to not worry about sounding silly or foolish. Ready? You are going to say that thought, out loud, in as many ways as you can. Say it in an angry voice: “I’M A LOSER!” Say it as a question, “I’m a loser?” Say it as you laugh. Say it with a Russian accent. Say it as if you are a robot. Say it in an Elmer Fudd or Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. As you do this, you begin to see that the statement is just a collection of words. That statement is not you, even though a minute ago it sure felt like it. And, if you are like me, as you say your phrase in different ways, it starts to get funny. Try saying a negative statement like “I’m a loser” while laughing or giggling. The contrast always amuses me and this, too, breaks the hold of the statement that has been beating me up. It helps me to see that it’s just words and not the essence of who I am. The next time you’re getting beat up by a negative thought, give this a try and see if it doesn’t help give you some relief.
If you would like some help with negative thoughts that hammer at you, give me a call or a text at (816) 226-4678. We can work together to discover which of the many techniques work best for you to explode the negative thoughts that can make you so miserable.