Counselor's Connection

Cognitive Distancing Techniques

Thoughts have a way of consuming our attention, especially if they are upsetting. When this happens, you may feel stuck inside a thought, unable to focus on anything else. This is called being fused with thoughts.
Thought diffusion techniques help a person break free from this trap. These skills shift attention from the content of thoughts to the process of thinking, which loosens the hold thoughts have over you. Thought diffusion is useful when you feel triggered, your thoughts are one-sided, and when you’re lost in thought.

Here are four diffusion techniques:
1. Put your thoughts on clouds - Imagine placing your thoughts on clouds high in the sky. Watch as the clouds slowly drift away. Remind yourself that thoughts, just like clouds, have no actual substance as they come and go.
2. Click the “X” button - Thoughts can crowd your mind like dozens of browser windows on your computer. Imagine closing the windows by clicking the “X” on each of them. Watch as thoughts disappear, one by one!
3. Say “I’m having the thought that...” - When you have an upsetting thought, put the phrase “I’m having the thought that...” in front of it. This creates distance between you and the thought(s), loosening its grip on you.
4. Zoom out - When you’re fused with a thought, picture yourself rising high above the earth. Notice how tiny
your worries look from space. Does the triggering thought feel as significant from this distance?