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Mastering Mind Chatter: How Cognitive Defusion Can Tame Intrusive Thoughts

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on cognitive defusion, the mindful practice of detaching from our negative thoughts, and helps you learn how to 'un-fuse."

How to cope with negative thoughts and intrusive thoughts

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

45,000 negative thoughts a day

Everyday, we have around 60,000 thoughts -- and out of them, almost 75% are negative. That's 45,000 thoughts filled with fear, shame, worry, stress, failure. Thinking you're going to get fired, get dumped, lose money, lose friends, lose worth. We even have a whole system in our body that is dedicated to identifying & responding to perceived threats. And each time we have those negative, intrusive thoughts, the neural networks in our brain strengthen, so they become even more automatic the next time.

It would be a losing battle to try to prevent every one of those engative thoughts from intruding, but the good news is that we don't have to in order to feel better Because it's not the thoughts themselves, but the meanings we attribute to them, that influence the way we view ourselves and the world.

It's the second thought that counts

Don't stress too much about the 'first thoughts' -- those thoughts that pop into your head. Focus on the way you interact with them because it's the second thought that counts more. It's that second thought that actually demonstrates your relationship to yourself & to the world. Read on to learn more about cognitive defusion as a way to work on these 'second' thoughts.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Cognitive Fusion

Cognitive fusion happens when we 'buy' into a negative thought, taking it as objective, indisputable truth. We become fused with it.

Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion is the opposite practice -- we detach our beliefs and our sense of identity from the content of our thoughts. Defusion allows us to observe our thoughts & decide what, if any, meaning we attribute to them.

Sit with yourself for a few minutes & take inventory of your thoughts. Acknowledge each one and let it flow through your mind like water down a river. What do you make of these thoughts? Are they automated responses triggered by your flight-or-flight threat system? Are they helpful? Do they align with how you feel about the situation and about yourself? Can they stay 'just thoughts' without meaning anything more?

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