01 December 2023

What is Cognitive Defusion?

Cognitive Defusion: Awareness, Research and Resources

Cognitive Defusion

Thus, evolution has shaped our brains so that we are hardwired to suffer psychologically: to compare, evaluate, and criticize ourselves, to focus on what we’re lacking, to rapidly become dissatisfied with what we have, and to imagine all sorts of frightening scenarios, most of which will never happen. No wonder humans find it hard to be happy!” ― Russ Harris

"Gaining a deeper understanding of cognitive dissonance assisted me to acquire valuable insight, conditioning and application of cognitive defusion. Through healthy cognitive (self) reasoning and associated evaluation / action processes I have learned to untangle the perpetual thoughts of someone else's narcissistic and antisocial persona." — Vernon Chalmers

Cognitive Defusion Research

What is Cognitive Defusion?
Cognitive defusion is a concept that comes from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a form of psychotherapy. The term refers to the process of "de-fusing" or loosening the grip of thoughts from one's immediate experience or identity. In other words, it involves changing the way you relate to your thoughts.

The idea behind cognitive defusion is that people often become entangled or fused with their thoughts, especially negative or distressing ones. This fusion can lead to emotional distress and can limit a person's ability to engage fully in life. Cognitive defusion techniques aim to help individuals create some distance from their thoughts, allowing them to observe them more objectively.

Here are some examples of cognitive defusion techniques:

  • Instead of saying, "I am anxious," you might say, "I am noticing that I am having the thought that I am anxious." This helps create a separation between the person and the thought.

  • Using metaphors to illustrate the nature of thoughts can be helpful. For example, thinking of thoughts as passing clouds in the sky, where you are the sky and not the clouds.

Singing or Silly Voices
  • Reciting distressing thoughts in a silly voice or singing them can make them seem less threatening and more detached.

  • Practicing mindfulness involves observing thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness meditation and similar practices can help individuals develop a more accepting and non-reactive stance toward their thoughts.

The goal of cognitive defusion is not to eliminate thoughts but to change one's relationship with them. By defusing from thoughts, individuals can reduce the impact of distressing or unhelpful cognitions and live more in accordance with their values. This aligns with the broader goals of acceptance and commitment therapy, which focuses on accepting what is out of one's personal control and committing to actions that enrich one's life." (Source: ChatGPT 2023)

A Process-Based Analysis of Cognitive Defusion in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ScienceDirect

Cognitive Defusion: How to Support Students to Manage Internal Distress Komodo

Cognitive Defusion and Distressing Mental Events Medium

Cognitive Defusion and Psychological Flexibility With Self Relevant Academic Distress Stimuli  PDF Download University of Mississippi 

Cognitive Defusion and Psychological Flexibility Predict Negative Body Image in the Chinese College Students: Evidence from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Cognitive Defusion and Self-Relevant Negative Thoughts: Examining the Impact of a Ninety Year Old Technique PDF Download Contextual Science

Cognitive defusion and the Self (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Research Component) PDF Download Maria Parissi University of Birmingham

Cognitive Defusion in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: What Are the Basic Processes of Change? ResearchGate

Cognitive Defusion as Strategy to Reduce the Intensity of Craving Episodes and Improve Eating Behavior PDF Download Spanish Journal of Psychology

Cognitive Defusion for Psychological Distress, Dysphoria, and Low Self-Esteem: A Randomized Technique Evaluation Trial of Vocalizing Strategies American Psychological Association

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Cognitive Defusion Predicts more Approach and less Avoidance Coping with Stress, Independent of Threat and Self-Efficacy Appraisals Australian Catholic University

Cognitive Defusion versus Cognitive Restructuring in the Treatment of Negative Self-Referential Thoughts: An Investigation of Process and Outcome University of Wollongong Australia

Cognitive Defusion versus Experiential Avoidance in the Reduction of Smoking Behaviour: An Experimental and Preliminary Investigation Taylor and Francis Online 

Cognitive Defusion versus Thought Distraction: A Clinical Rationale, Training, and Experiential Exercise in Altering Psychological Impacts of Negative Self-Referential Thoughts Sage Journals

Cognitive Defusion for Reducing Distressing Thoughts in Adults with Autism ScienceDirect

Effects of Cognitive Restructuring and Defusion for Coping with Difficult Thoughts in a Predominantly White Female College Student Sample USU Library

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Measuring Psychological Flexibility and Cognitive Defusion in individuals with acquired Brain Injury Taylor and Francis Online

Using brief Cognitive Restructuring and Cognitive Defusion Techniques to Cope with Negative Thoughts Index Copernicus International

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