Do you ever have negative thoughts about yourself?

Justin Timberlake looking thoughtful and then saying, If you said yes, then that is completely normal!

It's what you do with those thoughts that matter, and cognitive defusioncan help!

Cognitive Fusion vs Cognitive Defusion

Negative thoughts, such as...

  • "I'm not good enough."

  • "I have no friends."

  • "I'm not attractive/thin/interesting enough for people to like me."

...don't serve our mental wellbeing.

A man holding a hand to his face, looking exhausted. Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

When we get stuck on these thoughts and begin to believe them, this is called cognitive fusion. We begin to act as if these negative thoughts are facts.

The opposite of cognitive fusion is cognitive defusion.

Cognitive defusion is detaching from a thought when it’s unhelpful or stands in the way of doing things that bring wellbeing.


Which negative thoughts are NOT based on facts? Select all that apply.

Benefits of Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion techniques allow you to:

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  • become more aware of how your thinking processes are impacting you

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  • reflect objectively about the validity of your thoughts

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  • decrease the influence of your negative thoughts on your behaviors and actions

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  • feel more "in control" of your thoughts

There are 4 ways you can practice cognitive defusion and be mindful of your negative thoughts.

#1: External Voice

Think of your thoughts as a separate person. Notice the thought and separate it from you.

Instead of: ❌

"I'm not good enough to do this."

Say: 🌟

"I'm having the thought that I'm not good enough to do this."

Actor Dan Levy is saying

Acknowledge the thought and give yourself the space to realize it 's just a thought and not a fact. This can provide you with valuable perspective.

#2: Notice and Step Back

Notice when you have a negative thought that keeps replaying in your mind.

Thought: "I'm not good enough for this."

Notice: "I'm noticing a thought that I'm not good enough for this."

Step Back: "I’m noticing I’m just having a thought that I'm not good enough for this."

Step Back Further: "I'm noticing that I'm just having another critical thought."

Actress and talk-show host Drew Barrymore is doing the electric slide.

#3: Thank Your Brain

Your brain isn't always able to distinguish between what's true and what isn't, so it can start to believe lots of negative thoughts.

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By labeling your negative thoughts as thoughts, you can help your brain distinguish between fact and fiction. Flaticon Icon

When you're noticing negative thoughts, say, "You're excellent at worrying today. Thank you!"

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#4: Silly Voice

When you notice a negative thought:

  • Write it down. 📝

  • Read it out loud in your best Mickey Mouse, Yoda, or other favorite voice. 🗣

  • Repeat it multiple times. 🔁

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This helps you realize it's just words, not the truth.

Every time the thought comes back, hear it in the silly voice.

Which Technique?

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Riya is a university student who is feeling anxious while she's waiting to take her final exam. She notices that she keeps having negative thoughts about her ability to pass the exam, which is making her feel more anxious.

Which cognitive defusion technique could Riya use to manage her negative thoughts?


Which cognitive defusion technique should Riya try?

Take Action

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Notice your negative thoughts and how they make you feel or act.


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