OCD Treatment - You Are Not Your Thoughts

cognitive defusion Jul 24, 2018

OCD Treatment - You Are Not Your Thoughts


In this video, I explain how you are not your thoughts. A lot of the pain people experience from OCD and Anxiety comes from an over-identification with one's thoughts, which is often called cognitive fusion. In this video, I explain the concept of cognitive defusion and make the argument that you really are not your thoughts.

Video Transcript

00:00 All right. Hello and welcome to this episode. In this episode I'm going to talk about this idea that you are not your thoughts. So first and foremost, my name is Matt Codde. I'm a licensed clinical social worker and I'm the founder of the OCD Academy. And in this video, instead of addressing a question I know in my last episodes, um, I've been in this series, I've been talking about like a specific question as it relates to ocd treatment and OCD recovery. But in this video I want to talk more about just a concept that I like to talk about with clients that I, uh, that I talked to and then, you know, a lot of things that I, that I teach in videos that I make and it's this idea of cognitive fusion versus cognitive diffusion. And so, um, and, and it's really this idea of learning to separate yourself from your thoughts and your feelings.

00:47 And so, so before I go into that concept, let's just talk about this idea of cognitive fusion first. And so cognitive fusion is a, uh, is a common cognitive distortion, right? It's basically this idea of a kind of a distorted way of thinking where in there and there's many different distorted ways of thinking and we all engage in them from time to time. So it's not that, it's not that it's anything bad per se, but it can be, um, it can, it can lead to a lot of unhealthy behaviors, especially if you're not aware of it. Right? And that's really what we're, what we're focusing on in this is how we're reacting to our thoughts in a and then making sure we're engaging in longterm healthy behaviors as opposed to behaviors that are changing our emotional states on a minute by minute basis. So when we talk about cognitive fusion, really it's this idea that you're, you're very immeshed with the thoughts in your head, right?

01:35 And specifically kind of like that internal voice or that, that internal dialogue, that voice in your head and when you're really aligned with that, what happens is that you start to believe that any and everything, any and every thought that you experienced is true. Right? And so whether it's an, especially when we're talking about fear and anxiety, and when we talked about ocd, all the different thoughts that pop up when you're really aligned with those thoughts and really a meshed than any and every thought that pops up, then if it's true, it creates an emotional reaction, then you have to react by engaging in compulsions and you get stuck in that loop. Right? And so, like I talked about, one of the things that we're looking to do is start to remove a lot of the compulsive behaviors that we're doing to help break out of that loop and then stay out.

02:18 One of the ways that we do that is that we learned to realize that, you know, we, we can actually get some space in between our thoughts and ourselves. And so really it's this, it's this idea of subject, object awareness. Okay? So like for instance, if I told you to think of a, you know, a yellow triangle, right? Like if you can imagine that yellow triangle, you can imagine the words Yellow Triangle in your head or whatever it is, right? Um, when you, when you think of that in your head, you know, you, you can see it, most likely you kind of have like that in internal visual example. Or you can see the word yellow triangle, whatever it is, you know that you aren't a yellow triangle, that's just a thought that you had and it's this idea that you know, you as the subject can see the object which is the thought or you know, whatever that you're experiencing.

03:08 Right? And so once we can, can really establish that idea of subject, object awareness, right where you are, the subject, your thoughts or the object and you have awareness of them, that right there shows you that you will, you are not one of the same. Right? And so a lot of, a lot of times what I like to ask people, I say like, hey look, you know, if I had a, a, a magic or if there was like a switch on your, on your head and I can just turn off your thoughts in like turn off that internal dialogue. And I asked them like, what would you cease to exist, you know, would, would you just stop existing? And after we talk about it for, you know, a few minutes, it's like, well no I wouldn't, you know, because I can still be here like I can be here in my mind, can be really quiet and doesn't mean that I don't exist.

03:51 And, and so, so much. So many times I've seen clients they get so like use to this idea of their mind going so fast and these thoughts just happening and happening. That the idea of not living like that is, is just a, is a foreign concept. And so in cognitive diffusion, the whole goal really is to create some separation between you and your thoughts and your feelings really. Because once you, once you learn that thoughts come and go and that feelings come and go, what it does is it creates a sense of like not being permanent, right? And then you know, that it kind of just ebbs and flows that waves, right? Thoughts are gonna come up, your mind's going to go fast from time to time. You know, thought your mind's gonna kind of race about things, especially if you practice that a lot and you know you're going to get anxious, you're going to get sad, you're going to get happy.

04:37 These are all things that are going to ebb and flow throughout life and that's just part of life now as opposed to being drawn by them all the time and just kind of pulled away and thoughts are pulled away and feelings. What we want to do is we want to learn to detach from them a little bit, observed them right, be the impartial spectator right or like the observing self, the true self, and, and there's a lot of teachings and readings on a or readings you can pursue on this idea of like the objective self or the observing self, um, and, and learn. So just watch your thoughts and watch your feelings and not react in ways that are just compulsively are overreacting to them in the first place. Right? And so one of the techniques that I recommend to anyone I work with ever and, and one that I practice in my own personal life is meditation now.

05:26 I'm usually, when I say meditation, there's usually an immediate kind of like uneasiness. When, uh, when I mentioned it to a client, they kinda like, oh, you know, I don't meditate and so, and I want to talk about meditation is for a little bit because it's one of the most helpful tools that I've found to practice this idea of cognitive diffusion and more importantly, maintain it in kind of a day to day or even hour by hour, minute by minute basis. And what meditation really is, it's not this thing where you have to go to some retreat for 10 days and be silent. Yes, there are, there are retreats that do that and that can be very useful for some people, but it's not, it's not necessary, right. That's kind of an advanced practice, so to speak. My practice of meditation is literally 10 minutes, sometimes 15, just depending, but usually 10 minutes every morning.

06:17 And I get up and I just sit and I usually have an APP, a kind of a guided meditation that I follow and I can recommend some of those below, um, but, but it really is this idea of just practicing sitting there, right? You sit and then you learn to kind of watch your thoughts, watch your feelings and become aware of what's happening. It's this idea of almost taken a step back and kind of as opposed to being like caught up in the show, just kind of watching the show for a second, you know, where you can kind of sit there and look at everything that's actually happening. And the more and more I've practiced meditation, you know, now I've been practicing for several, several years, but the more I practice it, the better I get a kind of detaching and diffusing from that. Which then empowers me to react in ways that aren't going to keep me stuck in loops and that aren't going to air that more importantly, that are going to align with my longterm values.

07:04 And so in this, in this video, really the overall concept that I wanted to really communicate is this idea of cognitive fusion, right? And you know, when you, when you're too attached to your thoughts, you can just be kind of pulled around like a puppet on a string, you know what I mean? And it's this idea that your thoughts aren't always right. You know, your thoughts aren't always accurate. They aren't always true just because you think that you're gonna win the lottery and you buy the ticket doesn't make it happen. Okay? So we need to understand that thinking something and then actually reality are, are a lot of times very two different things. Okay. And cognitive diffusion is, is our ability to step back from our thoughts and learn to observe them, right? And not be so immeshed with them. And one of the ways that we can do that is by practicing meditation.

07:52 And even if it's only 10 minutes a day, you know, and especially, I really, I usually recommend starting in the morning just because when you practice it in the morning, you can carry it in the rest of the day with you, right? And then a lot of times if you like, get lost in the chaos of the day, coming home at night is a little bit harder to like actually sit down and meditate. So I think starting meditation in the morning will help you carry that practice of being mindful through the, through the rest of your day. So hopefully, uh, you know, this was helpful and again, I'm in the next episode, I'm going to really get to talk about this idea of the transtheoretical model of behavior change. So be sure not to miss that one. And if you like this, please subscribe, like, comment below and then I also have some links below, some additional resources that can help you on your journey. So again, thanks so much for being here and, uh, and watching or tuning in. It's been a pleasure to be here and I will see you over in the next episode.