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The Unconventional Technique That Helps My Anxiety

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Like many people who struggle with anxiety, I have a hard time letting go of anxious thoughts and recognizing that not all of them reflect reality. Once my mind attaches to a “worry thought,” detaching from the thought and moving forward can seem impossible.

But once I learned about cognitive defusion, I created an unconventional, highly entertaining defusion technique that makes me giggle long before I can fixate on my most invasive worries.

Cognitive defusion, which is a core component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), involves techniques that allow people who struggle with excessive worry or rumination to “disconnect” from thoughts that are unrealistic or exaggerated. Popular defusion strategies include noticing thoughts non-judgmentally, viewing thoughts from an “observer” perspective and even structuring ruminating thoughts as if they are TV or movie dialogue.

When I heard about some of the common cognitive defusion techniques, I laughed. I was sure that pretending my thoughts were sitcom dialogue wouldn’t help. The concept seemed so far-fetched to me that it just didn’t resonate.

Until I thought about the most dramatic show of all time, “The Bachelor.”

I’ve been watching for several years and live for messy, champagne-fueled TV drama, so it only made sense to spice up my cognitive defusion experience with a nod to the popular reality TV franchise.

What if I could put myself in the Bachelor or Bachelorette’s shoes and choose not to “give roses” to ineffective thoughts?

Suddenly, I was inspired. I imagined myself standing in bachelor mansion in a floor-length gown, surrounded by a roomful of thoughts. I heard host Chris Harrison proclaim, “This is the final rose of tonight.” As I stood in the elegant room, confidently holding a rose, I bypassed all of my negative thoughts.

No roses for you tonight, worry thoughts!

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Ever since the first time I cast myself as the lead in “The Bachelorette: Worry Thoughts Edition,” I’ve evaluated each ruminating thought as if I were on the show, doling out roses to more “positive” thoughts and sending excessively anxious thoughts packing.

“What if I don’t deserve to find love?”  Goodbye — no rose for you!

“Everything always goes wrong for me.”  Get out of here, and don’t come back!

“I may not be where I think I should be, but I am doing enough.”  You get my final rose!

Pretending I’m part of “The Bachelor” franchise and handing out or withholding roses from my thoughts may sound silly, but it’s helped me successfully defuse from my thoughts. Placing myself on “The Bachelorette” and putting my worry thoughts in danger of being sent home has taught me I don’t want to be “married” to my anxious mind — and I deserve to hold onto the thoughts that love me back.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Originally published: August 18, 2020
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