Today I want to tell you a story. A story about how one of my clients described a feeling and changed the way she thought…
“But what now? What am I supposed to do with all these feelings?” – Jenny Han
It’s a story with a happy ending.
One of my clients was complaining to me in passing about an increased feeling of frustration she was experiencing with her partner. While she didn’t feel he was actually the cause of this feeling, there was definitely a sense that this feeling was occurring in an increasingly frequent way.
And, it was causing her some anxiety.
Because she loves her partner…
I asked her to tell me some more about this particular feeling. Where on her body was she experiencing it? Could she name it? If it had a colour, what colour would that be? What kind of texture or shape did this feeling have?
Turns out, this feeling was a giant red puddle of impatience in her chest.
Here’s the thing – as we started to describe her feeling. This sensation of ‘impatience‘ she experienced, she started to smile. And, she really engaged with this process of changing the context of how she was engaging with this feeling.
But, it didn’t stop there.
She talked with her partner about this feeling.
And, whenever she started to feel it coming on, she’d say to him “I’ve got a giant red puddle of impatience forming…”
Somehow, this has resonated for them. It’s created a whole new language in terms of how they talk about feelings. They’ve got red puddles and blue atomic bombs and black daggers going off all over the show…
It gives me a golden glow of happiness just thinking about it…
Told you it was a story with a happy ending!
So, what’s the deal with naming that feeling to change the way you think?
On reflection, it was a misnomer to have titled this post ‘Changing the way you think’.
Changing your perspective on the way you think is more accurate.
This analysis of what my client was feeling has a name. In psychotherapy its called ‘defusion’.
Fusing occurs when you accept the literal meaning of your thoughts in an unhelpful way. This happens because your process of thinking is largely automatic. And when you live on autopilot, this can have consequences you don’t want.
Defusion, on the other hand, involves distancing yourself from your feelings. It allows you to disconnect or see your thoughts and feelings for what they are – just streams of words and ideas, and passing sensations – not what they say they are to us – facts.
And, as with many things, context is everything. When you change the context of your thoughts, you may well find that your feelings change.
This process of defusion can help us to see our thoughts simply as thoughts. It allows us to stop reacting to them in a literal sense.
Whenever I catch myself having an unhelpful thought, I work on applying this technique. It’s having unexpectedly positive results…
Do you think this is a technique that might benefit you?