As you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, you may see a news story that has been flagged for fact-checking. You may even be familiar with the website called Snopes, where the people who run it attempt to verify the accuracy of claims that appear on the internet.
We all know that we can’t trust everything we read, especially on the internet where anybody can say whatever they want.
When it comes to your mental health did you know that our brains sometimes need fact-checking too? We call it Thought Defusion.
When we develop “stinkin’ thinkin’,” we need something to break us out of the bad thoughts before they take us prisoner. Thought Defusion is all about creating distance between our thoughts and the part of our brain that analyzes things.
There are many techniques and ways of practicing thought-defusion, but here are three questions I have used to help myself and others who face intrusive thinking:
How Do I Know It’s True?
Start by questioning the thought’s validity. Ask yourself, “How do I know this thought is true?” Dive deep into the basis upon which you’ve accepted it as a fact. Sometimes, our brains make assumptions based on past experiences or biases that may not align with reality.
Many times our brains jump to conclusions and make assumptions. We may assume that someone thinks something or is doing something based on our fears rather than what we actually know. A spouse that is 5 minutes late isn’t necessarily cheating, and there’s no way to know why they were late. Recognizing that you don’t know is a good first step.
What Are the Facts That I Know?
Separate facts from interpretations. Identify the objective, verifiable information within your thought. For example, if you’re thinking, “My coworker ignored me today, so they must dislike me,” distinguish the factual part (your coworker didn’t engage with you) from the interpretation (they dislike you). Recognizing the facts will help you form a more balanced perspective.
Why Could My Assumptions Be Wrong?
Acknowledge that assumptions are part of the human experience. Our brains often jump to conclusions based on limited information. Explore why your assumptions could be inaccurate or incomplete. Are there alternative explanations or perspectives that you haven’t considered? When you find yourself thinking “I know that this is what’s going on,” challenging your assumptions will help you realize that you don’t have a crystal ball that gives you access to information outside of yourself. And by challenging your assumptions, you open the door to a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of yourself and others.
The big key in all this is to be gracious with yourself. Don’t expect perfection from yourself, but aim to improve and do a little better than you did before. Every person I know, including myself and my team, struggles with their thinking at some point. The question is will you overcome your thinking, or will you become a prisoner of thoughts you hate?
If any of this resonates with you, please come sit by our fireplace and talk. We’re here to listen.