Defusion

Fly Fishing
Have you heard of fly fishing? A good fly fisher knows exactly what the trout are feeding on and ties up flies that imitate those insects. They are so good at this that the trout can’t tell the difference. They cast the fly into the stream right in front of the trout, and the trout sees it floating by, buys that the fly is real, bites it, and gets hooked.

Our minds can be like really skilled fly fishers. Our thoughts and feelings are like highly specific flies the mind designs—just the ones we’ll bite on. The mind casts them out on the stream in front of us, and they seem so real that we buy them, bite, and get hooked.

Once we’re hooked, the more we struggle, the more we behave in ways that drive the hook in deeper and keep us on the line.

As we swim in the stream of life, there are flies floating by on the surface all the time. As we get better at spotting flies and recognizing that we don’t have to bite them, we get hooked less often and have more flexibility to swim in the direction of our values.

SOURCE: Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Hands as Thoughts
Imagine for a moment that your hands are your thoughts. Hold your hands together, palms open, as if they’re the pages of an open book. Then slowly and steadily raise your hands up toward your face. Keep going until they’re covering your eyes. Now take a few seconds to look at the world around you through the gaps between your fingers and notice how this affects your view of the world.

What would it be like going around all day with your hands covering your eyes in this manner? How much would it limit you? How much would you miss out on? How would it reduce your ability to respond to the world around you? This is like fusion: we become so caught up in our thoughts that we lose contact with many aspects of our here-and-now experience, and our thoughts have such a huge influence over what we do that our ability to act effectively is significantly reduced.

Now once again cover your eyes with your hands, but this time lower them from your face very, very slowly. As your hands slowly descend beneath your eyes, notice how much easier it is to connect with me and the world around you. This is like defusion. As you lower your hands your thoughts don’t disappear, but getting some separation allows you to engage more fully and flexibly, freeing you to choose to act in ways that are important to you.

SOURCE: Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

The Master Storyteller
The human mind is like the world’s greatest storyteller. It never shuts up. It’s always got a story to tell, and more than anything else it just wants us to listen. It wants our full attention, and it will say anything to get our attention, even if it’s painful or nasty or scary. And some of the stories it tells us are true. We call those facts. But most of the stories it tells us can’t really be called facts. They’re more like opinions, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, assumptions, judgments, predictions, and so forth. They’re stories about how we see the world, what we want to do, what we think is right and wrong or fair and unfair, and so on. One of the things you and I want to do here is learn how to recognize when a story is helpful and when it isn’t. So if you’re willing to do an exercise, I’d like you to close your eyes and not say anything for about thirty seconds—just listen to the story your mind is telling you right now.

SOURCE: Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Sushi Train (video)
Assorted Metaphors (drawings)
Do you see the world through bad-colored glasses?

If you were mindful of bad, what else could you see?

Are you chasing special? What are you missing?

What choice will you make?

Are you listening to the passengers on the bus? What are they telling you to do now?

What thoughts are imprisoning you?

The mind is a don’t-get-eaten machine, which is sometimes useful…

…and sometimes not as useful.

When we are distressed, we tend to narrow our focus and see fewer alternatives. Life is a banquet, but sometimes we only see a single bowl of cold porridge.

Sometimes our mind tells us a mouse is a monster.

Here’s what an outsider sees.

It seems like your negative thoughts stand in your way, stopping you from going in your valued direction.

But really, those negative thoughts are just along for the ride. They may show up and try to tell you where to turn. But you can still choose to turn toward your valued direction.

SOURCE: Ciarrochi, J. (2013). ACT images related to fusion and dysfunctional beliefs. Retrieved from http://www.acceptandchange.com/visual-metaphors/.