The Duck

There’s a duck on my table.

It’s art that belongs to the woman who owns the office suite. It’s playful, and even a little silly… I like it. It reminds me of thoughts, and the idea that we ought not to take them so seriously. They’re just thoughts afterall. Sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes they’re not. So hold them lightly. People who struggle with anxiety or OCD often look at the world through their thoughts. That can be trouble.

Psychologists have a term called “cognitive defusion,” strategies that provide more distance from thoughts, less attachment, less “fusion.” For example, someone with social anxiety might think after meeting someone new “She thinks I’m boring. I’m so boring!” If you are fused with those thoughts, you might then spend the next several minutes ruminating about your perceived social incompetence and how you’ll always be alone, etc. The mind can be very active when it weaves a story!

Let’s rewind and play that out differently. If you’re practicing cognitive defusion, try on a different approach. When the thought “she thinks I’m boring” pops up in your head, notice it as a thought. You don’t need to make it go away, and you don’t need to feed it either. Take a second to say to yourself “I notice that I’m having the thought that… she thinks I’m boring.” Say it again and really take it in.

Practice now. Say “She thinks I’m boring.” And then say “I notice that I’m having the thought that she thinks I’m boring.”  Pay attention to the difference.

This is one of many tools to start to develop a different relationship with your thoughts, so they have less impact on the life you want to lead. If you want more help with this, a great book is Russ Harris’s Happiness Trap. I’m also happy to talk with you about treatment. I specialize in therapy for anxiety and OCD. You should know, though, that if you come to my office, you might notice a duck on my table.