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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

How to get out of our own way

Have you ever been so into a movie that when the bad guy was coming around the corner your heart was racing and your palms got sweaty? Or maybe when something unexpected happened – you jumped?

When we’re invested in something (like a movie), its as if it’s real! Sometimes we can get in our own way, by investing in our own thoughts and feelings as if they are real!

This is why, when we think someone is judging us, or is upset with us, or when we think we are going to fail- it physically feels like it already happened! We are fusing/ investing in our thoughts and feelings so much that they feel real- and it all happens unconsciously. (The orange circle is us, and the green circle are our thoughts/ feelings/ memories/ sensations)

We can’t control the thoughts, feelings, memories or sensations we experience, any more than we can control what we see at the mall. BUT…just like we can CHOOSE what we buy at the mall, we can choose which thoughts/ feelings we will invest in. Ideally, we invest in the ones that are in line with our values.

When we remind ourselves that they are JUST thoughts and feelings by experiencing them in a slightly different context, it helps us see that it is actually more like this….


These are called Defusion strategies and are common in a form of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

It is not about getting into a tug of war with the unwanted thoughts or feelings. For example, saying we can’t do what is healthy for us as long as those thoughts are there, (ie. I can’t go to the gym if I am having the thought I am too tired to go). It is about changing our relationship to them. After all, we want to be able to live our lives the way we want to, whether or not those thoughts/ feelings show up!

3 WAYS TO GET UNHOOKED FROM UNWANTED THOUGHTS/ FEELINGS (Think of some of the thoughts/ feelings that hook you and get in your way and try these out for yourself!)


  1. Add “I’m having the thought/ feeling that...” before the thought/ feeling/ memory/ image that is getting in your way

  2. “I am fat” becomes “I am having the thought that I am fat”

  3. “I’m scared” becomes “I’m having the feeling that I am scared”

  4. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but try it out! It really does make it the thoughts/ feelings that are getting in the way loose some of their power, so we can get back to what we want to do.

  5. You can change the language to make it fit for you, some people just label it as “thinking” or “feeling” and then bring their attention back to what they want to do.


  1. Our negative self talk usually has themes, like a story that we repeat over and over again, so name the story!

  2. “There is that I’m not good enough story“; “Hello they are going to leave me story“; “I see you I’m not safe story“. Again, play with the language so it fits for you

  3. Some people prefer to give that negative voice in our heads an actual name, like “Fretting Franny”; “Silly Surly”; and some just name it Bob, Jemma or even Mom or Dad if they know where it came from


  1. Imagine taking the thought/ feeling/ image/ sensation out of your body and putting in/ on something that is moving away from you

  2. Imagine putting it on a leaf and watching it drift down a stream, in a balloon and watching it blow away, on a cloud and watch it drift by, in a football or baseball and throw it out of the park, in a car and watch it drive off, playing it on a guitar and watching it float off on the notes 

  3. Whatever image you go with, make sure the thoughts/ feelings are continuously moving away from you (so don’t bury it, put it in a box and on a shelf etc)

All of these help us remember (even in the moment) that our thoughts and feelings are separate from us, and this helps defuse some of the emotional hooks they have.

When we are not so invested in them, we are more able to live our values whether or not the thoughts or feelings are around. 

See you next week!

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