Episode 43: Cognitive Defusion – The #1 Secret in Psychology that THEY Don’t Want You to Know

In this episode, Steve talks about the idea of Cognitive Defusion. It is the process of distancing yourself from your thoughts, seeing them as suggestions or informants rather than inherent truths, and building greater psychological flexibility to improve overall mental health and adaptability.

A working definition can be:

A technique used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help people cope with uncomfortable or unhelpful thoughts and feelings. It is a useful technique for people with depression and anxiety, as uncomfortable and unhelpful thoughts and feelings are often a part of their experience. Cognitive defusion involves creating space between ourselves and our thoughts and feelings so that they have less of a hold over us.



  • Episode 42: Decadence
  • Psychological Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situational demands, balance life demands, and commit to behaviors.
  • Episode 27: Naive Realism
  • Episode 6: Cognitive Distortions
  • Identity Claims (According to Sam Gosling, author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You): Identity claims are deliberate statements we make about our attitudes, goals, values, etc… One of the things that’s really important to keep in mind about identity statements is because these are deliberate, many people assume we are being manipulative with them and we’re being disingenuous, but I think there’s little evidence to suggest that that goes on. I think generally people really do want to be known. They’ll even do that at the expense of looking good. They’d rather be seen authentically then positively if it came down to that choice.
  • Internal Family Systems Model: An integrative approach to individual psychotherapy developed by Richard C. Schwartz in the 1980s. It combines systems thinking with the view that the mind is made up of relatively discrete subpersonalities, each with its own unique viewpoint and qualities. IFS uses family systems theory to understand how these collections of subpersonalities are organized.
  • Blacking Out: Being conscious, but unable to remember what happened during that time, as opposed to passing out or falling unconscious.
  • Disassociation (Psychology):  any of a wide array of experiences, ranging from a mild emotional detachment from the immediate surroundings, to a more severe disconnection from physical and emotional experiences. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.
  • Exposure Therapy: a technique in behavior therapy to treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger (desensitization). Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.
  • Sublimation (Freud): socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are transformed into socially acceptable actions or behavior, possibly resulting in a long-term conversion of the initial impulse.
  • Repression: a defense mechanism that “ensures that what is unacceptable to the conscious mind, and would if recalled arouse anxiety, is prevented from entering into it.” According to psychoanalytic theory, repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of the average person.
  • “Perfect is the enemy of good”: a quote usually attributed to Voltaire. He actually wrote that the “best is the enemy of the good” (il meglio è nemico del bene) and cited it as an old Italian proverb in 1770, but the phrase was translated into English as “perfect” and made its way into common parlance in that form. (Source)
  • Episode 12: Idea Excavation
  • Daemon (Computer Science): In multitasking computer operating systems, a daemon is a computer program that runs as a background process, rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user.
  • We talked about Emotional Granularity in Episode 16: Emotional Maturity
  • Monkey Trap: A cage containing a banana with a hole large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit in, but not large enough for a monkey’s fist (clutching a banana) to come out; anecdotally used to catch monkeys that lack the intellect to let go of the banana and run away.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): a form of psychotherapy, as well as a branch of clinical behavior analysis. It is an empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies along with commitment and behavior-change strategies to increase psychological flexibility.
  • Steve’s Article, “How to Improve Psychological Flexibility

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