In line with my article last week about self-acceptance, and using mindfulness to help with that, this week I am building from there and using ‘detached mindfulness’ as I have been taught recently. This detached mindfulness is based upon the work of Wells (2009) and is related to other mindfulness and acceptance processes I have been writing about here and been learning in my own ongoing studies and classes with my mindfulness group.
In true Michael Yapko style, I am combining hypnosis and mindfulness again. (Ref: his 2011 book ‘Mindfulness and Hypnosis‘)
Worry, is something most people experience at some point in their life. For some, worrying is a regular occurrence. I have not been without worry myself in life and am sure you have had times where worry may even have dominated your life for a while.
Dealing with worry effectively is a key part of becoming resilient and building resilience in turn is going to enhance your ongoing experience of life and help you be more effective with dealing with worry in the future. Today, I want to offer up a number of interlinked strategies for coping with worry and learning how to apply ‘detached mindfulness’ to facets of our life that cause us to worry to the stage whereby it impairs our experience of life.
Here is an experiment for you to have a go at first of all, to illustrate what is coming up. I am showing you how I did this in my class, however, I have read a great version of this which Robertson (2012) refers to as the ‘Tiger Task.’
Firstly then, you imagine your favourite animal in your mind with your eyes closed. You might choose a gorilla, for example (anything to get a picture of a gorilla on the blog here).
Next, you simply watch it and observe the animal in your mind and let it play out before you. You do not interfere with it, you simply watch it. You do not try to change it in any way or stop it from changing, just watch it happening in your mind.
What tends to commonly happen is that as you watch mental imagery, without interfering with it, it dissipates or fades away after a while. You just watch the animal doing whatever it does, without interfering with it in anyway and let it wither after a while.
When I was being led through this exercise at my class, I imagined a dog, a border collie to be precise (I was raised with border collies as part of my family) and as I watched it play, duck down and walk, just letting it happen, it faded after a while.
However, if you make an effort to get rid of it from your mind, it may be challenging. The classic notion of saying to someone “don’t think of a pink elephant” echoes a bit here. By attempting not to think of the animal, you are automatically thinking of it and it has a symbolic presence in your thoughts inherently.
Additionally, if this was not an animal but an unwanted thought that was causing you to worry, by trying to get rid of it and not succeeding, you may become more filled with worry or get more anxious about it, which in turn may make it more difficult to let go of it. Instead, you may have just constructed a brilliant strategy for persisting with the unwanted thought loitering around in the mind.
Today’s process then is about learning how to practice the same detached mindfulness that you did with your favourite animal with worries if and when they occur.
The way we are going to teach ourselves to do that is by mentally rehearsing and practicing the process using self-hypnosis, so that we can then use it whenever (if ever) we worry in real-life scenarios.
Simply follow these steps to install your ability to Use Detached Mindfulness:
Prior to starting, think of an ongoing or recent worrying thought that you have had or experienced, or think of a worrying thought you currently have – this will be what we focus on during this session.
Then get yourself into a comfortable place where you will be undisturbed for the duration of this session. Be sat upright, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands not touching each other and proceed.
Step One: Induce Hypnosis. You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my self-hypnosis book, use the free audio at this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two
Step Two: Recall and let that worrying thought happen (the one you considered prior to step one). That is, bring the worrying thought to mind, then move on to the next step.
Step Three: Watch the thought happening. Be aware of it and observe it in your mind. Be mindful of it.
Continue to simply observe it and watch it for a few seconds then move on to step four.
Step Four: Let the thought happen and as you continue watching it, do nothing. Make sure you don’t try to change it and don’t try to stop it from changing. Let it play out before you, let it happen and do its own thing in front of you.
Put simply again; do nothing (while the thought happens in the forefront of your mind).
Do this for a short while, get comfortable with doing it and then move on to step five.
Step Five: Let the thought become a thing. That is, let it almost be an object, something that is separate and distinct from you. Know without doubt that you are not your thoughts. You are who is watching the thought, you are separate from it, observing it, allowing it to be there.
Be aware that you are who is watching the thought.
Get a sense of distance from the thought as you watch it.
With that sense of distance established in your mind, move on to the next step.
Step Six: Without wanting it to happen and without expecting it to happen, continue to be mindfully detached from thought until it dissipates or fades. Don’t try to make the thought disappear, just watch it as a detached observer until it does it crumbles by itself.
Be relaxed, and just watch it mindfully, detached, and when it dissipates, move on to the next step.
Step Seven: Use your cognitions, use your internal dialogue and tell yourself that you practice this more and more in real-life scenarios if worry occurs. Convince yourself of your ability to do this in real-life situations, naturally and instinctively and be confident that you know how to do this.
Assure yourself of it being effective in real-life scenarios and feel good about knowing that when worry occurs, you have a means of dissipating it without having to fight or suppress. With that encouragement complete, move on to the final step.
Step Eight: Exit hypnosis.
Take a couple of nice deep, energising breaths, open your eyes, wiggle your fingers and toes and start to practice using this detached mindfulness process if and when worrying thoughts occur.
There you go, a really rather lovely process to practice and benefit from.
Robertson, D. (2012) Build Your Resilience. Hodder Education: London.
Wells, A. (2009) Metacognitive Therapy for Anxiety and Depression. New York: Guilford.