Defusion exercises and strategies

In the moment

  • Take a moment and reflect on the PMIE you’re struggling with
  • Notice an unhelpful thought you have about it
  • Label this thought: “I am having the thought that…”
  • What do you notice when you make this change?

Reflection and growth


This mindfulness exercise can help you practice defusing from painful self-identities.

  • Think about the identities you have (e.g., nurse, parent, spouse, your cultural identity, sports fan, etc.) 
  • Think of the one identity that is most important to you
  • Think about how that part of yourself thinks, feels, looks, and behaves
  • Close your eyes and shift your attention to your imagination
  • Picture a little caricature of this identity standing in the palm of your hand. What might it say? How might it act?
  • As you are holding the identity in your hand, say to yourself, “I hold this image lightly, as though I am a warm breeze holding a small floating feather. This is not me” 
  • In this moment, how did your fusion with your identity shift?
  • Did you find yourself wanting to cling to the identity? If so, then what do you make of this?

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

We know the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lot of pain. This pain may be further impacted by becoming fused with your thoughts. Those thoughts, while sometimes based on the facts, may further perpetuate your pain and suffering.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.