Friday, February 10, 2012

More Psychological Distancing Techniques

Psychological distancing techniques have lots in common with strategic allocation of attention. If you check out these two links — http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-02-06T03:30:00-08:00&max-results=3        and  http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2012/01/self-control-will-power-or-strategic.html— or even if you don't — you can see the connection.  Strategic allocation of attention, in relationship to stress involves REMOVING your attention from the person or event that's causing stress and ATTACHING your attention to something else. Re-allocating attention is a specific technique to increase psychological distance.

Here's an academic definition of psychological distancing borrowed from researcher Angela Duckworth. "The ability to step back and re-evaluate a situation in representational terms to produce appropriate responses, rather than being dominated by immediate thoughts and surroundings." Both SAA and PD increase ability to manage work, to wait for rewards, and to regulate emotions.  Miraculously, because of increase in metacognitive skills and experience, we get better with distancing strategies as we age. That's encouraging! Maybe that's a reason that older people are happier than younger people. They've learned distancing - cha, cha, cha - and experience less stress.

Here are a couple of examples of distance through changing thinking:

• Asking children to think of the marshmallows as puffy little clouds helped them wait longer to eat them.  By reframing the concept, the marshmallows were less tempting, and less attention getting.

 • For adults, when the moment is tense and full of conflict and emotion, literally stepping back, or even out, provides space to reevaluate, reflect briefly and respond on a cognitive level rather than an emotional level.

• Even if your own negative self-talk is the stressor, the same distancing techniques work.

Here are some more distancing, strategic allocation of attention techniques for this coming weekend.

• Engage in a short burst of physical labor. Plant spring flowers. Wash the kitchen floor.  Wash 4 small windows. Bake cookies.
• Turn on the music, or change the music, or play some music on a harmonica, a piano, a drum.
• Start a jig saw puzzle and keep it available, maybe at 7 minute stretches.
• Stare into space. Sort of like meditation but with your eyes open.
• Walk once around the block, in the rain, the snow, the sun.
• Start an ongoing calming project — knitting, needlepoint, solitaire, crossword puzzles, Suduko, angry birds, that engages your attention but you can drop into or out of.
• Think about: In the big picture of life (perhaps a mental image of the planet might help), how important is this moment, this issue, this conflict?
• Imagine you take the negative self-talk, the circumstances, the person and in your mind send them into outer space via a rocket.

Other ideas?
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1 comment:

  1. Love it, especially technique #1! I don't know if other women are like me in this regard, but often my to-do list is so long, it's unmanageable and overwhelming when viewed as a whole. Sadly, this is a perfect environment for my negative self-talk to flourish in when I don't accomplish everything on my list (or even half for that matter). If I pick a couple of achievable projects, especially ones with physical involvement, however, and focus my energy on completing them, the feeling of satisfaction is wonderful. I love the idea of planting spring flowers, even if the climate may only be conducive to a containers of bright ones on the front porch.


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