For decades, NLP practitioners have been teaching a simple yet profound technique that puts problems in perspective and leads to solid, healthy decisions.
We teach the NLP technique called visual dissociation right here in our online NLP training center. It’s one of our students’ favorite modules.
Recent scientific research has finally validated this method and shown how helpful it can be.
Of course, NLP is never mentioned in the study, but NLP practitioners are used to that!
Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkley have found that psychological distance may indeed be the solution.
According to a series of studies conducted by psychologists Ethan Kross and Ozlem Ayduk, analyzing depressed feelings from a psychologically distanced perspective provides a number of benefits.
According to Kross, most people aren’t very good at analyzing their feelings. Mentally viewing mistakes and negative emotions usually causes us to experience negative emotions over and over again. Taking a psychologically distanced perspective can decrease this phenomenon and lead you to real freedom and choice.
Brief Summary of the Research
In 2008, Kross and Ayduk conducted a study that randomly assigned 141 test subjects to three groups. Groups were given different strategies to deal with negative emotional experiences. In the immersed-analysis group, participants were asked to relive the situation.
In the distance-analysis group, participants were asked to take a few steps back and view the situation objectively. In the distraction group, participants were asked to think of facts unrelated to their experience.
The study found that in the short term, both distraction and distance-analysis proved effective for dealing with depressive emotions. However, over the long term, those who used the distanced-analysis approach reported continued lower levels of depression than those in any other method.
These effects appear to combat the negative physical effects of strong negative emotions as well; in a related study, Kross and Ayduk found that participants who used distance-analysis strategies to examine feelings of anger experienced smaller blood pressure increases than those who used a more self-centric approach.
The pair now hopes to investigate if self-distancing approaches are as helpful in coping with other emotions such as anxiety as well.
How do you take a distant view, specifically?
Getting distance is easy once you identify the internal image – the picture in your mind – that represents a particular problem. Think of one right now (a mild problem, please – such as a brief disagreement, having to wait in a long line, or feeling upset at your kids, etc…)
Now, notice the image in your mind the represents this situation and any feelings that go along with it. Next “push” the image off into the mental distance. Simply imagine this unpleasant image moving away from you until you can see yourself in it, as well as the larger context (other people, the setting, etc…)
Move it far enough away that you begin to feel like an observer, as if you could say to yourself, “Those people over there are having a problem.” Don’t move it so far away that you can no longer see it, though. This is not about ignoring or repressing a problem, but taking a larger perspective.
Once you’ve got some distance, you can begin to ask yourself useful questions, such as:
1. What can I learn from this?
2. What are my options?
3. How do I avoid this in the future?
Interestingly, naturally optimistic people tend to distance themselves in this way from negative experiences, while keeping positive experiences close. Natural pessimists tend to do the opposite. Pessimists tend to remember negative events up close and personal while distancing themselves from positive memories.
If you have a hard time creating the distance, then you may be more psychologically attached to the negativity than you thought. Psychological attachments lead to self-sabotage by clinging to negativity, pessimism, self-doubt, rejection, deprivation and more. In this case, you should discover your attachments and uproot them. You can start by watching the video mentioned below.
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