Why should you psychologically distance?

No matter how positively you view the world, and how easy it is for you to shake off negative thoughts and emotions, it can still be tough sometimes to maintain a positive outlook and fight off those intrusive thoughts. Maybe you got some difficult news, and you’re still processing it, or maybe your boss upset you with his comments about your work – which you did as diligently as you could. Or maybe you have that voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough, and that any success you have is because others haven’t noticed yet how worthless you are.

But how do you stop these negative and unhelpful messages you tell yourself? Psychological distancing.

According to Ethan Kross, psychological distancing is the ability to reflect objectively on our circumstances, usually by taking a step back. This means looking at the issue from an outside perspective – such as from a friend’s perspective.

Self-talk which is repetitive does not get us very far – especially if we’re just ruminating on the same thing over and over, there’s a limit how advanced that conversation in your head can get. However, when speaking with others about the issue, and allowing them to formulate an opinion, means that we can hear what an outsider thinks about our situation or issue.

According to Dr Kross, this is how we stop obsessively thinking about something. We ruminate generally because we want to solve the issue, and the harder it is to solve, the more we ruminate. And the more we ruminate, the more our personal feelings get in the way, delaying any decisions even more. By speaking with others, and thus reaching a conclusion about the issue from these outside perspectives, means that the rumination can stop.

Now that you know you need to talk to someone, who do you talk to?

According to Dr Kross the best conversations have two parts to them: the first is the venting (or expressing) of emotions, but then the second part is the other person pushing you or encouraging you to broaden your perspective. So find the people who you feel safe with, who can push you to look at the issue from different angles, even if that angle is reflecting on why your boss was upset at you that day, and what you could have done better in your work task.

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