"Cognitive defusion" = best new term I’ve learned in a while
Through reperceiving brought about by the cultivation of mindfulness, the stories (e.g., about who we are, what we like or dislike, our opinions about others, etc.) that were previously identified with so strongly become simply “stories.” In this way, there is a profound shift in one’s relationship to thoughts and emotions, the result being greater clarity, perspective, objectivity, and ultimately equanimity.
This process is similar to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson’s (1999) concept of cognitive defusion, in which the emphasis is on changing one’s relationship to thought rather than attempting to alter the content of thought itself. As Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson note, as one strengthens the capacity for mindful observing or witnessing of mental activity, there is often a corresponding shift in the self-sense. The “self” starts to be seen through or deconstructed—i.e., it is realized to be a psychological construction, an ever-changing system of concepts, images, sensations and beliefs. These aggregates, or constructs, that were once thought to comprise the stable self, are eventually seen to be impermanent and fleeting. Through reperceiving, not only do we learn to stand back from and observe our inner commentary about life and the experiences encountered, we also begin to stand back from (witness) our “story” about who and what we ultimately are. Through this change in perspective, identity begins to shift from the contents of awareness to awareness itself. Hayes et al. (1999) describe this as the shift from “self as content” (that which can be witnessed or observed as an object in consciousness) to “self as context” (that which is observing or witnessing—i.e., consciousness itself). It is this figure/ground shift that may, in part, be responsible for the transformations facilitated through mindfulness practice.
—Shauna L. Shapiro, Linda E. Carlson, John A. Astin, & Benedict Freedman. (2006). “Mechanisms of Mindfulness.” In Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), p. 379.