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What is Psychological Distancing? Four Helpful Techniques

https://positivepsychology.com/psychological-distancing/

positivepsychology.com

What is Psychological Distancing? Four Helpful Techniques
Psychological distancing can help you gain space between yourself and your surroundings, allowing you to gain perspective, emotional, and cognitive control.

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Creating Psychological Distance

Creating Psychological Distance

Many of us have been in a situation where our emotions prevent us from responding appropriately and seeing the big picture. For example, in cases where we feel extreme anger, stress, anxiety, and sadness.

The best way to handle these emotionally charged situations is to step away to create psychological distance between you and the situation.

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Types of Psychological Distancing

  • Time: We think differently about events that are far in the future, compared to activities in the near future. For events in the distant future, we use abstract terms that lack concrete action.
  • Space: We use abstract terms to describe events within a physically-near space than events that happen in a space further away.
  • Social distance: When we describe someone that is different to us, we use abstract qualities (them and us).
  • Hypothetically: We use abstract words and terms to describe events that may not happen compared to events that are more likely to happen.

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Psychological Distancing and Executive Functioning

Executive functioning is the set of abilities and behaviors that is controlled by the frontal lobe, including:

  • Goal-directed and planning behaviours, such as deciding how to get dressed.
  • Inhibiting responses such as waiting your turn.
  • Monitoring your behavior and correcting mistakes.
  • Changing your behavior in response to a change in the environment.

Executive functioning helps you to regulate your emotions better, which gives rise to psychological distancing.

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Psychological Distancing As A Tool

The executive functioning also allows us to perform the following processes important for psychological distancing.

  • Shifting: The ability to redirect our attention to another aspect of a problem, or from one item to another.
  • Response inhibition: The ability to restrain our emotional response.
  • Updating: The ability to 'update' the information we are using after shifting our attention and inhibiting our initial response.

The act of psychological distancing is mostly atheoretical, meaning very little research describes how psychological distancing as a tool develops and functions in humans.

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The Benefits of Self-Distancing

  • Self distancing allows us to gain perspective. By creating space, we can reframe the situation in more abstract terms.
  • In turn, it will enable us to respond appropriately. Our response is then not directed towards the exact event, but instead takes into account the greater context.
  • A bonus in creating psychological distancing that that we can now ignore some of the boundaries that were limiting our solutions and find a creative solution instead.

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Take A Break To Gain Physical Distance

In an emotionally charged situation, for example, an argument, take a break for 15 minutes or physically leave the space, such as taking a walk.

By stepping out of the situation, you can disrupt the immediate intention and reframe the situation.

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Watch Yourself from a Distance

In an emotionally charged situation, try to imagine watching yourself from a distance. Ask yourself, "what you would think of someone else's behavior is you saw them in the same situation?"

By changing the focus to a third-person view, you can stop some of the immediate reactions and reconsider your behavior.

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Watch Yourself from the Future

When you find yourself in an emotionally charged situation or that your behavior is not helpful, such as procrastinating, imagine yourself in the future looking back and observing your current behavior.

This allows you to look at the current event and its consequences in a broader context. If you procrastinate now, you'll have more work later. By making a snide remark now, you may have a weakened relationship later. By spending your money now, you are unable to save it for a long-term goal.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The egocentric bias

The egocentric bias

It is a cognitive bias that causes people to rely too much on their own point of view when they examine or remember events in their life.

This means that people tend to either underest...

Examples of the egocentric bias

  • When you are giving a public talk, you assume that your nervousness is more apparent to others than is actually the case.
  • You overestimate the amount of work that you contributed to a group project.
  • You might believe that your colleagues all share your political beliefs and social values.
  • You might remember yourself as having been the key player in a past event, despite the fact that you only played a relatively minor role in it.

What causes the egocentric bias

It occurs primarily due to the fact that we tend to naturally examine and remember events primarily through our personal point of view.

Even when we realize that we should adjust our perspective to see things through other people’s eyes, we tend to anchor this new perspective to our own, and we often fail to adjust from our original viewpoint enough to properly assess how other people feel.

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Self-distancing

The act of increasing the psychological distance from your own subjective perspective when assessing events that you experience.

Is an external perspective that you can use when th...

Benefits of self-distancing

  • It can help people cope with difficult events from their past.
  • It can  help people deal with socially distressful situations.
  • Useful because of our tendency to display high levels of wise reasoning when we give advice to others, but not when we decide how to act for ourselves.
  • It reduces decisional biases and improves decision-making during times of information overload.

How to create self-distance

  • Use self-distancing language:  refer to yourself in the second or third-person.
  • Try to view the situation from an alternative viewpoint, that is different from your own.
  • Try to visualize the perspective of  someone you admire, and then ask yourself what would they do in that situation.
  • Try expressive writing: write about your thoughts and feelings when you’re trying to analyze an event that you’ve experienced.

The creation of an alter ego

Creating a fictional persona is a strategy that involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to think rationally about a situation. It allows us to rein in feelings like anxi...

Changing perspective and emotion regulation

Research shows that small shifts in perspective can help people in controlling their emotions.

In an experiment, when people viewed themselves as "distanced" from a situation, they were less anxious than the group that viewed themselves as in the middle of the situation.

Thinking in the third person

Self-distancing enables people to focus on the bigger picture rather than concentrating on immediate feelings. It improves the sense of emotional regulation, self-control, and general poise.

In a study, participants were asked to practice self-distancing when faced with various kinds of food - for example, fruit instead of candy. When participants asked, "What does David want?" instead of "What do I want?" they were more likely to choose the healthier option.