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What is Psychological Distancing? Four Helpful Techniques

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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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

What is Psychological Distancing? Four Helpful Techniques

What is Psychological Distancing? Four Helpful Techniques

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

positivepsychology.com

8

Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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 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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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.

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The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out
The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out

Effective goal-setting underlies the fundamental aspect of your motivation and keeps stressful situations at bay.

If you don’t set goals in positive, attainable ways, you may fall i...

Reorganizing Your Goal Hierarchy

As losing resources is more likely to cause burnout than gaining resources is to mitigate it, dealing with the negative aspects is more beneficial than using positive “band-aid” fixes. You want to drive down uncertainty and inefficiency to ensure that you aren’t doing unnecessary tasks and minimize your emotional exhaustion. To do that:

  1. Create a chart and place your major goal at its top, followed by layers of very specific subgoals needed to attain the major goal.
  2. Find and fix the inefficiencies in your goal hierarchy.
  3. Determine the attainability of each goal.
Burnout Symptoms And Signs Of Exhaustion
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration/ forgetfulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Increased illness
  • Physical symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Depression
  • Interpersonal problems.

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A Zen Parable
There was a man riding on a horse. When a man walking on the road asks him where he is going, the rider replies, “Why are you asking me? You should ask the horse.”

The ho...

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions. -Salovey and Mayer (1990)

Emotional Mastery

It manifests itself in the kind of statements we make about ourselves, in relation to our emotional skills and success.

Qualities such as confidence, awareness and optimism, come under the umbrella of emotional intelligence. 

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The humor effect defined
The humor effect is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to remember information better when that information is perceived as funny or humorous.

The use of humor enhances people’s

Benefits of incorporating humor into learning
  • Humorous information receives increased attention during the perception stage.
  • Improved encoding. Our brain gives preferential treatment to humorous information when it comes to storing it in our memory.
  • The use of humor serves as a distraction from negative emotions, such as anger or anxiety, that people might experience when processing certain information.
  • Reading or viewing something humorous has a positive and energizing effect.
  • Adding humor to the information that you are presenting can make it more interesting to others.
Different types of humor lead to different outcomes

The use of positive, nonaggressive humor is associated with 

  • improved learning outcomes, 
  • a relaxed learning environment, 
  • better student evaluations, 
  • an increased motivation to learn, 
  • improved information recall, 
  • an increased degree of student satisfaction throughout the learning process.

The use of negative or aggressive humor, especially if aimed at particular students, will produce the opposite effect.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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Confront Bullies, Safely
Confront Bullies, Safely

Manipulators become bullies when they intimidate or harms others, and pick on people they perceive as weaker. But standing up to bullies often cause them to retreat. 

When conf...

Set Consequences

When a psychological manipulator insists on violating your boundaries, and won’t take “no” for an answer, deploy consequence.

Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the manipulative individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect.

Know How To Say “No”

Diplomatically but firmly. A well articulated “no” allows you to stand your ground while maintaining a workable relationship. 

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Asynchronous communication

There are mainly two ways to communicate within a company: synchronous and asynchronous communication. While the second type has always been widely practiced, as face-to-face meetings or any other ...

Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

For instance, having your colleagues come to ask you questions to which you feel pressured to answer on the spot leads to you being continuously interrupted, which results in being less productive and feeling stressed or even getting a burnout, as you try to do everything in proper time.

The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

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Structure in times of chaos

Human suffering is often about freedom and constraint. We rebel against too much containment (“I need space!”) or if we have too much freedom, we feel lost in space. Fearful. (“Where did you go?...

Move

Our bodies need to stretch, reach, twist, bend, step, and sweat. It's not about staying in shape. It's about your immune health and mental health.

Build movement in your structure. Try for at least 20 minutes per day.

Nourish

You don't have to ban small treats. However, it is essential to set up a daily structure that fills you with nourishing healthy foods.

Make a dietary change, learn to meal prep, or teach your kids to cook.

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