A Ten-Year-Old Is Most Likely To Describe Himself By Saying The Conceptualized Self and Cognitive Fusion

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The Conceptualized Self and Cognitive Fusion

In my last article, I discussed psychological rigidity as the root cause of falling into ruts and failing to act in line with values. It’s important to emphasize that the more mental flexibility you have, the easier it is to reconsider potential stressors. In this article, I will discuss the first process associated with getting stuck, the attachment to the conceptualized self.

ACT-based coaches use the term “conceptual self” to refer to what people might think of when asked to describe themselves to others. This is their own internal image.

Most people describe their conceptualized self with statements that summarize or evaluate who they are and what they do. For example, if I asked you to describe yourself, you might say: “I’m forty years old, about five feet ten inches tall,” of average build, happily married, an art history teacher, honest and trustworthy, etc. A self-statement summarizes who you are and how you measure up to others by comparing yourself to others according to a set of social criteria (such as intelligence, income, occupation, body composition, etc.). ACT refers to this way of describing how you see yourself as self-satisfied. In other words, you see yourself as the sum total of the contents of your head.

Your mind breaks down your conceptualized self into pieces and labels them. The labels and pieces of your conceptualized self are like home movies, with their own personal script and mental images associated with them. You can close your eyes and actually see yourself in the movie. Your self-talk will represent the dialogue in the movie. These works, and the scripts associated with them, create stereotypes or shortcuts to understanding your conceptualized self and explaining them to others. Some of your personal stereotypes are positive and can go a long way toward helping you achieve your values-based goals. Others were less positive or helpful.

For example, let’s say you like running, among a thousand other things. Part of your conceptualized self is the runner. As a runner, your personal scripts and stereotypes about yourself are positive, surrounding your love of physical activity and sport, what running actually feels like, and the side benefits of being lean and healthy. The runner-up section of Conceptualizing Your Self contributes positively to your sense of self and helps you set health-related goals aligned with your values, giving your life a sense of purpose and meaning.

Now suppose you also have asthma. In addition to your runner-up piece, you have a personal script and stereotypes about yourself related to living with asthma. Instead of seeing yourself as someone with asthma, you see (internalized pictures) and describe yourself (external traits) as asthmatics. Asthma is a disease characterized by tightening of the chest muscles, constriction of the air passages in the lungs, and difficulty breathing. People with asthma also happen to have a disease that triggers the symptoms described above. Being an asthmatic represents a completely different version of the conceptualized self. When you call yourself an asthmatic, you become a disease. All your personal scripts and stereotypes related to asthma (having to avoid specific situations and activities that could trigger an attack, relying on long-term controller medications and rescue inhalers, feeling self-conscious around people who are not familiar with the disease and so on) Now instead of you, whoever happens to have asthma.

This restricted way of seeing yourself and the world around you limits your options and options (real and imagined) because it doesn’t allow you to see the world clearly. It’s as if you’re seeing the world through colored glasses. When that happens, it limits your mental flexibility and you get stuck. When you see yourself as an asthmatic rather than an asthmatic, you fuse with that part of your conceptualized self that isn’t very helpful and can get stuck. This is what ACT calls cognitive fusion.

Your mind can incorporate various helpful and unhelpful aspects of your conceptualized self. When you fuse part of your conceptualized self, you see the world through this fused concept of reality instead of seeing the actual reality of the moment. Often, like running, it’s not necessarily a negative phenomenon that causes you to get stuck. I say not necessarily, because there are many runners who are so obsessed with running that it does lead them into trouble (or injury, addiction, or extreme guilt if they miss a workout.). In general, however, merging with positive parts of the conceptual self (such as running) does not lead to getting stuck.

An important thing to remember about your conceptual self is that it is the perspective your mind presents when you think about something rather than experiencing it directly. Sometimes what you have in your head about the outcome of the experience is very different from the actual outcome. This is especially true for new, challenging experiences. When you become overly attached to useless aspects of your conceptualized self, it can lead you to mistakenly believe that your thoughts about a new challenge are the same thing as experiencing it directly. While your thoughts about a new experience may give you some idea of ​​its outcome, they cannot fully predict the outcome. Remember that your mind can distort, beautify, forget and label parts of your conceptualized self that create stereotypes and limitations for understanding and predicting the outcome of any new experience. This often results in avoidance and failure to take advantage of new challenges. A key point to remember when you’re in this situation is to accept the fact that you can’t quite figure it out beforehand. The only way to really know how something works is to experience it directly.

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