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Use ‘Psychological Distancing’ to Process Your Anger

Illustration for article titled Use Psychological Distancing to Process Your Anger

Photo: Smit (Shutterstock)

Aside from being incredibly frustrated that our modern society has essentially been brought down by a virus, people have plenty of other reasons to be angry right now. Whether it’s because they feel as though their personal liberty is under threat thanks to face mask requirements, or they can’t wrap their head around the fact that people won’t do something as simple as wearing a face mask to save lives—most people are pretty peeved. And if screaming into your phone so it would be played outdoors in Iceland didn’t help, here’s another technique that might be worth a shot: using psychological distancing to process your anger.

How to practice psychological distancing

If you’ve been to therapy at some point in your life, chances you probably did some type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This common method involves working with a therapist to help pinpoint your negative and/or inaccurate thought patterns and challenge them, so you can process difficult situations and emotions more effectively. But, as David Robson points out in a recent article on BBC Future, it can be even simpler than that, thanks to psychological distancing.

According to Robson, practicing psychological distancing “can involve imagining yourself looking back on provoking the event from a point in the future, or putting yourself in the shoes of a friend, and asking yourself how they might advise you to react.” In other words, pretend like you’re a character in a Charles Dickens novel and are given the opportunity to preemptively look back on your potential behavior, then act accordingly. No, psychological distancing won’t magically make your anger disappear, but it could help you manage and process it more productively.

Another option is to talk about yourself in the third-person when you’re angry, and imagine that you were advising a friend in this situation rather than yourself. This gives you some distance from the incident—and ideally more clarity—to help you approach the source of your anger in a healthier way.


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