Help! It is already hard implementing Social Distancing but now I come across this term called Psychological Distancing. I just want to be connected to people, not the opposite. What is Psychological Distancing anyway? How does it help me?
Distancing is a concept coined by developmental psychologists Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan. It is a process to help you establish your own individuality and its separateness from everything else.
Turns out, Psychological Distancing is super helpful when dealing with crisis. Have you ever played Aunt Agony to your best friend to end a dead-end relationship? But when it comes to managing your own relationship suddenly those same advice you dished out is not as easy to implement. That is because you are involved in the situation.
COVID-19 comes with lots of challenges. From worrying about our own safety and that of our loved ones, to hunting for basic necessities from face masks to hand sanitizers and even toilet paper! This is on top of trying to manage working from home, home schooling the children, dealing with isolation loneliness, boredom and even lethargy.
So the next time, you feel stressed or anxiety rising, try Psychological Distancing. How? One easy way is to use language. We often use language to differentiate between you vs me, us vs them, he vs she. So why not try using language to refer to yourself in 3rd person. When you feel the stress or anxiety creeping up, instead of fretting, why not ask yourself “What would <<insert your name>> do?” In creating that psychological distance, you are allowing your mind to work out the solutions instead of focusing on the feeling of stress or anxiety. If using your own name sounds weird, then try using the name of someone you admire? A role model?
In the times of social distancing, whatever negative stimulus we are getting, try applying some psychological distancing to help us step away from the situation; to observe it objectively and take the next appropriate action.
Stay safe, stay sane and stay positive!
- A linguistic signature of psychological distancing in emotion regulation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28114772)
- Psychological Distance – NYU (http://www.psych.nyu.edu/tropelab/publications/LibermanTropeStephan2007.pdf)
- The Happiness Lab – Laurie Santos
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