Reduce Your Stress by Borrowing an Outsider’s Perspective
The ability to think about your experiences from a more detached point of view, rather than an immersed point of view, keeps you from getting overly invested in your negative emotions. Here's how to do it.
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Self-distancing refers to our ability to view our own experiences from an outsider’s perspective. For example, you might try to look at your situation as if you were “a fly on the wall” or as if you were someone else who is witnessing the event from afar. The ability to think about your experiences from a more detached point of view, rather than an immersed point of view, keeps you from getting overly invested in your negative emotions. Self-distancing also makes us less likely to recount the unpleasant details of the event, and as a result we don’t feel quite as bad when bad things happen.
First, recall a recent stressful conflict you had with another person. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, recall when “You got into a fight with John about not showing up on time for the movie last Saturday.” Try not to think about fights with John in general. Now re-imagine the stressful event from an outside observer’s point of view – for example from the point of view of a friend or a stranger on the street. Ask yourself these questions to practice self-distancing.
Use Facebook to practice
Next time you are reading about one of your friend’s negative experiences on Facebook, practice switching back and forth from a self-distanced and self-immersed perspective. See how thinking about their event from an outside perspective feels a lot less intense than thinking about the event as if it were happening to you.
And next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, try to look at the situation from a distance.
Here's a bit more on self-distancing
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.