“Do you bid me,” you say, “shun the throng, and withdraw from men, and be content with my own conscience? Where are the counsels of your school, which order a man to die in the midst of active work?” As to the course which I seem to you to be urging on you now and then, my object in shutting myself up and locking the door is to be able to help a greater number. I never spend a day in idleness; I appropriate even a part of the night for study. I do not allow time for sleep but yield to it when I must, and when my eyes are wearied with waking and ready to fall shut, I keep them at their task. I have withdrawn not only from men, but from affairs, especially from my own affairs; I am working for later generations, writing down some ideas that may be of assistance to them. There are certain wholesome counsels, which may be compared to prescriptions of useful drugs; these I am putting into writing; for I have found them helpful in ministering to my own sores, which, if not wholly cured, have at any rate ceased to spread. Seneca, Moral Letters 8.1-2
With the Novel Coronavirus still prevalent in the world everybody has had the practice of social distancing told to them over and over. But what about the concept of self-distancing for your own well-being?
Whenever you want to take a difficult decision, your emotions tend to play a vital role in it. After experiencing a painful situation, we always get confused. A reflection on that experience is necessary as it not only allows us to understand it in new ways but it also helps us in getting over it. But the healthy reflection can quickly turn into deep thought, fostering negative emotions in us. This can be harmful because emotions force us to make wrong decisions in many important areas of life, such as relationship, career, health, etc.
If you are guilty of making irrational and tough decisions whenever you had to make a tough choice, then you need to practice a technique called Self-Distancing. In this article, we will discuss the concept of Self-Distancing and understand how it can be beneficial in various ways.
What is Self-Distancing?
Self-Distancing is a practice of increasing the space from your own perspective while assessing the emotions and events that you experience. It occurs when an individual views the experience as an observer and not as a participant. Many of us have experienced a situation where we would become emotional and then take an irrational decision. If we could only go back and assess the situation from a neutral perspective, we could take more practical and rational decisions. This is possible but you need to change your perspective while assessing the situation that you experience.
The external perspective that you practice can be used while thinking about the event that you experienced. But the self who experienced the event must be different than the self who analyze it. If you are able to think about that situation without any emotions, you will be able to analyze it in a different way.
The best way to distance yourself from a situation is through the language that you use in the inner monologue. Everyone has an inner monologue when we think about ourselves. So, you need to change the way you think; you should use “You” or even your name instead of “I”. For example, you can say “You need to understand”; instead of “I need to understand”. This is based on construal stage theory and it means that when you create psychological distance in one area, it can have an effect on other psychological areas. When you talk to yourself like you are giving advice to some other person, you can easily give yourself distance. This will shift the way you think and you will get a rational solution to any problem.
Self-Distancing Detach yourself from Emotional Situations
Emotions unfold over time and it is important to study the features of emotions for understanding how emotions function. In a study, the participants were asked to recollect the emotional episodes. A curve was drawn based on the changes in the intensity of emotion. In many other studies, it was shown that the curve can take varied shapes that reflect the complexity of emotion. Further investigation was done to understand whether the perspective of an individual experiencing emotion, impacts emotion accumulation and explosiveness.
In research, it was found that one way of people dealing with the emotional situation is by reflecting upon them. But when people adopted a self-distanced perspective, they experienced lower levels of emotional reactivity and psychological stress. In another study, it was found that a self-distanced perspective also leads to decreased levels of emotion accumulation as well as explosiveness compared to when adopting a self-immersed perspective.
So, self-distancing allows you to detach yourself from emotional situations. When you take a self-distanced perspective of an event that you experienced, you automatically think as a third person. You are able to make rational decisions without any emotion in it. This helps you to cope with negative emotions, like stress and anger.
Self-Distancing helps us to Make Rational Decisions
Giving advice is a natural phenomenon and we have seen people giving advice even in small situations. Basically, when people give advice to other individuals, they show higher levels of reasoning. But this isn’t true when they decide to act themselves. However, when people use self-distancing strategies, by asking themselves as to what advice would be suitable for a friend if they found them in a similar situation, they are able to cut back the asymmetry in their insights and apply identical reasoning skills when they are in dilemmas.
By using the self-distancing techniques, people can become wise during reasoning. They are able to recognize the knowledge limits and remember the significance of being willing to adjust.
Self-Distancing involves Introspection
When you introspect, you can reach greater heights. Observing and examining your mental processes help you to make valuable decisions. A study examined the people’s self-talk mechanism, which is nothing but intrapersonal communication that we use when we think. The researchers said that self-distancing can be promoted during the times of introspection. This can be done by using a second-person pronoun (you) or your name instead of the first-person pronoun when you think about yourself. Based on construal level theory, this idea means that when creating psychological distance in one area can help in promoting psychological distance in other areas. When an individual’s psychological distance is increased by altering the linguistic self-distance, it affects the feeling of that event from an external perspective.
Self-Distancing Interpreted as Being Aloof and Anti-Social
Often times, we have seen people interpreting self-distancing as being aloof. When others see people self-distancing from the situation, they think that people are aloof. However, self-distancing from a situation is not to run away from it. Self-distancing actually helps people to cope-up with difficult events experienced in the past. People practicing self-distancing technique get less aggressive thoughts and feelings of anger.
Self-distancing and being aloof are two completely different things. Aloofness means a state of withdrawn or being distant from a situation. Being aloof is to be at a distance, emotionally or physically. An aloof person might be disinterested and reserved and talks only when others approach them. He does not take any effort in initiating interactions with others. An aloof person can be considered as anti-social as he does not believe in mingling with others. Aloofness is having apathy and to be not caring towards others.
But when you self-distance from an event or a situation, you are doing it voluntarily to understand the situation in a new way. You think about that event from an external perspective so that you can get unbiased solutions. Self-Distancing is a conscious act with the sole objective of analyzing the events with clarity and purpose. It is to increase the distance from your personal perspective while analyzing the events that occurred.
When an individual uses a self-distancing technique, he cannot be considered anti-social. A person who is anti-social does not consider the well-being of others. He is known for his selfish acts and has tendencies to lie to others. But self-distancing helps individuals deal with socially distressful situations, even when they are vulnerable to social anxiety. People can easily handle tough situations in a positive way. When practicing self-distancing technique, an individual should not show any anti-social tendencies. The person with anti-social tendency would not want the company of others. It is an unhealthy perspective. Self-distancing is practiced to break away from a personal perspective during an event and think like an outsider.
You can practice and increase the self-distance by viewing the present situation from a different viewpoint, which must be distinct from you. Modifying the language during introspection also helps in creating self-distance.
Self-distancing techniques can be beneficial in various ways. People, who self-distance, gain more insight into the situation. They can also resolve the conflicts quicker and have a good sense of closure. It encourages you to use your reasoning skills effectively when you decide how to act. When you detach yourself from your own perspective when analyzing events, you could make rational decisions. It also lets you detach yourself from emotional situations, thereby helping you cope with all the negative emotions.