Defusion Techniques for Pistol Shooters

One of the helpful techniques I’ve learned with Paul Hughes’ 4R mental training course (interview here) is the defusion technique from ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). When we are shooting (and in many other areas of life) we are going to have thoughts and emotions we cannot control, they just pop up and start playing with our minds. What we can do (this is the core of ACT defusion) is change how we relate to them, so that we can reduce their impact.

This has been a life saver.

When I was training and competing I had a lot of unhelpful thoughts and emotions that took hold of my attention and impacted my performance and the enjoyment of shooting (to the point of wanting to run away crying). There was a fusion with those thoughts, which stopped me from being able to see what was really happening, like if I put my hands in front of my eyes.

With just a few of these defusion exercises I’ve managed to separate and detach myself from these thoughts and have a much better experience shooting, which has helped with results and training (I want to train more!). And now those unhelpful thoughts arise left often and with less strength.

Defusion exercises

These are just a few of the available defusion skills. You can find a lot more by searching online but you don’t have to use them all: take the ones that work for you and use them while you are shooting and in any other situation that you think they may be helpful.


When you realize you are having a thought that is not helpful at that precise moment, just tell yourself “I’ve noticed that I’m thinking about…” and then go back to what you want to do saying “… now I choose to focus on this shot”.

Having the thought

Whatever you are thinking about, rephrase it as “I’m having the thought that…”.

Thanking your brain

Every time you have an unhelpful thought, thank your brain for the interesting thought, or the creativity, or the fact that it keeps on working for you.

Same old story

When you have a recurring unhelpful thought, just tell yourself that it is the same old story, like if it was a bad movie: “here comes the XX story again”.

Silly voice or singing

Repeat the same thought in your head or out loud with a silly voice multiple times, or sing it! This will make it loose importance and make us be more detached from it.

Thoughts in the bus

Your mind is a bus that you are driving, full of passenger thoughts. Their noise does not stop you from driving, let them shout and focus on the bus.


When a mean unhelpful thought shows up think of it as a bully and disregard it because it is not true, it is just a bully being mean.

Leaves floating down the river

This one comes up in some meditations: you imagine a river with leaves floating downstream. Take your unhelpful thoughts and emotions, put them each in a leave and watch them float away.

The tunnel

These thoughts and feelings may be making us anxious or worried but they will pass. Remember that there’s an exit on the other side of the tunnel and that you will reach it.

Name your brain

Treat your mind as a different person, give it a name and listen to it as you would listen to somebody else. It is not yourself.

Which defusion exercise is most helpful to you?

Published by ramonsuarez

Pistol shooter practicing mostly the Olympic & ISSF events, learning and sharing along the way. #10mairpistol #25mpistol #50mpistol #rfp #rapidfirepistol #issfpistol #olympicpistol

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