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Sometimes getting a bit of perspective can be difficult, particularly if you’re immersed in a tricky situation where there are a lot of emotions and moving pieces in play. To help out — and give you some distance from your own situation in order to get a more complete view — researchers Ethan Kross and Ozlem Ayduk developed a psychological hack called “self-distancing.” It’s a technique that has gained a lot of popularity, both for its simplicity and for its positive effect.

Kross and Ayduk summed up their idea in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology in 2016, explaining that self-distancing is meant to “allow people to ‘take a step back’ from their experience so that they could work-through it more effectively.” They added: “We likened this process to the experience of seeking out a friend’s counsel on a difficult problem. Whereas it is often challenging for the person experiencing a personal dilemma to reason objectively about their own circumstances, friends are often uniquely capable of providing sage advice because they’re not involved in the experience — they are psychologically removed from the event.”

In other words, it’s like taking a view of your own problems and relationships as if you’re seeing them through different eyes — eyes that aren’t necessarily disinterested, but are definitely less entangled in the moment. And, interestingly, a lot of research has found that self-distancing can be very helpful for dealing with challenging emotions, complicated situations, or difficult decisions.

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