Does Setting Free the Bears have to do with autism?

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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The only book that I am aware of connected to autism titled Setting Free the Bears is the book Setting Free the Bears: Escape from Thought Suppression by Daniel Wegner,  Ph.D.  However, the book is connected to the obsessive-compulsive thought process and not directly about autism.  Some people living with autism may experience obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors.  Another book exists that is under the title Setting Free the Bears.  The story is about two Vietnamese college students living in 1967, who go on a journey. They want to let the bears free in the Vienna Zoo.  The book is by John Irving. 

Perhaps the book Setting Free the Bears: Escape from Thought Suppression is the correct book you are seeking. The book is based on studies by Wegner.  Wegner theorized that if a person is instructed not to think about a white bear, the individual is more likely to think about the white bear.  He used his theories to assist people who experience obsessive-compulsive disorder to re-train their brain to move away from an obsessive thought.

“So “white bears” have come to mean all sorts of unwanted thoughts that cause annoyance to even extreme frustration to those who experience them, particularly in conditions along the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.”

Wegner applied focused distraction by having a person who begins to think of the white bear, replace the thought by thinking about a different colored object.  The idea was to train the brain to replace obsessive thoughts with more comfortable thoughts. The use of thought postponement could be applied to help an individual eliminate a repetitive thought for a period by using the white bear as an example of the idea that one wants to eradicate.  By replacing the white bear with a different idea, the person could temporarily remove the obsessive thought. 

In mental health, Wegner’s ideas became an acceptable use of therapy to assist individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder to replace some of the thoughts that repeatedly stream through their mind causing them stress and anxiety.  For example; a person who has an obsessive thought that he or she did not turn off the stove may have to return to the stove many times to check if the oven is turned off.  The person checks the stove, sees that it is turned off, walks away, and then the thought reenters their brain, and the person engages in the cycle again.  By using his techniques, he tried to assist people in retraining the brain to release the thoughts so that he or she could progress toward a more normal life.

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