ACT and Thinkers and Thoughts


Q:  How can I develop a better relationship with my thoughts?

A:  Remember, you are the thinker not the thought.

If we needed reminding that, “We are the Thinker, not the Thought”, then Rodin’s wonderful sculpture, “The Thinker”, should do the trick!

When I first discovered ACT I can remember the Tutor saying this to the group, and at the time I did not get it at all.

I was so fused with my stories, with my thoughts, that I couldn’t understand that my thoughts weren’t necessarily true, not necessarily very important even.  To me my thoughts were very definitely true and important.  I was thinking them and so they must be!  I took my thoughts very seriously.

It took a long time for me to come to grips with the idea of a distinction between me, the Thinker, and the thoughts that I created.

These are not easy concepts and at times I still fuse with my thoughts and stories.  When I do that I know that I am in trouble.  That’s when the Thought Defusion Techniques of ACT are so important.

I wrote “THE THINKER NOT THE THOUGHT” to remind me not to take my thoughts so seriously.


  • Do you take your thoughts too seriously?
  • Can you make a distinction between The Thinker and the Thought?
  • What can you share that might be of help to others?

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.





Let’s remember it’s our thinking causes problems, that’s a fact,

But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking thoughts we think are facts,

For they are only our imaginings, and every mind will know

It’s the thinker not the thoughts themselves that really run the show.

It’s so easy to confuse it, to believe our thoughts are true,

But they’re only bits of language, strings of words just passing through,

And it helps if we can label them, these stories we conceive,

Until they lose a bit of impact, we’re becoming less naïve.

For when we see ourselves as thinkers we’re less likely to succumb

To the thoughts that we are thinking, we can watch them as they come

And then go, if we will let them, just like leaves upon a stream,

And we’re not caught up in their eddies, we know thoughts aren’t all they seem.

So we can choose to treat them differently, detach as they float by

For now we have a fresh perspective with our skilful thinker’s eye,

And we are free to spring the thinking trap in which we once were caught

Because we’ve stumbled on the secret, we’re the thinker not the thought.

© Corinne Shields, 2015

 If you enjoyed, “THE THINKER NOT THE THOUGHT” please pass it on, and do leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.

And just before you go …..

A final word from ACT …..

Moving on from the Thinker and the Thought , ACT also introduces the concepts of the Thinking Self and the Observer Self.  These are not easy concepts to understand, and yet they lie at the heart of ACT.

This is the explanation that Oliver, Hill and Morris give in their book:

“In ACT, we talk about our “Thinking Self”, Self as Content,  and our “Observing Self”, Self as Context.  The Thinking Self is that constant stream of thoughts and images that runs through our minds, almost every moment we are awake; the Observing Self is the place from which we notice all that mind-stuff, as well as every other part of our experience – both the world inside us and the world outside.”

There are different metaphors that ACT uses to try to convey the distinction.  The leaves on the stream, the waves on the sea, the clouds floating across the sky.

When we can see our thoughts as bits of content passing through we will not be so attached to them.   We will be able to stand back and watch them come and go without getting so worked up.

Just as the stream is not bothered by a few leaves or the sea pays little attention to the antics of a few waves or the sky does not get into a lather about a few clouds, we too can be more relaxed about a few thoughts.  We are bigger than our thoughts.  We are the stream, the sea, the sky.  We are Self as Context.

If you want to find out more about Self as Context then check out Russ Harris’ book

Product Details

This is a brilliant book from one of the leading trainers and authors of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Russ Harris has the knack of making even complex concepts seem simple and understandable.  A great read for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.

ACTivation Point!

SO ……………………….

How about YOU?

What can YOU do just for today to ACTivate your life?

 Just for today I will ………………………

If you have read this far, please do leave your comments. How is ACT helping you?

I am a student of ACT.  I am on a journey.  I would love you to join me.

With all good wishes


Published by

Corinne Shields

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, erstwhile teacher for thirty plus years, and permanent student. I have long been interested in psychology and spirituality and enjoy writing inspirational poetry. Hence the publication of this blog at ACT Made I play golf badly, piano a little better and I love reading, writing, and all things French. I divide my time between Wales and France and enjoy travelling with my husband, Len and my dog Charlie.

7 thoughts on “ACT and Thinkers and Thoughts”

  1. I love this poem and also the message it sends. I remember you telling me this when I was at my lowest last year and whenever my thoughts take me over and I start to fret about things which might never happen and are simply thoughts created in my mind, not necessarily definites, I always remind myself of this. And now I have a lovely poem to refer to. I shall print it off and put it somewhere prominent to keep reminding myself. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean! I found it really difficult to accept that my thoughts were not the gospel truth. They seemed so convincing! But I know now to treat them with more caution. ACT is not so bothered about whether they are true or not anyway. It is whether they are helpful or not which is of most interest. That is easier to decide!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I came to ACT via CBT too. ACT is also part of The CBT tradition and for me I was quite resistant towards ACT to begin with. I didn’t want to learn about something different but for me it was too seductive. It resonated with things I had learned many years earlier and it just felt right for me. The initial resistance soon faded, the Serenity Prayer kicked in along with the Mindfulness that I had been practicing and that was it for me. A matter of timing perhaps.


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