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You are not your thoughts

Every human has thoughts. Some we like, some we don’t, some we feel shameful of, some we feel proud of.

Thoughts are one of the ways we experience language. Language is all about association. As a small child you may have been shown a picture of shiny red fruit and learnt it was called “an apple”. From that moment you related to that object in a different way.

Our brains are clever things

But we can also make associations we’re not taught. We also relate to ourselves in various ways through language. You might have some language you’re uncomfortable with, some that you feel more ok with. We all have these various labels in our libraries of “self”.

We can sometimes think things like:

“I’m stupid”
“I’m not good enough”
“I’m ugly”

These are associations: I = stupid, not good enough, ugly.

We can also think things like:

“I’m popular with my friends”
“I’m loved by my children”
“I’m good at maths”

These are also associations: I = popular, loved, good at things

Do either of these associations sum you up? Are they the whole of you? Are you the only one who has this mixed bag of titles in your library?

You’re not. Humans make associations, including associations through language. We have a commonality in being human – we all have thoughts, and none of us are our thoughts. They are something we experience.

Fuse and defuse

How we relate to these thoughts effects our experiences of ourselves and the behaviour we have access to, or have the ability to do.

Fusing with thoughts means we “become” them. We live as if we are our thoughts, we live those thoughts, embody them.

Defusing with thoughts means we observe the experience of having those thoughts. They are part of being human, they are part of us, but they are not us.

Look up at the sky. What can you see? Hopefully some blue sky (notice that association, blue sky = good), maybe some clouds, a plane, even a hot air balloon. Now…is the sky those things? Is the sky clouds, a plane, a hot air balloon?

The sky is the sky, the clouds, the plane, the hot air balloon. This is fusion.

The sky is the sky. The sky also has things in it. This is defusion.

Now the question is, how do we defuse?


  1. Take a moment. Pause. Breathe and focus on that experience of air entering your lungs, travelling down to your diaphragm and coming out as your lungs deflate.

  2. Notice the stream of thoughts entering your mind. It is just that: a stream. As if you’re observing a babbling brook. There are leaves, sticks, stones that float down the stream.

  3. Now connect with your physical being. Notice any tension or discomfort. Bring a gentle kindness to this experience. Perhaps place a hand on your body where you feel it.

  4. This is being human. Bring to your mind the wisdom that we are all human, we all have experiences for good and bad, and we all experience an inner monologue.

  5. Focus now on the compassion you bring to all those other human beings. An open, gentle, kindness for the wellbeing of others. You are one of those humans. Bring to yourself an open, gentle, kind compassion.

You are not your thoughts.

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