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You Are Not Your Thoughts: What That Means and Why It’s True

Amber Murphy

“You are your thoughts.” We have all heard of this saying at least once in our lifetime. Sadly, some of us have even believed it and let it majorly affect us and our mental health. If you are one of these people, stop right there, and read this post. The truth is that you are not your thoughts.

The following information will not only stop you from troubling yourself constantly but also help you solve the problems you’re having while managing your thoughts. And even if you think you don’t need any help with that, believe me, you do.

“You are your thoughts”

Who said it?

Sigmund Freud, a well-known Austrian neurologist famous for his clinical methods, developed the idea that human behavior was relevant to the unconscious mind.

The logic behind this concept was more profound than you think it is. He stated that being conscious means being aware of your surroundings and internal environment. It means that you know what is going on inside your head. On the other hand, the subconscious mind refers to the processes in your brain that you are unaware of. Freud suggested that we push back our unwanted thoughts and painful memories into the unconscious part of our mind to avoid dealing with them.

He concluded that the repressed thoughts and memories made their way out through physical actions and behaviors, confirming that you are your thoughts.

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What does it mean?

To be more elaborate, the theory implies that your physical actions are a representation of your mind and vice versa. It means that the thoughts that cross your mind predict your actions and paint an accurate picture of the kind of person you are.

It also means that the thoughts you have send off a relevant vibe and attract the same kind of energy. It implies that you are a signal, a beacon of the exact energy that goes through your mind.

How true is it?

While the theory is backed up by logical reasons, which make it very believable, it is not as true as you think it is. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other neurological experts have denied their agreement with this concept. According to them, you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are merely objects of the mind. Just like sounds, perceptions, feelings, and ideas. Through their perspective, thoughts are nothing but passing clouds, and there is nothing you should take personally about them. Let them pass so you don’t feel anxious. That is all you should do.

“You are not your thoughts”

Why you are not your thoughts

To prove the incorrectness of the statement, the following are some of the major reasons that experts around the world have given in their defense. These are scientifically proven opinions and logically backed up facts that show that you are not your thoughts.

You don’t always act on your thoughts

We, as human beings, have hundreds and thousands of thoughts every day. But do we act on all of them? No. Consider yourself sitting in a restaurant, looking at the food on other people’s tables. You are hungry, and you are tempted to eat that food. But do you? (Hopefully) No, you don’t.

Stacey Kuhl, a psychotherapist, defends this argument by stating that she has many bizarre thoughts all day long. According to her, people overthink their thoughts. As mentioned earlier, they are just clouds floating by. Let them pass and move on from them.
Internal imbalances can be a cause.

Diseases such as depression, cancer, other chronic conditions, and traumatic incidents of brain injury and concussions can lead to odd and unusual thoughts. These are a sudden occurrence and have not been there forever. They are a pathological response to your underlying ongoing illness. Hence, they are not a part of your actual personality. They do not define who you are. They are merely the body’s response to stress and sickness.

They change with age and environment

An 8-year old going to school will not have the same thoughts that a 31-year old in an office will. This means that your mind keep changing according to your physical and mental development. This also means that you are more likely to change these thoughts over time, though your subconscious remains similar. Your old, repressed thoughts and traumatic memories are still there. And yet, you are evolving. If you were your thoughts, this would not be possible. You would remain the same kind of person that you were in your childhood and have the same type of thoughts over and over again.

So, what are your thoughts then?

According to its literal definition, thought is merely an idea or opinion created by your mind. It is sudden and spontaneous and has no particular origin whatsoever. It is safe to say that thoughts are just your mind making up random scenarios in your head, right? Hence, these are not real. Your thoughts are not real. They are just an idea that your mind presented to you most probably due to an external stimulus.

Your thoughts are just as real as you make them. The more attention you give to a thought, the more elaborate it becomes. The bigger you make it, the more it will affect you.

For example, if you randomly have a thought about eating ice cream, it will last only a second, and then pass by. However, if you stop and grab that thought, ponder hard on it and overthink it, you will crave ice cream. Understand?

What is the importance of realizing it?

Knowing and understanding that you are not what your thoughts are vital to living a peaceful, stress-free life. Overthinking your own thoughts can and has led to worsening mental conditions become so bad that they show up as physical symptoms. Increasing agony and frustration can lead to potentially irreversible damage as well. The sooner you realize that your thoughts are not a big deal, you will stop taking them so seriously and move on. Thus, the rest of your day, and hopefully your life, will be much more comfortable and happy. It’s normal to have constant and persistent thoughts, you’re going to be okay!

Furthermore, acknowledging that you are not your thoughts creates a wall between the stimuli you give and the response you give in return. It will make it easier for you to manage your negative thoughts and flashbacks the next time they occur. You will be able to handle them appropriately and avoid any adverse effects on you and your mental health.

Such is also the case with people who have suicidal thoughts. These people need to understand that such thoughts and ideas come from an underlying problem and not from their actual minds. Acknowledging this will help them look for appropriate help rather than implementing their thoughts.

How should you deal with your thoughts?

Yes, thoughts are manageable. You can control them. Besides, you are the boss.

The easiest way to manage your thoughts and deal with them appropriately is to understand where they are coming from. Here, self-education and self-reflection play a considerable role. It can help you learn how to calm the mind.

Do your research and try your best to understand the human mind. Figure out how it works and why your thoughts are occurring as they are. Whether you had a severe fight with a colleague or shifted to a new place in a different town, environments and events can significantly impact your thought processes. They also affect your conscious and subconscious mind.

Similarly, if you have a known disease or condition, learn more about it. The chances are that your unusual thoughts come from either the disease itself or as a side effect of the medications you are taking.

Knowing the origin of your thoughts will help you realize the actual problem and figure out how to manage it.

Identify your thoughts and accept them

If you think your subconscious mind is sending you signals, use your conscious mind to be aware of these thoughts and identify them correctly. Accept them. This does not mean that you believe your thoughts and let them have their effect on you. Instead, it means that you consciously realize that you are having these thoughts and acknowledge them as they are without trying to change them. This approach is the best out of all and has the most long-lasting effect if done correctly.


Various psychological exercises are implemented as part of behavioral therapy. One of these is a 3-minute exercise to control your emotions and thoughts. It involves sitting back and visualizing your thoughts as clouds over your head. All you have to do is let them pass over you. There is no reason to push them away or try to grab them. Simply see them float and move on from cloud to cloud.

Mindfulness meditation is also a very helpful practice that can help you learn how to get out of your head.

Your turn

Even though Sigmund Freud made a believable statement backed up by logic, over the past years, the concept has been denied by experts worldwide. Thus, people who consider it to be true should stop damaging their physical and mental health because of this misconception. The information, tips, and tricks will hopefully help you do just that.

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