GLOSSARY: Observing Self

In everyday language, we talk about the “mind” without recognizing that there are two distinct elements to it: the thinking self and the observing self. We’re all very familiar with the thinking self: that part of us which is always thinking—generating thoughts, beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies, plans, and so on. But most people are unfamiliar with the observing self: the aspect of us that is aware of whatever we’re thinking, feeling, sensing, or doing in any moment. Another term for it is “pure awareness.” In ACT, the technical term is self-as-context. For example, as you go through life, your body changes, your thoughts change, your feelings change, your roles change, but the “you” that’s able to notice or observe all those things never changes. It’s the same “you” that’s been there your whole life. With clients, we generally refer to it as “the observing self” rather than use the technical term “self-as-context.”

SOURCE: Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple: An easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

← Back to Glossary