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Dolphin Thoughts

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Dolphin thoughts are simple way to remind yourself that thoughts are just that, thoughts! They can also help you assess a thought's value, rather than determining its validity.

A group of dolphins swimming in the ocean pointing away from the camera in a black and white photograph

A client and myself are currently reading "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris. In his book Dr. Harris provides the reader with a potentially new perspective on looking at your thoughts in which he calls defusion. He explains that in reality thoughts are just stories and stories can be true, elaborated, literally made up, or a little bit of all of these. He encourages the reader to consider this whenever they have a thought pop up, especially those that seem particularly distressing or unhelpful, as it can allow you to relate to your thoughts in a new way.

Black and white photograph of two dolphins close up in the ocean. other dolphins present behind them

This practice reminds me of something that I often call dolphin thoughts with my patients. In a similar way, I do my best to explain to patients that I could think all day and every day, "I'm a dolphin, I'm a dolphin, I'm a dolphin" and while I am having a very real thought, it's certainly not the truth, never will be true, and it is not particularly helpful in getting me where or who I want to be.

The dolphin thought practice, and the one described by Dr. Harris, is helpful when someone is having thoughts such as "I can't do it", "I'm not good enough", "I can't handle this", and so on and so forth. This practice simply asks the individual, not to determine the truth of the thought but rather considering, "is this helpful in getting me where I want to be?". And reminding yourself "I'm a dolphin" can be sort of a silly way of recognizing the thought, creating distance from it, and then getting to the point of asking yourself, "is this helpful to pay attention to?".

Nothing on this blog should be taken as replacement for medical, clinical, or professional advice or intervention. All content is for educational purposes only.

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