The Problem With Language | Acceptance Commitment Therapy

Not too long ago, perhaps a couple hundred thousand years, an obscure primate species called “human” learned a new trick. We learned to relate events arbitrarily–we learned to have one thing stand for another. We acquired symbolic thought.

We’ve been bossed around ever since…

The comedian Emo Philips has a saying that captures the situation we are in: “I used to think my mind was my most important organ. Then I noticed which organ was telling me that.”

The human mind is arrogant beyond belief. Because our minds can talk about anything, and this organ between our ears thinks it knows everything. Our logical, analytical, predictive, problem-solving mind knows how to live, knows how to love, and knows how to be at peace.


Language and cognition sit on top of vast amounts of experiential, social, evolutionary, and spiritual knowledge. It claims it all, merely because symbols can refer to such knowledge (to a degree) and guide it (to a degree). It is such a powerful illusion — this thin veneer of symbolic thought claiming unto itself substance and power it simply does not have. Our mind’s claims are the metaphorical equivalent of paint claiming to be the house it covers.