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Picking Up and
Putting Down the Story

Carrying the Story is an ACT practice that can help us to gain flexibility in unhooking from stories that our mind keeps telling us.


How to Do It

Carrying the Story

Naming the Story

  • Get a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Write down thoughts that are coming up as part of the story.
  • Keep writing judgments and rules, thoughts about past and future, reasons you give yourself, and beliefs about yourself, others and the world.
  • Once you feel complete, turn the page around.
  • Imagine the thoughts you have written down as a movie, the story being performed. What would its title be?
  • Write the name of the story in big, bold letters on the back of the paper.
  • For example, you might experience thoughts, “Get going!” or “Don’t be so lazy.” and call the story “The Slavedriver’s Whip”

Practice Unhooking

  • Whenever a thought from the story comes up, notice and name it.
  • It’s absolutely normal that the mind produces that thought.
  • Say to yourself, “I’m noticing I’m having the thought that…”
  • Tell yourself, “Ohh, there is the … story again. Thank you, mind!”
  • For example, if you notice the thought “Get at it!”, you’d tell yourself, “Ohh, there is the Slavedriver’s Whip story again. Thank you, mind!”

Carrying the Story

  • Fold the page with the thoughts and the story title into a smaller format.
  • Put it into your wallet or your cellphone case.
  • Carry it with you every day.


  • Several times a day, take out the story: unfold the piece of paper.
  • Read the thoughts on one side and be willing to feel their impact.
  • Practice reading them “I notice I’m having the thought that…” followed by “Ohhh, there is the … story again. Thank you mind.”
  • Once this is complete, put the story down again. Fold the piece of paper once more and put it back into its place.
  • Keep carrying the story like this for two or three weeks.

If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again.

Groucho Marx

Taking Good Care of Yourself

  • If the thoughts of the story are too activating for you, ground yourself with practices such as Dropping Anchor.
  • Make sure that you are willing to allow the experience that is already there. This is not meant as a distraction or avoidance exercise.
  • It is normal that the mind comes up with thoughts of the story; that’s its job.
  • The purpose of this practice is to put these thoughts in a new context and to reduce their impact on your life.

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