Passengers on a bus

French author, Céline, experiences his own version of the famous ‘passengers on the bus’ metaphor used in acceptance and commitment therapy.

Celine Castle to Castle

When I think of the people I hear talking politics, I can see them in a bus…a real bus! with real gratings, jam-pcked with criminals like you!…not criminals à la Charlie Chaplin! honest to God criminals with handguns and straitjackets! guarded by a dozen Tommy guns…what a show!…the passersby weave and waver, cling to the shopfronts…for fear this might happen to them…their consciences quake! scared shitless!…memories…it’s a rare passerby that hasn’t got a little abortion tucked away…a little theft…nothing to be ashamed of! the only thing to be ashamed of is poverty! the one and only! Take me, for instance, no car, a doctor on foot! what do I look like?…’

Céline. (1957). Castle to Castle (French Literature). (R. Manheim, Trans.) Dalkey Archive.

‘The bus metaphor casts the relationship between a person and thoughts or feelings the way one might cast a social relationship between a person and bullies. This reframe is useful as a motivative augmental in seeking freedom from literal language. Some of our past efforts to gain social independence can be used to stimulate a similar independence from the hegemony of our own verbal systems: our own minds. However limited our social independence is, independence from our minds is usually much less. This makes sense in another way inasmuch as the source of verbal relations, after all, is dominantly social and external in any case (What are the numbers?). The bus metaphor also nicely structures how the illusion of language works and what the cost is in terms of loss of life direction.’

Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, & Kelly G. Wilson. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change

In touch with the present moment

Scottish poet, Robert Burns, envies a mouse for its ability to live in the now.

Robert Burns, mindful even in the 18th century.
Robert Burns, mindful even in the 18th century.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!’

Robert Burns: To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough, 1785.

‘We can judge ourselves and find ourselves to be wanting; we can imagine ideals and find the present to be unacceptable by comparison; we can reconstruct the past; we can worry about imagined futures; we can suffer with the knowledge that we will die.’

Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, & Kelly G. Wilson. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change