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I Think, Therefore I Am
by Marie T. Russell
In the 17th century, the French philosopher René Descartes came up with the "explanation for it all": "I think, therefore I am". I remember this statement being the source of debates in philosophy classes. It was the existential "which came first" story… the chicken or the egg.
Years later, I feel that his statement really is a fill-in-the-blanks statement. "I think _________, therefore I am _____________." In other words, "I think I am angry, therefore I am angry." "I think I am tired, therefore I am tired." "I think I am busy, therefore I am busy."
Now before your mind starts objecting to these statements, let's take a closer look. Maybe an example from my life might help explain. This morning as I got up, I thought about all the things I have to do today, and realized it's going to be a very busy day. So my thought was something like "I have too much to do today." I then thought about my garden and how I like to take a stroll through the garden in the morning and check out the new growth, and see who needs watering. My next thought, of course, since the previous thought had been about being too busy, was that I had no time to take a walk in the garden this morning since I had "too much to do".
So let's go back to Descartes and fill in the blanks. I think I am too busy, therefore I am too busy. So the usual conclusion to this thought is I'm too busy to go into the garden this morning… thus I don't go. [I think I am too busy to go into the garden, therefore I am too busy to go into the garden.] (However, I've been working on this programming for a while, so I overrode it, and went into the garden anyway... and it was a lovely peaceful time for me before starting my "busy" day.)
Another example? Ok. Someone says something to me that I consider insulting or hurtful. Let's go back to our fill in the blanks. I think I am insulted, therefore I am insulted. Now, I do have another alternative in how I "fill in the blanks". I think I am amused, therefore I am amused. Whichever thought I choose is the one that carries over into the "I AM".
If I choose to think someone has insulted me, then I am insulted. If I choose to think I am afraid, then I am afraid. If I choose to think I am impatient, then I am impatient. On the other side, if I choose to think I am at peace, then I am at peace (or at least headed in that direction).
I suggest you try this. Next time you find yourself feeling upset with someone (I think I am upset, therefore I am upset), replace that thought with, "I think I am at peace, therefore I am at peace". Of course, this is not a magic pill that instantly will change your reality (it might in some cases, but in others it may take a while). What it will do is change your perception of the situation. All of a sudden, it places you on the outside of your attitudes, "looking at them" rather than "being them". You, as the observer, can stand back and see "you" the "action figure" (or the actor if you will) choosing to play the role of "I am upset", "I am angry", "I am at peace", "I am too busy", "I am hurt", etc.
Once you start saying "I think I am at peace, therefore I am at peace" something shifts. It lets you see that there is another option. You are not cemented into your reactions -- they are a choice, even though we've often overlooked the fact that we had a choice. Saying I am at peace, (even if we don't feel it in the moment) helps shift our attitude from upset and anger, to a focus on choosing inner peace.
When you hear someone saying negative comments about you, your automatic programmed response may be "I am upset" (I think I am upset, therefore I am upset). However, in that moment, or in the moments following it, you can change that to "I think I am able to let that go, therefore I am able to let that go."
First the thought, then the action. It's always been that way. Everything starts with a thought. Even conception starts with a thought. You first think about doing something and then do it (or decide not to do it). All inventions started with a thought. Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb without first having a thought (or many thoughts) about it.
The thoughts always precede the actions. Thus the importance of "managing" our thoughts and not let them run rampant. They are not the "directors" of our show. They are simply the precursors to action. So if you don't like the direction your life is taking, or your day, or a particular interaction, take a look at your thoughts. Maybe you're thinking "this situation stinks". Take that thought back to our "fill-in-the-blanks". I think this situation stinks, therefore this situation stinks.
The problem is that once you think a situation is hopeless, then you give up on it and do nothing… after all if it's hopeless, there is nothing you can do. Right? Wrong! It is only your belief, your thought, that says it is hopeless. There is always hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. Even in situations as tragic as the Middle East, while there is still life, there is still hope.
We have to change our thoughts about the possibilities, about the process, about our options, about the solutions. We have to think outside of the box of our habitual programmed thinking. If your thought is "this is hopeless", or there are no solutions to this, then think again. I think there is no solution, needs to be replaced with I think there is a solution. At least then we are open to there being a solution and the possibility of finding it.
Anytime we are thinking ourselves into a dead-end, like I'm too busy, I have no time, I have no solution to this, etc. etc, its time to change our thinking. If I think I'm too busy, then I remain too busy to take time for anything other than the "busy-ness". If I think I have no answer to the problems that plague me, then I do not open the door for solutions to come in.
A great example of this is when you say you can't remember something… Try this next time: Instead of saying: "I can't remember" [I think I am not able to remember, therefore I am not able to remember.], say "I am remembering". [I think I am remembering, therefore I am remembering.] What this does is, for one, tell your subconscious mind to keep looking for that answer, and two, keeps the door open to the answer coming through. If you keep saying I can't remember, well guess what, your subconscious goes, "ok, can't remember", and it goes off to lunch and stops trying to remember. End of story. On the other hand, if you say "I am remembering" it will stay "on duty" until it finds the memory you're asking for.
In the same way if you're searching for the solutions to a problem, if you say to yourself "I don't know what to do", [I think I am unable to find an answer, therefore I am unable to find an answer] there again you've closed the door to the answer coming through. Saying "I am able to find the answer" opens the gate wide for the answers to come to you.
We can replace those dead-end thoughts and statements with some that leave the door open for solutions. "I think I am able to discover the answer, therefore I am able to discover the answer." "I think I am capable of finding a solution, therefore I am capable of finding a solution."
Now some of you might be saying this is simplistic. Well, yes it is, and that's the beauty of it. We humans seem to have a tendency to complicate things, when things really are simple… First a thought, then an action. First a belief, then a consequence of that belief. A thought, then a result to that thought (action or inaction). I think _________, therefore I am __________.
We have disempowered ourselves by thinking "small thoughts" or dead-end thoughts… thoughts fueled by low self-esteem, images of unattainable goals (to be like the "slimmer-than-life" model on TV), and thoughts rampant with self-criticism (or criticism of others). Thoughts that are self-defeating… [I think I am a failure, therefore…. I think I am not smart enough, therefore… I think I am unattractive, therefore…I think I can't do this, therefore...] The belief or thought we have sets the tone for our actions, for the life we create.
If there's one thing that can change our lives, it's to change the nature of our thoughts, of our beliefs. We are not powerless. We are powerful beyond measure. "I think I am ______________, therefore I am ____________". It's up to us to fill in the blanks with the reality we desire, not the one we don't. We can change our reality. We can make a difference in our lives and in the lives of the people around us and in the world.
We can be like the little engine that could: "I think I can, I think I can"… therefore we can. It's really up to us… no one can change our life except us… That's great because it means we don't have to wait for anyone else to change or to do anything. We have the power in our own hands to change our life, our reality, our world. "I think I can, I think I can…" and then take the next step and go for it…
About The Author
T. Russell is the publisher of InnerSelf Magazine (first
published in 1985 as Mighty Natural Magazine). She produced a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner
Power, from 1991-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem,
personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and
reconnecting with our inner source of joy and creativity.
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Complete list of Marie T. Russell's articles.
Behavior, Happiness, Self-Help