I Think, Therefore I Am ... So What Are You Thinking?

I Think, Therefore I Am ... So What Are You Thinking?

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 formula. "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.

The other morning as I got up, I thought about all the things I had to do during the day, and realized it was 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 that morning since I had "too much to do".

So let's go back to our Descartes "formula" 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, since I've been working on this programming for a while, I overrode it that limiting belief, 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".

 Get The Latest From InnerSelf

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).

Try This Practice: Search & Replace

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 other cases 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.

Thoughts Precede Actions

When you hear someone saying negative comments about you, or to 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.

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. Hmmm... New thought, anyone?

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 tragic situations, while there is still life, there is still hope.

Thinking Outside The Box of Our Programs

We have to change our thoughts about the possibilities, about the process, about our options, about the solutions. We have to think outside 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. This also opens the door to our intuition or inner guidance to provide us with the suggestion of a solution.

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 "Let me remember this" or "It's coming to me". [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 "Let me see, what is it?" it will stay "on duty" until it finds the memory you're asking for.

Leaving The Door Open For Solutions

In the same way if you're searching for the solution 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 __________.

Changing the Nature of Our Life

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. To quote Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

"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. Go ahead! Say it: "I think I can, I think I can" and then take the next step and go for it.

Recommended Book:

The Power of Peace in You: A Revolutionary Tool for Hope, Healing, & Happiness in the 21st Century by Marlise Karlin.The Power of Peace in You: A Revolutionary Tool for Hope, Healing, & Happiness in the 21st Century
by Marlise Karlin.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email



The Day Of Reckoning Has Come For The GOP
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
The Republican party is no longer a pro-America political party. It is an illegitimate pseudo-political party full of radicals and reactionaries whose stated goal is to disrupt, destabilize, and…
Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Updated July 2, 20020 - This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die…
Blue-Eyes vs Brown Eyes: How Racism is Taught
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
In this 1992 Oprah Show episode, award-winning anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott taught the audience a tough lesson about racism by demonstrating just how easy it is to learn prejudice.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
(May 30, 2020) As I watch the news on the events in Philadephia and other cities in the country, my heart aches for what is transpiring. I know that this is part of the greater change that is taking…
A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…