In 1637 René Descartes published his Discourse on the Method in French stating in Latin, Cogito, ergo sum which roughly translates as I think, therefore I am. And ever since I first came across the phrase whilst studying philosophy at Uni, I’ve had a problem with it. It’s always felt as if it’s a bit itchy or scratchy, niggling away in the back of my mind that something about it wasn’t quite right.
Then, back in the mid 1990’s Louise L Hay’s book ‘You can heal your life’ was recommended when I was going through a particularly tough few years physically and mentally. That was the start of a conscious journey that lead me to the present moment. Throughout that journey, Descarte’s statement has sat at the back of my mind as a constant sense that it held a key that would unlock a completely different world.
More recently, after being introduced to the work of Syd Banks I came to a better understanding about how my mind works and things started to shift. It felt miraculous in some ways as long held behaviours that I had previously thought were ‘me’ were tipped up and shaken out, showing that they were habits I had simply grown used to.
And it has slowly dawned on me that this simple statement held a fundamental truth, but it was misaligned and that it is not that the thinking creates me, rather I am here and a part of my experience of this life is that I think. To think is not the precursor to life, it is simply one part of being human. To me, it now makes more sense to switch the assumption around so that I am becomes the primary, life creating, affirming statement, and therefore I think reminds me that this is something I do because I am.
You may be wondering why it’s important to make the distinction and how might just a few words in a different order create change and that’s summed up in something a client said about the work we did together. She said I had pointed out to her that she was looking at the world through the wrong end of the telescope and that it would help if she turned it round.
And I suppose that’s what recognising the phrase didn’t work did for me too. I was looking at the world the wrong way round. I assumed my thoughts were real, that every time someone said or did something I didn’t like; or something happened that hurt me and mine, that it was a deliberate act. I now realise that things happen and that recognising that I am in those moments of challenge allows me to step back and see events for what they are, rather than what I think they are. I am more present to the now and as a result am able to respond when I need to in ways that are both healthy and appropriate, rather than reacting as if everything is a persnal attack.
I’d like to pose a question to you, the reader. I’d love to know what happens when you consider both statements below. Does one make more sense than the other and if so why?
- I think, therefore I am
- I am, therefore I think