The French philosopher, Rene Descartes is famous for the proposition, “Je pense, donc je suis”. In Latin, it is translated as “Cogito ergo sum”. And in English, we know this popular phrase as “I think, therefore I am”. This statement serves as the foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. It implies that while other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception, or mistake, the very act of doubting one’s own existence served as proof of the reality of one’s own mind; there must be a thinking entity (or self) for there to be thought. But, REBT expounds upon Descartes’ statement even further. “I Think Therefore I Am” would need an additional statement or two according to REBT terms such as, “I Repeat (rational beliefs), Therefore I Believe”, and “I Believe, Therefore I Exist” (in rational terms). And once you believe, doubt is either decreased or eliminated.
These statements can be utilized in REBT in multiple ways. For instance, many clients and some of us ponder, “What is the meaning of life?” or better yet, they may really mean, “What is the meaning of my life?” The answer may be as simple as, “The meaning of your life is whatever you ascribe it to be.” Or, if you are over-thinking, over-analyzing or worrying about this query, you aren’t really living in the moment or enjoying life, as the meaning is being wasted or washed out. You could try being mindful and being more present in the moment to derive pleasure from little or all things once overlooked, thereby acquiring deeper or different insight into life and existence.
In another vein, we see on a daily basis how the weight of our thoughts have influence over our beliefs (irrational and rational) about ourselves, others, life, and the world. We may think, “I feel like a big loser”, when we mean to say, “I think I am a big loser”. In REBT terms, we believe that as humans “We feel the way we think”. So, if we think that we are “a big loser” and we define a big loser as someone who cannot do anything right, and we keep repeating this irrational statement to ourselves constantly day in and day out, does it mean it is true that we are a big loser? The answer is No, but we still think we are a big loser because we have been thinking this irrational statement for a very long time, and the unhealthy feelings associated with it (e.g., depressed, guilt, shame). These emotions may in turn add credence to these self-doubting, irrational statements. Well, if I feel crappy and depressed it means I am a loser. Let’s examine the belief, “I am complete loser who cannot do anything right.” Well, even a broken clock can tell time correctly twice a day, so you cannot be a complete and utter loser. You may in fact be ignoring or not attending to contrary evidence to prove that you are not a complete and utter loser. Let’s say you finally agree and state in rational terms, “I would prefer to excel in everything I do, but if I do not excel immediately or at all, it doesn’t mean I am less of a person”. A few mishaps or failures does not equate with being a complete loser.
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The key is to generate true, acceptable rational beliefs as in the example above and to state them to ourselves repeatedly until they are ingrained within us. So practice, practice, practice!