Dr. Siddall is a Psychologist with over 30 years of experience in clinical and forensic psychology as a clinician, educator and consultant.
Think and Become
Arguably one of the greatest psychological insights has its origin in Buddhist teachings from over 2500 years ago. It is embodied in the statement “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” a paraphrase, attributed to Gautama Buddha from the Dhammapada, a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form, one of the most widely read and best known Buddhist scriptures.
William James, the father of American psychology, who taught the first psychology class at Harvard in 1875, famously reasserted this same premise when he stated, "The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.”
This insight was echoed once again by James Allen, in what many believe to be the greatest self help book ever written. The book was published in 1903 and titled “As A Man Thinketh.” The central thesis of his book is captured by Allen’s quote: "In his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances.”
Beginning in the late 1950s the notion that thinking could influence behavior became the subject of a substantial body of empirical research. Many prominent behavioral scientists contributed to this cognitive revolution in psychology. Ulric Neisser Ph.D., considered the father of cognitive psychology, published the first comprehensive text on the subject in 1967, which offered a broad alternative to the more circumscribed behaviorism popular at that time. Clinician researchers Albert Ellis Ph.D. and Aaron T. Beck, M.D., among many others, built on this research foundation and pioneered the highly successful therapeutic school of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
From its original insight to scientific validation, we now accept the fact that learning to harness the power of your thinking can dramatically change your behavior, alter the meaning of external events and ultimately, change the trajectory of your life. Learning to regulate your thoughts offers a practical strategy to achieve your dreams. The choice is yours.
The ultimate freedom of choice is learning to respond to your life circumstances in a manner that is empowering. Thinking that is empowering makes you more confident and in control of your life. Developing the habit of thinking positively and neutralizing the negative is empowering.
- The practice of viewing difficult circumstances as opportunities to learn as opposed to personal failure.
- Changing what you view as impossible to challenging.
- Reframing bad luck to feedback that one’s approach to problem solving needs to be changed.
Victor Frankl M.D., psychiatrist and holocaust survivor made his greatest contributions to the mental health field after surviving the unimaginable trauma of imprisonment in a Nazi death camp during World War II. He survived precisely because he maintained the ability to choose his response to the horrors of the holocaust rather than be defeated by them. In his own words: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Exercising empowering choices in any situation grants you tremendous control over your personal psychology and your behavior. Empowering choice allows you to neutralize criticism, blunt the pain of sadness, and learn constructive lessons from misfortune. But just as empowering choices can free you, disempowering choices can defeat you and lead to a life of pain and sorrow. The choice is yours.
There is no single objective reality because we filter our experience through the subjective lens of interpretation.
As Albert Ellis, Ph.D. one of the pioneers of Rational Behavior Therapy explained: “Reality is not so much what happens to us; rather, it is how we think about those events that create the reality we experience. In a very real sense, this means that we each create the reality in which we live.”
In other words we are capable of creating our personal meaning for any life experience. We do not have to adopt consensual wisdom or follow the advice of experts . We are free to think, to choose, and to craft our own reality. However, it is just because we are free to choose that we need to be prudent in order to foster a life empowered for the good.
One of the greatest insights in the field of psychology is embodied in the phrase ” What you think you become.” which originated in Buddhist teachings 2500 years ago. Writers, scholars, and behavioral scientists have reasserted the premise that we can alter life and reality by changing the way we think and the choices we make. If you learn to master your thoughts and make choices that empower your life, your dreams can be achieved. But just as empowering thoughts and choices can free you, disempowering thoughts and choices can defeat you and lead to a life of pain and sorrow. The choice is yours.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 James W Siddall
James W Siddall (author) from Cleveland on September 25, 2020:
Thanks Dr. Wally, I always appreciate your feedback, Jim
Wally Balcerzak on September 24, 2020:
Loved this one Dr. Jim! Beck and Ellis are my idles in the field, truly extending this ancient wisdom to helping people change a variety of emotional/behavioral problems. You tied it all together very nicely.
James W Siddall (author) from Cleveland on August 01, 2020:
Liliane: Thank you for your feedback. I am encouraged you found it useful and consistent with your own life experience. Jim
Liliane Najm from Toronto, Canada on August 01, 2020:
I loved reading this article; it resonate with some of my life experiences.
James W Siddall (author) from Cleveland on July 05, 2020:
Thank You Courtney, I like your quote and hope you found the information helpful! Jim
Courtney on July 05, 2020:
"The vibrations of mental forces are the finest and consequently the most powerful in existence." -Charles Haanel
Such a great article, thank you Jim Siddal!
James W Siddall (author) from Cleveland on July 01, 2020:
Jennifer: Thank you for commenting. I agree most everything is beyond our control except how we choose to interpret external events.
Jennifer on July 01, 2020:
Great advice in a time when much is beyond our control. Make your mind a happy place! Thanks Dr. Siddall!
James W Siddall (author) from Cleveland on June 30, 2020:
Nichole, I am so glad you found the message in this article to be informative and hopeful. "The mind is everything."
Nicole on June 30, 2020:
Another well written and informative article. These are important reminders for all of us. Your words left me feeling hopeful and more in control, especially at a time of such uncertainty. Thank you.