Why do some people have a succession of abusive partners? Why do many adults suffer with addiction problems despite having seen the devastation it caused in their family when growing up?
Acquired in the course of your life, your beliefs act like filters on a camera through which you view life. They determine your focus – what you pay attention to, what passes you by – the level of clarity with which you perceive and evaluate experiences, your perspectives on events and the colouring of your interpretations – seeing life in a grey scale or with a kaleidoscope of possibilities.
But beliefs are more than just filters. They are active energies of immense influence. In a subconscious process, they energetically draw into your life situations and people that confirm the beliefs you hold about yourself and others. This is compounded by the fact that the subconscious mind works with ‘pattern recognition’ and runs its established programs over and over. For example:
Beliefs relating to personal power
The value you place on yourself: I am worthless; There is something fundamentally wrong with me; I am not important; I am a failure; I am a bad person …
Your autonomy: I need others to help me make up my mind; I’ll fall apart if I ‘m alone; I don’t know how to take care of myself…
How you function in life
Security: The world is a dangerous place; I can’t protect myself; I can’t cope when things go wrong…
Performance: I am stupid; I can’t get anything right; Nobody will like what I do; I have no options; I will be rejected unless I do everything perfectly…
Other people: People are not trustworthy; They are not fair; It’s best not to ask for help, it will only be used against me …
Belonging: I don’t fit in anywhere; No-one will like me; People are not interested in what I have to say; People don’t care about me; I am just not like them…
Love: People always leave me; I am not loveable; I don’t deserve love; Nobody will want me …
This list is by no means complete. You could add categories like appearance (I am ugly), future prospects (nothing ever works out for me), parenting (I wouldn’t know how to handle kids), creativity (I can never come up with anything interesting or unusual) or any other area of life important to you. The above examples list only negative beliefs, but of course you also hold many positive ones that help steer you through life with grace and ease.
Identify your Beliefs.
Beliefs are so much part of your everyday experience, so ingrained in how you ‘tick’ that they easily evade detection. Be the detective in your own life. Take a helicopter view of the dysfunctional patterns in your life and ask yourself: What belief or expectation is pulling the strings and setting the rules here? What theme am I re-enacting time and time again?
Question your rules.
Beliefs are like blueprints for how you have to act in the world in order to avoid negative consequences. They determine the ‘rules’ for how to live, your attitudes, choices and actions. They are also very obvious in how you think and what you tell yourself: I should; I shouldn’t ( who says?); I need to be … (where does that rule come from?) ; I am …; I can’t (who is the judge?); If I don’t do …, I’ll be …. (how did you learn to think in terms of cause and negative effect?).
Recognise the patterns.
Whenever you find recurring problems and patterns in your life, they are likely sustained by dysfunctional core beliefs. For example, in social gatherings you may be an outsider, never quite fitting in no matter what you do. Or you find yourself in the same kind of relationship – different partner, same dynamic. What would you have to believe in order to enact such repetitive scenarios?
Review the problematic situations and look for a common theme in them. For example, the above examples are driven by the beliefs: I don’t fit in; I am different; I am not worthy of love; I am inferior.
Be the detective in your own life. Take a helicopter view of the dysfunctional patterns in your life and ask yourself: What belief or expectation is pulling the strings and setting the rules here? What theme am I re-enacting time and time again?
Rewrite your Beliefs.
Make a ‘Greatest Hits’ list of your own problematic beliefs. Put them into groups if they follow a theme but deal with each one separately.
Examine the evidence.
Is the belief absolutely true? Parts of it may have validity, but is it really the whole picture…
What is the origin of the belief?
How did I learn to have this belief?
What was the situation?
Is the belief still relevant to the person I am now and the life I wish to live? It may justify staying within your comfort zone, no matter how restrictive that is; It may give you an excuse not to take responsibility for yourself…
What benefit would I gain if I gave it up? You will feel better about yourself and your life prospects; You will be more open to new experiences …
Once you have examined and challenged your existing belief, think of a more realistic statement and formulate new rules. For example:
Old belief: I am inferior to others
New belief: Like everyone else I have positive and difficult characteristics.
Old rule: I have to accept a life partner even if he does not value me or I won’t have anybody at all.
New rule: I will only accept a partner who treats me with respect. It’s better to keep looking until I find one with whom I can discuss things and arrive at decisions together. I will aim for a real positive partnership.
Visualisation techniques can be used to heal old hurts and painful feelings, as well as replacing negative beliefs with more realistic and functional ones:
Identify specific experiences that contributed to the negative core beliefs you now hold. Then visualise (imagine or think) your adult self visiting your inner child during those times. Being older and with more life experience you are able to view the events from a different perspective. Guide your younger self to let go of the pain and the false truths imparted to it then. Like the parent or friend you needed at the time, counter the negative belief formed then with a more accurate and positive version.
Why would such imaginary revisiting of the past be effective? Your subconscious mind does not distinguish between actual experience or dreams and fantasies. The person you were then is just as present as your current self. So whatever new advice or support you give your younger self in your imagination, will be processed and stored by your subconscious mind as if it really happened.
You may have to repeat the process in order to rewrite other beliefs. But while the events of the past cannot be changed, the beliefs formed at the time and still driving your life can.
Act as if Your New Beliefs Are True.
Writing a new belief script is very important. But it does not yet provide the energy for change. You need to take action and manifest the new belief in your life. If you feel uncertain, remember the saying, If you can’t make it, fake it! In other words, practise to be the person you want to be even if at first it doesn’t feel like you at all. By adopting a new understanding of who you are and going beyond your comfort zone into new territory you will redefine yourself and redesign your life!
How do your beliefs affect your life? What did you do to free yourself from the imprints of the past? What is left for you to do?
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