23 Sep Want to change? Change your beliefs.
Our beliefs are our unique rulebook for life. They determine how we react, what we think and how we think, our understanding of ourselves and other people, how we feel and our expectations. All good if our beliefs are empowering. But what if our beliefs are disempowering and damaging? This blog explains why our beliefs can cause us so much pain and how we can begin changing them so we can create a new rulebook for living.
Psychologically, our deepest subconscious beliefs determine our experience of life. This is a universal truth. We aren’t seeing life through a clear objective lens. We’re all being subconsciously directed by our own unique rulebook. Two people can be part of the same conversation but experience very different thoughts and feelings during it, and come to very different conclusions after it. These differences stem from their individual beliefs… which govern their values, attitudes and emotional and cognitive responses.
Our deepest beliefs are created in two main ways: we either learn them from our parents and carers, or they’re subconscious conclusions we come to during extremely powerful moments in our lives.
Some moments are powerful in a good way. Beautiful moments like this can teach us we’re strong and whole, that life is safe and good, that we’re capable and that other people can be trusted. But some moments are powerful in a bad way – these overwhelming traumatic moments create beliefs like I’m permanently damaged, I’m stupid, I’m a disappointment, I deserve to be miserable, I’m not capable, I’m powerless, I have to be perfect, life is unsafe and other people can’t be trusted.
If you’re operating from a subconscious rulebook with a ton of damaging traumatic beliefs in it, life is going to feel very hard sometimes. You’re going to find yourself repeating and repeating problems and reactions. You’re going to feel stuck. To get unstuck you’re going to need to unearth those old beliefs, and create new ones over time – ones that will empower you and free you instead of keeping you repeating past pain. Here are three simple steps to help you do this…
1- Unearth your old damaging beliefs
The first step to changing our old beliefs is to locate them. Although the beliefs operate subconsciously, we can consciously figure out what they are by looking at our lives, by listening to what we’re thinking and saying, and by observing our behaviour. This is a lot simpler than it sounds because these kinds of beliefs are usually experienced as resistance. So if you find yourself doing any of the following, pause…
– Making excuses or complaining.
– Negative talk or thoughts
– Fear or hesitation
– Worry about failure or making mistakes
– Self-sabotaging behaviour
These are all covert ways we resist life and avoid something that would require us to be vulnerable and take a risk. They keep us still and prevent us from moving forwards into the flow of life. They’re our red flags because they signal to us that our fears and subconscious beliefs have been triggered. So next time you’re procrastinating or on an inner-critic-rampage ask yourself – what am I afraid of? And which of my old beliefs has been triggered? I think you’ll be surprised by how quickly and clearly you uncover beliefs that are preventing you from moving on.
2- Create new beliefs
Usually in life, simple is best. Rules for transformation are no different. Once you’ve located an underlying old belief that’s causing trouble in your life, you’re going to do some quick work to pinpoint the opposite belief. For example, say you’ve realised that underneath your perfectionism is a fear of failure and an old belief it’s not safe to make mistakes. Your new healing belief is the polar opposite of the false belief you’ve been holding on to. So, belief no. 1 in your new rulebook is: It’s safe to make mistakes.
3- belief transformation
You can transform your belief from the old damaging one to the new empowering one in two main ways. The first way we transform operates on the conscious, the second on the subconscious.
First-up, when you realise your old belief (e.g., it’s not safe for me to make mistakes) has been triggered, acknowledge it and then focus on your new belief (e.g., it’s safe for me to make mistakes) as often as you need to get you consciously back on track. Doing this will help pull your feelings, thoughts and behaviour in line with your new belief.
Second, to work on a more subconscious level, you can repeat the new belief in your mind throughout the day. To create a sense of safety around your new belief you can smile as you think it or say it. Really feel into it. As well as using the new belief as an affirmation, you can create a visualisation that supports the new belief (e.g., maybe you visualise yourself making mistakes while laughing – holding the mistakes lightly, trusting all is well). Or you can use the new belief as a mantra as you meditate. This might all sound a little out there, but there’s so much evidence that repetition leads to cognitive and subconscious change. It’s not hocus pocus, it’s real – repeat what you want, visualise what you want, really feel into it and you can transform your underlying beliefs.
Before I sign-off I just want to remind you that our beliefs determine our experience, so this kind of belief transformation work is worth the effort. Changing some of our most limiting underlying old beliefs can completely alter our experience of life.
Sarah Woodhouse is a trauma expert, research psychologist and writer who delivers people the knowledge and tools to recognise and overcome self-defeating cycles, to achieve personal freedom and success.
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