We all have a huge collection of beliefs stored in our subconscious minds.
During a lifetime, a person acquires tens of thousands of these internal programs, including:
Beliefs about yourself (Who I am; What I’m capable of; What I can and can’t do, etc.)
Beliefs about others (How I should treat people; What it means when they don’t respond; How to get what I need; etc.)
Beliefs about the world (Where I fit in; How society works; What I need to do to survive, etc.)
Any belief can become a stumbling block, a source of resistance, or a limitation in a person’s life. Especially our earliest core beliefs about who we are, or what we’re capable of. For example, an entrepreneur who believes “I’m not good enough,” might have difficulty marketing his services. A person who believes, “I can’t have what I want,” may have problems maintaining a weight-loss regimen.
Most frustrations in life can be traced to limiting beliefs held about ourselves, other people, or the world. As noted in the previous blog post, efforts to help my clients move forward are often met – and resisted – by those old subconscious programs.
Beliefs are simply structures that the mind formulates based on early experiences and perceptions of our relationship to the world. This process begins in our earliest moments; from conception forward. Newborn infants try to figure out how to survive in their new environment. Our parents want to help us, so they give us their beliefs – the ones that worked for them. They tell us who we are, and what we are, and how we should behave. We want to survive, and align with them, so we take on their beliefs willingly. Besides, the more we are like our parents, the less likely they will reject or abandon us.
Our parents begin this process, and then we receive additional beliefs from our caregivers, siblings, family members, teachers in school, religious leaders, and the media. We accumulate countless beliefs by the time we reach adulthood.
It would be great if beliefs came with an expiration date, like food products, but they don’t. It would work better if they simply dissolved when they were no longer useful, but this doesn’t happen either. Instead, our older beliefs get pushed down into the subconscious mind as newer beliefs come in. They stack up, and continue to operate in the background, influencing our behavior, causing our reactions, and interfering with our forward momentum.
When something occurs that reminds us of our past, those old beliefs lying dormant in the background suddenly jump up and attempt to help us in that situation. For example, a child may learn, “If I cry and make a fuss, I’ll be taken care of.” This is a helpful belief for an infant! However, it’s unseemly for an adult. Most of us know at least one person who still uses this same strategy to get what they want.
This is a pattern that’s crucial to understand: Whenever we make a commitment to something new, our old beliefs (the ones in conflict with that new commitment) rise up and re-assert themselves. It’s automatic, and it interferes with everything we want to create in our lives.
For example, you commit to writing a promotional brochure for your services. Your old beliefs leap out from the subconscious and begin speaking loudly: “No one wants to hear from you. You’ll get rejected again. Don’t do it! You’ll feel awful when they reject you!” This is the core of resistance, procrastination, and the failure to get things done. We’re stopped in our tracks by these inner voices and old beliefs.
My clients who come to me for help in moving forward, experience this all the time. I offer them practices and projects and actions, and as soon as they walk away from the session and start to take action their mind begins to remind them of all the reasons they shouldn’t do it. Transparent beliefs are undermining their sincere attempts at healing and generating this confusing behavior.
When the immensity of this mechanism is appreciated and understood, I’m sure you’ll feel more compassion for yourself.
The next step is then to find a method that will allow the shifting or elimination of the old, controlling beliefs – the ones that are limiting, and hold us back from achieving our goals.
Make a list of all the beliefs that come up for you when you decide to do things that you know you should do, or that you really want to do but you’ve put off. The voices or thoughts may sound mean, like an Inner Critic . . . “You’ll never amount to anything.” Or overly caring, “Don’t do that! You’ll get hurt.” Or reasonable, like, “Yes, you could do that, but then you wouldn’t be able to do those other things.”
List them simply as beliefs:
I’ll never amount to anything.
I’ll get hurt.
I’ll miss out on those other things.
Once you have your list of beliefs, let it sit for a few days and then go back to it. Ask yourself, "What experience might someone have to have to think that thought?" Identify an experience or a series of experiences that might generate such thinking, not in just you, but in anyone.
Then ask yourself, "What might someone, you or anyone else, have to think in order to have that experience?" Let these questions work on you for a while. Simply notice what arises and journal about what comes up.