We all have beliefs about just about everything and unfortunately many of them hold us back. Now I’m not talking about religious or moral beliefs necessarily I’m referring to our opinions that we believe define who we are. Many of these beliefs are the source of a lot of our emotional suffering and keep us stuck and unable to turn our lives around.
How so? Well we all identify strongly with our belief system, it is our personal reality. We not only judge situations, events and people based on it, we also judge ourselves. We interpret every moment of our life based on our belief system. It tells us who and what is right or wrong, what should and shouldn’t happen and how someone should or shouldn’t act, do or say. When people and experiences don’t meet our ‘OK criteria’ though, we react; we become indignant, upset or fearful. These emotions do us untold damage and make our lives miserable.
How do we acquire these limiting beliefs? Our programming obviously has a lot to do with it but it is our interpretation of our multiple experiences that form and reinforce our beliefs. We are inundated with multiple thoughts throughout every experience. We sort through the data fed to us by our senses (quite often whilst stressed) and we then interpret and label the thoughts we choose to define our experience. This becomes our memory of the event, good bad or indifferent and this interpretation of the experience becomes our belief.
We hold on to all our interpretation of past experiences (with all the accompanying thoughts, labels and beliefs) and we believe this defines who we are. Bottom line our identity is formed by the thoughts we choose. Barbara Berger author of Are You Happy Now refers to this definition of self as “our life story”. Unfortunately most of us could do with a rewrite of our life story because until we examine our beliefs we will continue to perpetuate and anchor in many erroneous ideas about ourselves because of our conditioning. In other words we are stuck in conditioned thinking (our belief system). When we believe something to be true we will always see things this way. Ian White from ABFE explains it this way. “We usually only allow through our sensory filters those stimuli which enforce our existing beliefs, blocking the rest.” That is why it is a darn fine idea to put our beliefs under the microscope.
The good news is that at any given moment we have a choice on how to define any experience and start eroding our conditioning. When we find ourselves reacting unfavourably is a good time to stand back and ponder the question “why am I feeling this way?” Don’t bury the feelings because as Jung said “What we resist persists.” Investigate them when you have time and try to understand the underlying belief that prompted you to react. A quiet introspection will help or you may prefer to sit quietly and jot down the thoughts that come as you think about the situation that caused you to react.
As you sit quietly contemplating consider this. What if you hadn’t reacted to or resisted the situation at the time and had simply accepted what was happening? Consider how different you would have felt.
Now consider this. What if you didn’t resist and accepted what is happening right now at all times? (A hard ask I know but we can start with small situations.) If we could incorporate this into our lives we’d flow with life unruffled by events and people. In an emergency we’d be clear headed and proactive. Emotional triggers and charges would become a thing of the past.
Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Every moment gives us the opportunity to investigate our belief system and release limiting beliefs. An honest appraisal of our beliefs will help us rewrite our life story, turn our lives around and live more fully.