Our personal beliefs play a huge role in how we view our own lives and the world around us. Likewise, our estimation of successes and failures depend on the framework our personal beliefs construct. Basically, we evaluate everything we see, hear, experience, and come into contact with, from the lens of our personal beliefs.
We develop our beliefs about reality based on how we interpret the world around us according to our individual observations and experiences from both a logical and emotional standpoint. Initially, a belief can start from assumptions based on logical observations and deductions, or alternatively, a belief can grow out of an emotional view that seems to be supported by our logic. Basically, we try to make sense out of things going on in the world around us based on the beliefs we form, and also use these beliefs to form ideas about probable future outcomes as well.
Once we establish a core set of beliefs to operate by, we have accepted these beliefs as “facts” that become our own personal system, or, “map” of operating in the world. Because of this, we essentially, on an unconscious level, adjust the things we see, hear, feel, or experience to fit with our core beliefs making our version of reality merely a creation of our own beliefs.
An example of this would be, if a person held a core belief that “the world is out to get me”, they would constantly be searching – again unconsciously – for ways this is true such as, when they walk down the street and say “hi” to someone walking past them who does not answer, they might make the assumption that the person was intentionally not saying hi in response because “they don’t like me,” or if a person in front walking into the same store fails to hold the door open for that person, their likely assumption may be “that was intentionally rude,” and so forth.
As we learn and grow, we may find that many of our former beliefs no longer serve us and it becomes important to understand how our beliefs inform our current perspectives and worldviews. We need to take stock from time to time and examine whether some of these beliefs we hold are no longer useful to us and therefore may need updating.
The map of reality that we use to navigate the world around us has a major influence on our successes, failures, happiness, unhappiness, and satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our life experience. We create an emotional attachment to the map we construct of our reality, in that we develop a deep interest in its accuracy – we want it to be real because it’s familiar – it’s what we know which makes us feel safe and secure. When events don’t fit our map of reality, it can create an emotional charge that makes coping difficult because our world may no longer makes sense in the way it used to. This is an indication that the map needs to be updated.
When we replace limiting beliefs with self-powering beliefs such as, self-doubt with confidence, fear with curiosity, or negativity with positivity, our internal map automatically rearranges itself to support these new beliefs, thus, updating what no longer serves with something new and more supportive of the direction we ultimately want to go in life.
The first step in making changes to an unconscious system is to ask questions about what kind of reality you have created for yourself. This acknowledges we have the ability to create and make change, and holds us accountable for the current reality we have already created for ourselves.
Once we ask these questions, we need to identify the limiting beliefs we want to change or update by examining the results they produce. Any area in our lives that is producing good results is likely anchored in empowering beliefs. Likewise, areas that yield unsatisfying or frustrating results is probably anchored to limiting beliefs. Beliefs that limit you need to be updated in order to create desired change.
Once you identify the limiting beliefs, the next step is to dismantle them, then look for empowering beliefs to replacement them with. Once you find new beliefs, continue to look for improved results, which will solidify these beliefs to be seen as true, thus creating a new framework of reality to live by.
The conclusion here is that just because we may have a life we see as not being worthwhile, or perhaps has been riddled with negative experiences—where we have come to see ourselves as a victim, or that we have to work so hard but never seem to get ahead—know that we do have the power to create changes in the way we view the world. These shifts have major effects on the experiences we have and ultimately, create a life more in line with what we want for ourselves, rather than leaving us feeling that we are destined to live a live that just “happens” to us. We can take charge of our life by exploring different beliefs that support what we want instead of repeating what we don’t want.
The therapists at Cielo House are a great resource to help explore or obtain more information on these concepts and how they can support the recovery process.
By Diane Patton Gaither, MFT
Diane Patton Gaither is the Clinical Director of Cielo House San Jose, and is a Licensed Psychotherapist that specializes in working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, as well as those who support them.