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Do You Determine your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part One)

Do You Determine your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part One)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs or Do Your Beliefs Determine You?

    Where do our Beliefs Come From

    Have you ever wondered why you believe what you believe? Have you ever considered where your beliefs came from? How they got there? Was it an intentional process? Did you embrace those beliefs consciously or did you just wake up one day and there they were; curiously stuck inside your head? Possibly with a big “do not remove” sign on them. Do you ever question them? Doubt them? Resent them? Are you even aware of them, or do they exist independent of your conscious self? Did you intentionally choose them? Did you learn them via your experiences? Did you adopt them from someone that you respect and trust? Or perhaps you had them rammed down your throat by an authority figure somewhere in your past? Do your current beliefs propel you towards greatness or do they keep you trapped in mediocrity, monotony and misery? Do they serve you, or do you serve them? Who’s really running the show?

    Under-Achievement Central

    Do they help you achieve your dreams and goals, or do they keep you in your own private mental and emotional prison? Do they enable you to explore your potential and do amazing, or do they keep you in your safe, familiar, predictable little box (Under-Achievement Central)? Do they help you see things clearly and objectively, or do they predispose you to looking at the world through a very (very) small window? Are your beliefs flexible and subject to change depending on your experiences and your life lessons? Or are they set in stone? Do you determine them, or do they determine you?

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    But What if it Ain’t True?

    Have you ever thought about living your life with a different set of beliefs? Have you ever considered the possibility that perhaps some of your life-long, firmly-entrenched, non-negotiable beliefs… could be completely wrong? May even be the very things that have caused you to inhabit an existence that you don’t enjoy? Does it make you uncomfortable to consider the possibility of having to completely change the way you think and believe about certain things in your world?

    “Our ability to effectively change a belief, will be largely determined by our level of emotional investment in that particular belief.”

    In other words, there are certain beliefs that we desperately want to be true and when we’re presented with information, ideas and/or situations which challenge or contradict those beliefs, then we will typically react negatively and possibly, irrationally. Of course you don’t want to believe that Dear Old Dad has been having an affair for the last five years, after all he’s Your Dad; the poster boy for morality, stability, integrity and family values. You know (believe) he would never do anything like that, yet now you’re presented with a situation that throws your stable, predictable and comfortable internal world (your mind) into turmoil. It completely messes with your belief system. You’ve just walked in on Dear Old Dad kissing Mrs Granger from over the fence in a non-neighbourly manner. Your non-negotiable belief (that Dad is the high-watermark for moral behaviour) has been smashed in the face with reality. You feel sick, repulsed, hurt and betrayed because something you’ve believed for so long has just been ripped out from under your feet. One of your core beliefs (that Dad is an honest, reliable and moral man) has been shattered. Even though you see it with your own eyes, on some level you can’t believe it. It doesn’t match the reality in your head. You frantically try and reconcile what you’re seeing with your belief about your Father. You desperately try to create a scenario in your head which will keep your core belief in tact and allow you to stay in your delusion. “I’m hallucinating. I’m drunk. I’m imagining things. I must have mis-interpreted the situation.” Yep, that’s right Junior; Mrs. Granger has hijacked your Father’s lips against his will.

    Is Religion an Emotional or a Spiritual Thing?

    Religion is a great example of being emotionally invested in a set of beliefs. While most people would consider religion to be an essentially spiritual thing, I would suggest that more often than not it’s also largely an emotional thing. For some, it’s an entirely emotional thing. You and I both know people who have been going to church (synagogue, temple, etc.) for years, with little or no spiritual understanding or awareness. Their ‘religion’ is based on a bunch of emotions (guilt, fear, anger) and rules that need to be complied with (that’s what their beliefs tell them anyway). People who have life-long religious beliefs typically won’t even consider that perhaps there’s something else. Option B. They have too many years and too much emotion invested, to even entertain the notion that they could possibly be misguided, misinformed or even completely wrong in their thinking.

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    What do You Believe about that Whole Messiah Thing?

    Let’s take Jesus for example; either he was the Son of God… or he wasn’t. I can’t really see the Jewish and the Christian communities getting together any time soon for an informal, open-minded chat on the matter. “Hey what do you guys think about that whole Messiah thing?” Nup, not gonna happen. Both religions know that they’re right, so it’s not up for discussion. Their beliefs are non-negotiable. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t there, you weren’t there, none of us were. We don’t actually know, we just believe. If we categorically knew that Jesus was the son of God, then we wouldn’t need faith because we would have indisputable knowledge, and faith is all about believing in something that we can’t prove. With me?

    A Different Truth

    He may have been the Messiah, he may have been a gifted prophet, or he may have simply been a great bloke. I don’t know, but I do know that just by writing this paragraph I will alienate and offend some people because their level of emotional investment in their religious beliefs won’t even allow them to consider something different. Some people will get angry, disappointed, resentful and even hurt; all emotional reactions to a logical discussion and some reasonable questions. But we feel like guilty betrayers (more emotion) if we even dare to consider another truth, or sneak a peek over the spiritual fence. So we cut ourselves off to the possibility of learning something different or new. By the way, this is not an article about spiritual exploration, I’m simply using the religious example because most of us can relate in some way.

    There are things we know to be true (the sky is blue) and there are things we want to be true (my partner would never cheat on me). When we’ve believed something for a long time, we have (knowingly or not) an emotional attachment to that belief. That belief is familiar, comfortable and safe for us; three things we enjoy. It gives us a level of predictability and certainty. It could be said that “who and what we are, is because of what we believe”; our beliefs shape us. For some anyway. For others it could be said that “who and what we believe is because of who we are”; we shape our beliefs. For far too many people, their life simply becomes a process of conforming to pre-existing (often negative and destructive) beliefs. Kind of like living out a pre-determined script for our life. Which is why many people become clones of their parents.

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    So Where do our Beliefs Come From?

    1. Our influences. From the moment we’re born, we are constantly being bombarded with information from a myriad of sources. Our beliefs are often heavily influenced, if not shaped, by the people in our world – especially those closest to us. Those we love and respect the most. Or perhaps just those we spend the most time with. Both our conscious and our unconscious minds are continually absorbing, interpreting, filtering and processing information. Much of what you and I absorb in a typical day happens without our conscious awareness; it happens despite us. From infancy, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our teachers, our heroes, the TV we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, the places of worship we attend and in 2008, even the websites we frequent, have been influencing us to think, behave and believe a certain way. If you grew up in a situation or environment which taught you that education and academic excellence is paramount, then there’s a fair chance you’ll demand that your kids finish school and go to college.

    2. Our experiences. What happens to us, teaches us. Some of us see ourselves as poor students when we’re actually not. We all have an amazing capacity to learn (we do it constantly) but most of our learning happens unconsciously and unintentionally. Sadly, not all of our ‘lessons’ empower us or put us in a better place. Some of our lessons teach us that we’re stupid, ugly, undesirable and incapable. Some experiences are the basis for many of our disempowering (or totally debilitating) beliefs. For many of us to move forward and into a better place (mentally, emotionally, physically, practically), we need to unlearn much of what we’ve made ‘truth’ in our world. That is, we need to change our beliefs. We’ll talk about how to do that in part two.

    Different Types of Beliefs

    Types of beliefs have been classified in various ways by various people over the years, but I’m going to dumb it down and lose the psycho-babble because I’m not nearly as clever as them. For practical reasons I will break beliefs down to three simple categories:

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    1. Positive Beliefs. These are Beliefs that enable us to stay in a positive, productive, creative and empowered headspace. Beliefs that allow us to explore and fulfil our potential. Beliefs that push us through the discomfort of life, allow us to deal with our fears and to come out the other side stronger, wiser and better equipped. Beliefs that give us the confidence to do what we need to do to create our best life.

    2. Negative Beliefs. Obviously, the polar opposite of the positive kind! They will destroy your potential, your happiness, your relationships, your career, your confidence, your mental health and your life… if you let them.

    3. Incidental Beliefs. Exactly as they sound; not typically life-shaping or changing, just there. I believe Tasmania is a beautiful place. I believe a Lexus is a better product than a BMW. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow. I believe boxing is one of the most effective cardio workouts. We have thousands (millions perhaps?) of beliefs that just exist somewhere in the recesses of our brain. Mostly they don’t live in the conscious realm unless we are required to wheel them out for a particular conversation or situation.

    That’s enough for now… my head hurts!

    See you next time with Part Two.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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    This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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