Change and Transition, Core Beliefs and Transformation (Part 3)
Change and Transition, Core Beliefs and Transformation (Part 2) helped us to understand how important it is to identify core beliefs. We have no command over what we don’t know, and we have no ability to change what we do not command. In order to shift from old beliefs, and to write new inner scripts, we have to challenge the core beliefs that we now know no longer work for us. Change and Transition, Core Beliefs and Transformation (Parts 1 & 2) made us aware of another important fact. The core beliefs came into being as a way to make sense of the world around us, at a time when we were too young to have well-developed faculties of reason. They were also a way in which we protected ourselves when our emotions and psyches were vulnerable. Thus, the core beliefs were centred upon the self. Though the beliefs might linguistically be about the world, as many of them are, e.g. the world is an unforgiving place, at the root of all core beliefs lies the need for self-protection, and a way for self to understand what is going on in the outer environment. The process of emotional and spiritual maturity involves coming out of the self-centred space into an expanding world-centred awareness.
According to Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, and a holocaust survivor, “The true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within our own psyches. … We can discover the meaning of life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” He also wrote that “… happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy’. "
We do not have as much control over our thoughts and feelings as we would like to. And when we harbour core beliefs that result in thoughts and feelings that are not positive, happiness cannot ensue. Unless we bring these beliefs up into our current conscious mind, and challenge their ‘truths’ within the parameters of who we are today, and our situations today, we shall not be able to let these beliefs go. Though we already know why we wish to let these beliefs go, it would be worthwhile to remind ourselves at this point that core beliefs are self-perpetuating, and continue to bring into our experience only those events that support, and strengthen, the beliefs. We also know that these beliefs were developed as a result of emotional and psychological needs. It follows that to let them go we have to use something other than the energy that created them in the first place. What can we use that would be a worthy opponent for these emotions? The answer is REASON. This great faculty that makes us stand apart from the rest of Nature’s creation.
Attempting to control the negative thoughts and feelings is a useless and futile endeavour. It has not worked for anyone. In fact, the more we attempt to control them, our focus upon them makes them even stronger. So, let us not waste our energies in doing these. Instead let’s use our energies to understand the beliefs in the context of the past that created them, and then challenge their veracity in the present. We have already seen that beliefs are just that – beliefs. They do not have a foundation in truth. Instead they have a foundation in perception. Truth is constant; perception is transient. This works in our favour, because the perceptions we held in childhood have already changed! All we need to do now is become aware that they have! That they are not present any more.
Once we recognise that our perceptions have evolved as we have grown and matured, half the battle has been won. In the light of this realisation, we review the core beliefs, using the faculty of reason that we now have as adults. Under the clear light of that reason we question how true the belief is. E.g. ‘the world is an unforgiving place’ is challenged in the light of all that has been experienced by you as you grew from a child to an adult. Within that clarity you are able to bring to your mind all the times when you made mistakes and were forgiven … by family members, teachers, friends, co-workers. Yes, there were certainly those who were unforgiving but there were as many, if not more, who were loving and forgiving. You then recall all the times when you did the same for others. When you challenge the belief in the light of reason and awareness, you are effortlessly able to see that the belief does not hold true, and just as easily you can let it go.
When you endeavour to understand, challenge, and let go of all or many of the negative core beliefs, you mature emotionally and spiritually, and your vision turns outwards, and you seek to reach out to others, finding a peace and a sense of purpose in this. I remember reading a few lines that I found quite profound. The author of these lines urged the reader to frame their own eulogy. If you were to attend your own funeral, what would you say about your life, about your work, about your self? What would you like to be said? Are you living the life today that would honestly support that eulogy? I found this to be a deep self-search exercise, and it resulted in a few very significant changes that I made in the self-centredness that I was living in without even being aware of this. If this exercise resonates with you, I do urge you to do it. Its simplicity challenges our core beliefs in a powerful way.
Before we end let me share with you how a client and I worked together for him to let go of a core belief. You might think that you need a lot of time and work to let go of the beliefs. This is not necessarily true as you shall see when you read on. XXX is a sensitive, caring, South American man in his 40’s. He was pained that every time he returned home to visit his mother whom he loved, all he could see was the obesity and the unhealthy lifestyle that she had due to the fact that she was engrossed in working for the community, having little time for herself. Try as he might, he was unable to stop criticising her. Knowing that this hurt her, he would try very hard to say nothing, but it seemed that the more he tried, the worse was his criticism. Even their shopping trips would turn out to be fraught with tension, instead of the delight of giving and receiving gifts. We discussed this, recognising the core belief ‘I am not important to my mother’. His mother, a very loving person, has always been a pillar of the community, tirelessly working for others. The ‘inner child’ expressed its feelings as we spoke --- I feel neglected, I need greater attention from my mother, I am angry at her for not making me the centre of all her attention. It was then time to apply the reason of the adult. The adult ‘saw’ that, in fact, much of the work that the mother had to do for the community when he was a child, involved earning a livelihood that could clothe, feed and school him and his sister in a manner that she would have been unable to do had she not worked that hard. The adult ‘saw’ that this had accustomed her not to look after herself because of the many sacrifices she had had to make. The adult ‘saw’ that when he and his sister moved away from home in their early twenties, she began to use her time to work for the community because looking after the needs of others was all that she had done for almost all her life, even in her childhood, looking after an ailing mother. The ‘adult’ saw that the more obese she got, the less she wanted to look at herself, or look after herself, and the more she needed the love of the community because she could not love herself. The adult ‘saw’ that the critical words that he spoke from a place of love and deep concern for her well-being, engendered further shame in her. When he took her shopping and believed that he was encouraging her by saying ‘when you lose some weight we shall buy this dress that you shall look so pretty in’, he was, in effect, making her feel even smaller, and more unlovable. The adult ‘saw’ all of this in the clear light of reason. He challenged his belief, and acknowledged deeply that his mother had spent her youth doing everything that she could for him and his sister, that, in fact, there was nothing more important to her than her two children. With the tears that flowed, the belief was released. The next week he messaged to tell me that his mother and he had had so much fun shopping, and spending a long afternoon at her favourite restaurant. He told her how much he loved her, how deeply grateful he was for all the sacrifices she had made, and how clearly he was able to see that she had left no stone unturned in order to ensure her children’s happiness. For the first time in over 20 years he extended his trip by a few weeks, when earlier the date of departure couldn’t come quickly enough. It took him just two sessions to let go of the belief, and less than seven days to close that unhappy circle and open another happier one.
Our core beliefs are as ‘unreal’ as a house of cards. And just as easily topple when we give ourselves the nudge we need to. We are whole and balanced only when emotion and reason hold each other steady. In this steadiness there is evinced such a deep strength within the inner child that expanded world-centricity becomes the natural result. And thus new scripts are written that involve others because the ink that is used to write these scripts is the ink of self-love.
Change and Transition, Core Beliefs and Transformation (Part 1)
Change and Transition, Core Beliefs and Transformation (Part 2)