In last week’s post, I discussed the feeling of not belonging that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when our beliefs become fixed and focused. Now let’s dive a little deeper to discuss dealing with limiting beliefs that keep us stuck on the hamster wheel.
Let’s continue with the example of a negative belief based on past experiences like: “I’ll never belong”. This is a belief that has developed over time and it has its associated thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors.
There’s even a vigilant little warrior inside you that is constantly on the lookout for things that will cause you to feel deprived and confirm your belief. This little warrior provides you with a lens through which you see the world. We all have our own lenses that are based on the accumulation of our experiences.
The chances that external circumstances alone will change your limiting beliefs are slim. You must become aware of your habitual ways of thinking, feeling, behaving and believing that reinforce the same patterns.
Training your mind
But awareness ‘aint enough.
For the past 10 years, I have done a lot of work on training my mind, learning to stay present and mindful and not projecting into the future. That’s half of the equation.
The other half is about asking myself what I want my present and future to be. Seems straightforward, but that involves facing the unknown, letting go of my assumptions, my programming and creating new programs that will only function and override the old programs if they are more powerful and sophisticated.
The old patterns are comfortable even if they aren’t healthy. They’re familiar, like an old pair of sweatpants. They have a gravitational pull. Those little warriors are like soldiers with PTSD that are always ready to attack or defend because the war is still going on for them.
Challenging your limiting beliefs
So, going back to the “I’ll never belong” example; you need to identify and understand your reflexive, unconscious, automatic thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and beliefs that reinforce the old programs and challenge them by asking:
Why do you exist?
Where do you come from?
What is your evidence other than what you have contributed to creating?
Are there alternative explanations?
You cannot control what happens in the world, but you do have agency over how you respond and react and relate to what happens. You can only do this if you are aware and if you have firm intentions.
All of what I am talking about, it’s not one and done kind of stuff. It’s not linear. It’s not expected that once you are aware of your limiting beliefs that you won’t mess up, of course, you will. This is about cultivating a different way of being versus a quick-fix solution.
If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start: Living With Chronic Illness Handbook.
David B. Younger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in working with people with chronic health conditions with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.
Originally published at chronicillnesstherapy.com