You’re certain you have set your goals, and they are what you really want. Not only will you feel better about yourself when you reach them but also while working toward them. What’s more, you know for sure you’ll get the chance to express your values and individuality in the process. You’ve sat down, plotted a course, prepared your action, and even started working on it…
Wait a minute…what’s that? Feelings flare up inside you when you try to act, and they express something you can’t quite comprehend! You’re now facing substantial internal resistance. You cannot act, no matter how hard you try, so you return to the drawing board with a baffled look on your face. What was it that didn’t quite fit in with your desires for yourself? Where exactly did you go wrong with your plans and strategies? Because you can’t see any obvious mistakes with them, you make a few cosmetic changes and resume pushing against the invisible wall before you, accusing yourself of laziness and cowardice all the while.
Now let’s assume you’ve already read numerous self-help books. You know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. You’ve learned the seven elemental traits of a successful and effective person. You can draw a map of the brain with your eyes closed. You can count the different communication methods between breaths. You’ve even got in the habit of starting your sentences with the word “I,” and you can also express your feelings effectively.
Still, it’s never good enough. You fear public speaking because you fear your shadow. You don’t fully understand why you try so hard to solve problems and satisfy other people. Maybe you always resent life, tire of trying to settle accounts, and angrily take what’s due but hasn’t been given yet.
So, what’s going on here? Why can’t you seem to tear down those walls. More importantly, what are those walls made of?
Walls and Bricks
The walls come from our attitudes, and the bricks come from our beliefs. If the tip of the iceberg were our behavior, then our attitudes and beliefs would be the remainder under the water. We know the tip of an iceberg is only a tenth of the entire iceberg, so the submerged part rules our lives, behavior, and relationships while remaining hidden even from ourselves.
Our beliefs are the engines that guide us and empower everything we do. They usually work silently and unnoticed. We can sometimes hear the growl of these engines, but the real proof of their existence is in our behavior. We frequently question the reasons why we do certain things in certain ways without realizing that one of our internalized beliefs is playing a part.
These beliefs are based on events from earlier in our lives, particularly from childhood. We have a magnificent proverb about this: “Once bitten, twice shy.” You can see how our beliefs also play a part in the fear and timidity we feel toward life. No matter how irrational it may seem, we automatically reject any kind of concept, situation, or person that even slightly resembles our shadowy memories.
Most of those beliefs form in our childhoods, especially the preschool period. Most of the events are usually small, completely forgotten incidents. For example, one of my counselees discovered she had a “I can’t have everything I want” mentality because of a memory of her father not buying her the toy she wanted despite her hard work. Another counselee with a reluctant behavior toward fun and relaxation had the memory of being beaten after having a good time in a puddle, so he started thinking, “It’s not right to have fun.”
That’s right. We cannot live our lives as we would like to because of simple reasons like these. Certain beliefs are planted in our heads by our education and upbringing. Our parents inherited these beliefs from their own parents, and we now carry them to the next generation. For example:
I need to do something to be loved.
There’s no chance of winning if I keep insisting on my own truth.
It’s useless to consider my own needs first.
Loving yourself is shameful.
Sex is a sin and disgraceful.
I need to behave as expected if I want to succeed and be loved.
I cannot be happy if I don’t have a lot of money.
Being rich is a bad thing.
Money cannot be made easily.
You may have noticed how the last three statements contradict each other. Just imagine how painful our lives become just because of these! For example, I just discovered a particular belief of mine a little while ago: “If I would ever succeed financially, I’d fall into laziness and leave the path of development and evolution I am on now.” I then observed what I reaped in return for what I sowed. I figured I had lived most of my life trying to fulfill and realize this internalized belief. After becoming aware of this belief, I started to take the necessary steps to disable it.
Now, the bricks in the wall keeping us from our goals are made of these beliefs, but there’s a another side to these walls: They hit you as hard as you hit them. Guess who’s feeling the pain at the end.
What we should do is not try to fight these beliefs but rather learn how to manage them. We need to stop pretending the wall is not there and trying to ignore it. We need to accept its presence, give it a name, recognize it as our personal wall, evaluate its reason for existing, and find a way around it or maybe acquire a ladder!
The most important step in this process is to realize the existence of the belief. Becoming aware of our beliefs could be a rewarding exercise for both managing them and enhancing our insights. This practice gives us a completely new point of view about our values, standards, and desires. If we manage to uncover our beliefs with a certain level of awareness, we can understand why we live our lives and react in certain ways. We can understand why we fail to say no to things and people, why we become angry so easily, and why we act like victims all the time. One of my counselees, who had done this exercise with me before, said this provides us with a new foundation to step on and work our way up.
It may not be so easy to address and control our beliefs. Some can be so old and small that revealing them may not be possible or even necessary. Nevertheless, observing our reactions during our daily lives can give us an idea.
If the roots of our established beliefs run too deep, it will be hard, but not impossible, to remove them. We can still learn to manage them, however. For instance, let’s say you have a notion that people will hurt you out of jealousy if you are successful.If you become aware of this, you can establish support systems that will lead you to your goal when you feel your belief is going to interfere.
Learn How to Manage Your Beliefs, Because They’re Misleading You
Now, my advice to you would be to take your journal and write a list of the beliefs you’re aware of. I do this with my counselees all the time, and the results are life changing. Observe your usual reactions in order to unearth your beliefs. Then ask yourself this question: “What might be the underlying belief generating this kind of a reaction, feeling, and behavior?” The first answer that comes to mind is usually the correct one. Note it down in your journal together with whether you liked your answer or not, especially if you didn’t. Next, think about this: “What things have I lost or failed to attain so far in my life? What price am I paying now for this belief?” Finally, decide what could act as a substitute for this belief if you were to interchange it with another. Thereafter, whenever you find yourself reacting to this old belief, consult your journal and read the price you have paid for it. Then read the new belief that you want to substitute for it.
Revealing our beliefs and establishing support systems to manage them is a lifelong struggle. You’ll discover a previously unknown belief with each new day, but here’s some words of warning: If you manage to turn this into a routine or even a fun game to play, you may experience positive changes and accomplishments in your life that you’re unable to believe!
Dost Can Deniz