Opinions begin to shape us from the very beginning of our lives. Based on our early interactions with our families, teachers and others, we all develop generalisations about who we are and what our relationship to the rest of the world will be. These generalisations – a collection of stories, beliefs and identifications – form the basis of our own sense of personality and our way of interpreting the world around us.
Becoming aware of our beliefs is essential in our development for greater self-awareness. It is because most of these beliefs run at the ‘unseen’ level that they tend to block us from true self-awareness. We don’t even realise who or what we truly are, let alone how we seem to create conflicting experiences. Until we bring greater awareness to them, our beliefs continue to hold great power in our lives.
We don’t ‘knowingly’ choose these beliefs. We absorb them from our environment, mostly when we are too young to know any better. And we continue to absorb information throughout our whole lives. Our subconscious mind is constantly tuned in and listening to everything around us. The subconscious mind has no discriminating powers, it simply stores whatever information we come across as a given.
Gradually, this information creates our ‘map’ of reality. Against this map, our minds screen the information we receive. We accept the familiar, whether it’s healthy or harmful, and reject the unfamiliar, whether it’s beneficial or not. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it is unfortunately the way our subconscious self tends to work.
All of these underlying beliefs become core components of the way we see other people, the world, and ourselves. Some of these beliefs give us outcomes and experiences we want, while others create outcomes and experiences we don’t want. In the world of thought, like attracts like. This is how people get stuck in routines or ruts. Understanding this, and mobilising our own power to actively respond to this, is critically important to our perception of happiness.
The brain is bombarded with so much data all the time – 10 million bits of information per second – that in order to maintain sanity and function effectively, we only process a small fraction of incoming data, about 40 bits per second. And, whatever our brains access is dictated by filters, stored information about our values, beliefs and memories. This is referred to as the ‘conditioned self’.
Human beings have a powerful need for consistency between what they believe to be true and what really is true. Unfortunately, most people would rather be right than be happy. This means that regardless of how erroneous your perception of things really is or how much your beliefs result in misery, you will arrange to be right about them by creating situations that seem to confirm what you believe is true.
This is further compounded by the fact that many beliefs you might have about yourself, such as being ‘bad’, ‘unworthy’ or ‘unlovable’, are too painful or shameful to hold in your conscious awareness. Consequently they are repressed into your unconscious mind, where they are buried out of sight but still affect you. Because of this, they are unavailable for conscious examination and transformation. The other thing we do with our repressed parts is to project them onto others. This results in extreme emotional reactions to others who exhibit the characteristics we believe are ‘bad’ or unacceptable in ourselves.
In many ways, emotional healing involves ‘unlearning’, transforming and releasing these old beliefs and sometimes making new, healthier ones. In essence, the mind does not only believe things that are good for us. In fact, the mind is completely neutral and will take on whatever it’s exposed to – good, bad or ugly. This means that with more conscious tools we are able to work with our minds to great benefit.
The mind is a goal-seeking mechanism, and a very powerful one. Your mind can make whatever it allows into it – and believes – come true in your life. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Many people who have had significant negative emotional experiences tend to focus on what they don’t want. However the universe doesn’t see or hear ‘don’t want’. Your mind and the energy of the universe simply respond to the image or feeling you hold of yourself. So when you notice yourself focusing on what you do not want, change the focus to what you do want.
Beliefs come true because we need consistency between what we believe (inwardly) and what we experience outwardly, and we will do anything to create this consistency. For most people this dynamic is happening at a very unconscious level, in four primary ways as follows.
1. Energy attraction and interaction: We get attracted to people and situations that contain the energy of our beliefs, which of course confirms that the belief is true. For instance, you believe no one will ever really love you, which causes you to be drawn to people who will leave you. Yet what is simply happening is the law of attraction: Energy (internal beliefs) attracts like energy (external events).
2. Owning the belief and giving its meaning power: We ‘pretend’ that the belief is true even if it isn’t. We walk around with lenses coloured by our beliefs and project that meaning onto whatever happens. This confirms in the mind that the belief is true.
3. Behaving in ways that drive people to act in the way we feared they would: For example, we fear that people will leave us, and because of that fear, we act in a way that eventually causes the person to leave. This again creates the confirmation in the mind that the belief is true.
4. The limiting beliefs literally become a ‘mind trap’: This means that our beliefs all conflict with each other, making it almost impossible for us to act in certain circumstances. Some examples of this type of mind trap would be: “I must find a boyfriend to be truly happy. I am not beautiful enough to have a boyfriend.” Or, “I have to be successful to be happy. I am not worthy of success.”
With the first three behaviours, we get to be right about what we believe. And, as the ego believes, it’s better to be right than be loved. However, it only takes so long before we are acutely dissatisfied with our ego’s idea of reality! The fourth condition can be extremely debilitating and cause great suffering.
Excerpt from Awakening YOU