Beliefs and values are integral part of a person’s internal psychology. They motivate our actions and choices, inform how we handle situations, and even determine how successful we are or are not. A belief is an assumption about the world around you that can’t be proven or dis-proven. For example, if you believe in a deity, you can’t prove that it exists, but it can’t be dis-proven either. Some will argue that anecdotal evidence backs up belief, but there is enough conflicting anecdotes with a given belief, that it is better to simply focus on believing what you will and letting others believe what they will. Values are moral beliefs that a person holds. They differ from beliefs only in that there is a morality attributed to them that guides how they are expressed in the life of the person. Belief systems – the collection of our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world – are based on our physical nature (such as genetics and state of health), upbringing, education, experiences, and our environment. In this chapter, we’re going to explore all of these, particularly how you can change your beliefs and values.
Your initial beliefs and values are initially formed because of what your parents teach you. Your experiences and the examples of those around you, particularly parents, became the foundation for our assumptions and beliefs about life and our place in it. As you grow up, your beliefs are also shaped by religion, education, and popular culture. Beliefs, however, are recursive. Once you have formed foundation beliefs about the world beyond your immediate physical experience, you tend to find corroborating evidence. The is to say, many of your basic assumptions (whether positive or negative) about yourselves and other people may come true because you are open to supporting evidence and tend to be closed to conflicting evidence. This doesn’t tend to happen with basic physical experience – you may believe you can fly, but if you can’t, you are likely to figure it out fairly quickly. On the other hand, if you believe that most people are basically good and kind or that people are lousy and will step on you if you let them, you can find plenty of evidence for either belief. Many of these beliefs and values can last a lifetime without ever being consciously challenged! It is better,however, to challenge them so that you can consciously decide what beliefs and values really embody your life. Challenging them really means that you explore them in depth and ask yourself why you believe what you believe as well as asking if that belief genuinely benefits your life. Many of the beliefs and values you initially possess are not taught on a conscious level by your parents, religion, education, etc. They are observed and experienced and taken on as a reality because that is the experience you’ve received.
Our beliefs affect every aspect of our lives, forming the foundations of our motivations and goals. Our beliefs create our worlds by focusing our attention on what we perceive as possible. If you believe that you are a talented artist, it won’t necessarily make you an artistic genius, but it may motivate you to create art. If you believe that you aren’t good enough to deserve a better job or a fulfilling relationship, you may not spend time looking for them. If you believe that life is a struggle, then life will be a struggle.
Beliefs and values are not set in stone. You can change your beliefs, but the change requires effort, and practical implementation of the belief in your life. This kind of implementation can only occur when you’ve done the necessary work that helps you not only work through the belief but also any associated reactions that could be triggered by trying to change the belief. A belief can be changed, however, and when it is changed, it consequently changes how you live your life and respond to situations that occur in it. A conscious approach to life and, indeed, to your values and beliefs, is a much more proactive and better way to live your life.
Techniques for Changing Beliefs
If you are going to change a belief or sets of beliefs there are a variety of techniques you can use. We want to also recommend that you work with a therapist as you work on making some of these changes, because you may find that in the course of working on a belief that emotions and memories come up that need to be addressed with professional help. In such a case, it’s a good idea to work with a therapist, who can provide an objective perspective.
Meditation can be used to work with beliefs and values. When using meditation for that purpose, the goal is not to empty your mind, but rather to focus on the particular belief that you want to work on. Breathing meditation can be useful for this work, because it involves you using breathing to identify areas of subtle tension in the body. These areas of tension can be thought of as physiological and emotional blocks that need to be worked with, in order to dissolve them. When using breathing work for this purpose, you may find that memories and emotions come up that have been repressed. That can be a good time to feel the emotions and work through the memories. We recommend doing Taoist water breathing meditation.
With Taoist water breathing meditation, you breathe through your nose, while touching the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. You want to breathe as fully as possibly, down to your diaphragm. When you breathe in, feel your attention (as a feeling of internal energy) move up the front of your body to the crown of your head. When you exhale, let the energy flow down into your body. You may notice places of resistance when you do this. You can direct your internal energy to those places, but don’t try and force them to dissolve. Focus on letting your energy flow around the blockage, gradually dissolving it, like water melting an ice cube. If you feel emotions come up, allow yourself to feel them. You may find yourself going through an internal dialogue with the issue or belief you are working through, which can be helpful as a way of exploring the power that issue or belief has in your life.
While the Taoist Water meditation technique is helpful in the way I described above, it’s not necessarily as focused on a specific belief as you’d like. Another meditation technique, called pathworking, can be helpful because it can be more targeted. Pathworking is essentially a form of hypnosis that can be used to create a guided meditation that walks you through past memories or symbolism that represents a specific belief you want to work with. Typically, pathworking uses scripts to create a virtual reality with which you can interact. You use that virtual environment to work with the belief that you have and make changes to it. Focusing on pathworking is beyond the scope of this book, but we recommend Magical Pathworking by Nick Farrell. It provides a thorough explanation of pathworking, plus scripts that you can use for internal work.
Meditation may not be the technique that works for you. Fortunately, there are other techniques that can be used to work through your beliefs.
Well Formed Outcomes
Well formed outcomes is a technique that is typically used in goal setting, but can also be applied to examining your beliefs, and how those beliefs are brought out in your decision making process. Below are a list of questions that are used in the well formed outcome technique:
What do I want? What don’t I want?
I will know that I have what I want, when I…(be as specific as possible about what you will experience when you have what you want)
In what context will I have what I want?
Is the desired outcome completely within my control? Why or why not?
Is this outcome really best for me and the balance of my life? How will the outcome effect my life?
Is my desired outcome completely desirable? Is there any consequence I don’t want, that could occur?
What stops me from having it right now?
What will happen if I don’t achieve my desired outcome?
What is the first step I will take to achieve my desired results?
While all of these questions can be used to explore a goal, they also can be used to explore how your beliefs are showing up to either support or hinder the achievement of that goal. Answering the questions above can help you explore your beliefs further, in terms of how they are expressed in your life. Well formed outcomes use an ecological check, which allows a person to check on their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, communication, and belief as it relates to the desired experience. Performing this ecological check can help uncover areas of resistance that need to be resolved before you seek your desired outcome.
Read Books and do the Exercises
Read books that express different beliefs than your own and do the exercises in the books. This can be an excellent way to explore your reactions to other beliefs, as well as test your beliefs in relationship to beliefs that run counter to your own. One of us chose to read books on money and mindsets as a way to explore his beliefs and reactions to money and was able to get rid of beliefs he’d learned from his family that caused him to struggle with finances. Doing the exercises in a book that offers a different set of beliefs can widen your perspective and critically examine your own beliefs in light of what you have read. We can’t emphasize enough just how useful this practice can be. (Of course, we suggest starting with this book!)
Framing Limiting Beliefs
Sometimes framing a belief from different perspectives can be helpful in exploring it and realizing how you might change it and/or how it is limiting you. This technique uses past, present, and future perspectives to look at the belief as well having you examine it from your perspective, an objective observer’s perspective, and another person’s (your choice of whose) perspective. To make this exercise work, create the following table on the ground or visualize it on the ground.
Each combination represents a specific perspective. When the person moves into a space, he or she should assume the persona of the perspective he or she wishes to explore. For example, if you moved into the space for Past and Observer, you would assume the perspective of the observer looking at past occurrences of your belief (perhaps even the origin of it). When you move into a new space, you literally shake off the old perspective before becoming the new perspective. For example, you might move from past-observe to future-other You’d shake off the past-observer perspective by shaking your body for a few moments and then quiet your mind and body and allow yourself to assume the physical posture and ontological perspective of the future-other.
These different perspectives can offer a message or belief that allows you to critically examine the limiting belief you want to change. You test your belief by examining it from multiple perspectives. Repeat this process through all the positions. You can do it with a partner who asks questions or you can do it on your own. If you don’t want to use the table above you could also create a form such as the one below:
Space/Time position: Past / Present/ Future (Circle one)
Perspective: Self / Other / Observer (Circle one)
Who is speaking to you and what is he or she saying?
How would you like to respond to this message?
What does this message tell you about your belief?
Stories and Beliefs
Stories can be another way to explore beliefs, especially when it is your stories that you are using to examine your beliefs. Every person alive tells stories, and likely tells them every day. Every time you tell a joke, or tell someone about your day, you are telling a story. The exercises we will explore in this section can help you leverage your stories to explore your beliefs.
One method you can use is to create a timeline of stories that represent incidents where a limiting belief has limited you in negative ways. The first step involves identifying the type of internal resource you want to draw on to help you change the limiting belief. Describe the resource and limiting belief in detail. How does the belief show up in your life? How does it limit you? How will the resource help you change it.
The next step involves imagining a timeline in the room. Imagine where the past and future is. You might even create a physical representation of the line and draw or place it on the floor.
Move yourself to any part of the timeline and visualize the story about the limiting belief. How did it limit you? How were you held back? Once you answer those questions, think of an internal resource or new belief that could change your limiting belief and the situation. What resource do you draw on? How does it change the situation? Retell the story, with the resource included in the telling. Repeat this anywhere on the timeline.
When you get to the present moment, consider how you will implement the resource into your life. How can you use new resource to change the limiting belief so it no longer gets in your way? Move into the future and tell stories of how you will use the resource to help you whenever the limiting belief comes up. Repeat as many times as necessary. This exercise is useful in helping you work through a limiting belief and see how changing that belief can change your life.
Another technique you can use allows you to examine beliefs from a place of doubt, so that you can come to a point where you no longer believe them. Much as with the other techniques described above, you’ll want to create a floor space with six different positions, where each of these positions has an associated physiological stance:
Currently Believe – The body is aligned, hands at side, weight evenly distributed
Open to Doubt – One hand on hip, the other hand under chin, one hip is cocked
Used to Believe – closed posture, arms folded
Open to Believe – Hands open and palms up, head to the side
Want to Believe – Hands open and palms up, head to the side
Trust – The other 5 should surround trust. Trust has an open stance, with open hands, looking upward, and relaxed
Each state provides a different perspective you can use to explore your limited belief.
When you enter into each perspective, adopt the physical expression of that perspective. Start in the “Want to Believe” space. What is the new belief that you want to believe? Once you’ve captured this belief in your mind, move to the “Open to Believe” space. Use this space to feel what will help you become more open to taking this belief on as a reality. When you feel it’s time, move into the “Currently Believe” space.
If any conflicting beliefs or emotions come up in the “Currently Believe” space, bring them with you to the “Trust” space. What are the positive intentions and purpose behind the new belief and the old limiting belief? What changes, if any, do you need to make to the new belief? Are there any parts of the old belief that you want to keep and how will you integrate them into the new belief?
When you are ready, step into the “Open to Doubt” space and look at both sets of beliefs. What are you open to doubting about them? Whatever you are open to doubting about the beliefs, take it with you to the “Used to Believe” space. Place whatever you doubt into that space. It is now part of the museum of old beliefs.
Step back into the “Currently Believe” space and focus on the new beliefs you want to strengthen in your life. Allow yourself to confidently feel the new beliefs and visualize them joining to your body, becoming part of your life. Finally, move back into the “Trust” position. Consider the changes you’ve made and remember that they are part of a natural process that each person goes through.
Each technique discussed in this chapter can be used to work with limiting beliefs. A belief isn’t changed by simply wishing it gone. You need another belief to fill the void. These techniques can help you develop conscious beliefs that help you navigate life more smoothly, but don’t too complacent with your new beliefs. Check and recheck them as needed. Beliefs can and should be changed as needed. When you get too attached to your beliefs, they can become dogma, and create their own reactions. Never stop asking, “Is my belief serving me or am I serving my belief?”
Another Belief Change Technique
Here’s a method that use representational system sub-modalities to help you alter limiting beliefs. (For more information about using sub-modalities, refer to the chapter Sensory Processing II.)
Identify a belief that limits you or reinforces a negative image. Imagine a situation that involves this belief. See, hear, and feel yourself exhibiting a behavior that embodies the limiting belief. Notice the sub-modalities that define your representation of this behavior and write them down in your working. That is, notice the qualities of the images, the sounds, and the feelings that are unique to holding this belief.
Now, identify a useful belief, a positive belief that empowers and strengthens you. Imagine yourself doing something you do really well, something that embodies this positive belief. Examine the sub-modalities, just as you did with the previous belief, and write down the critical elements of how you represent it to yourself.
Compare the two representations, noting the differences between the sub-modalities. Notice the size of each image, where the images are located in relation to you, whether the images move, the qualities of their colors, and so on.
Push the image of the limiting belief away from you until it is just a tiny dot. Next place it into the same position as your positive belief, and then move it back towards you. As you do move the image closer, shift the sub-modalities of the negative belief to match the sub-modalities of the positive belief. See yourself in the original situation where you exhibited the unwanted behavior, but this time acting effectively, handling the situation the way you would want to handle it.
Induce a trance and amplify the sub-modalities associated with your new, more-empowered state. (For more information about trance induction, refer to the chapter on trance.) When you believe you have most strongly identified the feelings associated with the new belief, anchor it by pressing a knuckle, squeezing two fingers, or using some other uni8que anchor, so that you can more readily access this state when you need it. (For more information about how to do this, refer to the chapter on anchoring.)
Return from trance, bringing your new capabilities with you and understanding that you can access this state when it is appropriate.