Many of us go through seasons in life where we just feel “stuck.” We want to see our lives move in a different direction but we aren’t sure where to start. We may be fearful to make a change or unable to identify what is keeping us stuck. If we learn how to identify our underlying belief systems, however, we can begin to move toward getting “unstuck.”
Everything we do begins with a belief system. Our mind (which is our ability to think and choose) tells our brain (that organic structure in our head) something which, in turn, effects our emotions and behaviors. Therefore, it would make sense that, to get “unstuck”, we need to start with our belief systems
Our brains have the unique ability to re-wire themselves in a process called “neruoplasticity”. The beliefs we have about ourselves become hard-wired into our brain’s GPS system (scientists call these neural pathways) but we can change that wiring by choosing a different belief, which, in turn, takes us on a different route. Over time, we re-route our thoughts to such a degree that the default route changes. Naturally, when we adjust the route, the destination changes as well.
Our beliefs effect our behaviors in both positive and negative ways. Our brain has many important jobs and hates being wrong, so if you believe that you’re unlovable, you’ll act in ways to confirm that you are, in fact, unlovable. You may have heard this called a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s amazing to think how much power we have over our lives simply by what we believe!
If you attend therapy and share your story, you may think your therapist is just nodding their head and listening, but they are most likely searching for indicators of your underlying belief systems that are unhealthy or unhelpful. From there, they can help you discover why you believed that in the first place (hint: usually it was to protect yourself from feeling pain). Then they can help you untangle those belief systems and replace them with more adaptive, or helpful, and true belief systems. Here are 5 of the main belief systems most therapists keep their ears open for in session:
“I’m not good enough”
“I’m too much… of (fill in the blank)”
“I am unworthy of love”
“I can’t be happy unless…”
“My life is meaningless”
Different types of therapy yield different results, but most therapies intersect with our belief systems at some degree. One particular belief-based therapy is called EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing). In EMDR, your therapist will identify which core belief is causing you distress in your current day-to-day life, where that belief originated, and how to shift that belief to a more adaptive one through a brain-based intervention called bilateral stimulation. Through that process, your therapist will help you replace those negative core beliefs with positive ones. As the underlying belief changes, the behaviors that emerged from that belief begin to change as well. Remember, behaviors originate as beliefs. What are some things you and your therapist may replace those beliefs with? Here are a few:
“I’m not good enough” becomes “I am good enough regardless”
“I’m too much… of (fill in the blank)” becomes “I am just right for the right people”
“I am unworthy of love” becomes “I am worthy of love and belonging”
“I can’t be happy unless…” becomes “My happiness isn’t solely dependent on outside circumstances or other people”
“My life is meaningless” becomes “I can find meaning, even in the most difficult of circumstances”
Many times, we need a therapist to help us identify what those core beliefs are and walk us through a deeper process (like EMDR, which is much more complex than this article addresses). However, it is always helpful to begin to identify your unhelpful belief patterns in ANY setting, inside or outside of therapy. For some people, our core beliefs are rooted so deeply that it’s hard to even dare to believe something different. Telling yourself, “I am worthy of love” may feel inauthentic at first. If that’s the case for you, I’d encourage you to start small and add the word “I’m learning to” before these new, adaptive beliefs. You may say, “I’m learning to believe that I’m worthy of love and belonging” or “I’m learning to believe I am good enough, regardless.” Lasting life change takes time, and it’s often helpful to start small.
Are there any core beliefs you identify with from the list above? Perhaps take some time to consider if seeing a therapist, pastor or counselor could help you untangle that belief system. If you don’t know where to start, take our FREE 10 minute assessment, request an appointment and one of our Clear Path Clinicians will help match you with a therapist in your area (Georgia residents only).