Six Steps to Gain Insight and Releasing Limiting Beliefs
Meditation, yoga and practices that help maintain a calm mind and heart are key disciplines to developing awareness, and help us tackle the mind at the root by deepening our identification with consciousness deeper than thought.
However, to deal with specific recurring thoughts or negative life patterns, it is useful to address specific outmoded beliefs and views. This can be liberating and enhance our capacity for growth and happiness, especially when we have some unconscious block to break through.
During the years I worked in therapy, one of the techniques I used was rebirthing which uses a circular pattern of conscious breathing that opens the mind up to memories and insights. It energises mind and body and can clear blockages.
One client suffered chronic fatigue and had noticed patterns of ill-health and self-sabotage in her career at specific times of opportunity and success. Cycles of feeling energised, excited and hopeful seemed always brief and repeatedly ended in disappointment and fatigue.
I will call her Chloe here. During a key session, Chloe’s breathing became more intense in waves until she wept deeply. Over much of an hour she moved through layers of healing as a result of re-living an event in her child hood that she had forgotten. She was age 4 or 5, standing on a train platform with her little sister and father. It was the end of a hot day out and they were all tired. She was repeatedly asking her father if she could carry the box of donuts he had bought for them all when they got home, but he wouldn’t let her.
She got increasingly upset until he reluctantly and impatiently thrust the box at her, saying “Alright, just be quiet and do not drop them!” Tired and sooky, she held on to the box as they waited on the hot platform for the train. When the train pulled to a stop, the doors opened. As they stepped into the train, Chloe felt the box slip from her hands and fall between the train and the platform, irretrievably on the stones below. Staring in shock and disbelief, she felt her father angrily grab her arm and pull her into the train as the doors shut. He was swearing under his breath and angrily stated the obvious, “I told you not to drop them! That is exactly why I didn’t want you to carry them. How could you do that? Unbelievable!”
Standing forlorn with her head down, Chloe felt herself as a child with a terrible sinking feeling in her chest and stomach. The child quietly wept, while the adult registered a deep decision to the effect of “I can’t be trusted” and “I can’t even trust myself”. As she felt the pain of the child, the life between then and that moment flashed before her. She registered a familiar bad feeling and saw how she had reinforced that decision and belief in countless ways that had limited her. The adult also wept and gradually realised she could now let it go.
This simple situation really brought home to me that it is not the adults version of a ‘serious’ event where some of our pain stems from. Some people come out of the worst situations with great survival strategies and positive convictions. At the same time simple situations like Chloe’s ‘donut moment’ can prove life impacting in deeply reinforcing a negative belief and unresolved anguish or pain.
It is not what happens to us, but the decisions we make as a result of what happens, that conditions the mind.
Chloe was able to release her sadness and connect with the pain at the level and mindset she remembered it being locked in. In our debrief she further came to terms with this old belief and forgave herself, her father and many situations and people since that time that she could see she had protected and reaffirmed that pain. She affirmed a new trust in herself. Months later she sent me a card to say her energy levels, positivity and motivation personally and professionally had improved significantly. A change had occurred and she felt more free with more choices.
It you have an ongoing hurt, recurring negative thoughts or specific negative outcomes try the following six-step exercise:
Write a list of painful experiences in your life, especially in childhood, when you have a bit battered and bruised by life or had some momentous event occur and challenge you. Another approach here may be to first look at what obstacle keeps coming up in your life now and you want to break through.
Take time to go through the past experience writing key thoughts and feelings that occurred at the time. Alternatively, do the same with the feelings and thoughts you get around a blockage you are experiencing now and, with some deep breaths and relaxation, find times earlier in your life when you felt the same (the focus is your inner feeling not the situation around you).
At the time of your earliest experience, what basic belief or decision did this affirm to you about yourself or life in general? Don’t over-think it, but just note anything that comes to mind. Allow a flow of thoughts and make a list of decisions or beliefs, noting how each one makes you feel or the location, size and nature of feeling in your body.
Now identify the one’s you still feel a ‘charge’ on that you may still be proving to be true at times in your life. Turn each negative thought into an “I” thought, such as “I am ….” or “I can’t ….” or “I’m not ….”.
Affirm these are only beliefs that filter our perception and experience of life and flip each of the negatives into a positive affirmation or life affirming thought and belief. Like Chloe affirming “I am fully responsible, trustworthy and loved as I am”, or “I, Chloe can be trusted and completely successful with anything I really want”. Imagine the possibilities if the positive affirmation you had was applied to the most valued things in your life now.
For each negative belief and associated feeling spend a week or more with the positive affirmation. Forgive yourself or any specific person associated with the past event and belief. For those really hurtful events, remember that forgiving someone is not necessarily making what happened okay. It is about letting it go so it doesn’t continue to negatively impact the quality of your consciousness and perceptions any more.
Use the positive affirmation as a mantra silently or out loud. You can write it down daily twenty times noting how you feel, until the emotional or body sense associated with it feels comfortable and real. You can also write little signs of the affirmations that really lift your energy and outlook, and leave them in places you like to be reminded (such as a bathroom mirror, fridge, car dashboard, work computer screen, etc.). Then go through any others in your list.
Taking stock and working with conditioned thoughts and beliefs for a period of time is an important stage in really understanding how our conditioned mind impacts our perceptions, experiences and outcomes. It empowers us to know we can identify and change this conditioning and discover more choices for ourselves and life circumstances.
Meditation is about getting beyond the thinking mind and beliefs, until every moment becomes a choice in the quality of awareness, consciousness and state of being. In the meantime, facing discomfort and negatives in ourselves is not only a huge source of maturity and growth but also creates new outcomes and possibilities in life.