Over the past couple of weeks my focus has been drawn to beliefs, in particular ‘Limiting Beliefs’. I have chatted to people over Linkedin about it, and it has been raised during a course I am doing called ‘YES to Success’, run by Deborah Poneman.
While examining and clearing negative beliefs is big part of the work I do, it feels as though this area is definitely being highlighted as something to focus on at the moment, both for others, and for my own journey.
During periods of change, our beliefs become really important, because if they are negative they can really block us. Having positive beliefs doesn’t mean you don’t have problems or challenges, or make you superhuman, it just means you can manage stressful situations with more confidence and creativity.
I want to use this blog to help educate people on the finer details of the work I do in helping business owners and individuals ‘Make Peace with Money’, so let’s start with beliefs, what are they and how are they created?
What is a belief?
As part of the ‘Yes to Success’ course I am doing, I listened to an amazing talk by Shelley Lefkoe (Owner, Lefkoe Institute and founder of Parenting the Lefkoe Way), and she defined a belief as:
“A belief is a statement about reality, which you believe to be true”.Shelley Lefkoe
The week before, Deborah Poneman was talking about the Hawaiian practise called Ho’oponopono (say that quickly if you can….), and this drew me to a book I have on the subject, written by Carole Berger, who defines beliefs as:
“A belief is a thought that has established itself as truth and has become fixed in our thinking, whether consciously or unconsciously”.Carole Berger, Ho’oponopono
Both of these definitions sum up beliefs perfectly for me, however Carole Berger’s highlights the subconscious aspect of beliefs, which is where most people get stuck.
How do you know you have a problem, if you don’t know you have the problem, let alone start to fix it?
How do we form beliefs?
Beliefs are what you KNOW to be true about the world. They are very powerful things, they inform every thing you do, and underlie all of the patterns in your life.
As I mentioned in my blog ‘Dealing with your money stresses – Part 2, understanding money blocks‘, most beliefs are created when we are children, based on experiences we have with our family members, teachers, other role models, and friends.
Children make decisions based on incomplete or incorrect logic or reasoning, and will therefore have a limited view of the world around them.
Shelley Lefkoe said that a child’s world is small; where mom represents all women and dad, all men. She also pointed out that the question asked most by every child is “Why?”.
So, let’s take a little girl who draws a picture, she then takes the picture to her mom to show her, but her mom has a work presentation to finish and she shushes her daughter away with no explanation.
The little girl walks away asking herself the question “Why?” Not only does she ask the question but in her childish logic she comes up with an answer(s) which may include “I’m not important”
“Hawaiians say that these memories are the little child inside us (they call this Unhipili). This young child believed something – chose to believe what they are told or what they felt – and turned it into a brick that they used to construct their personality.”Carole Berger, Ho’oponopono
The neuroscience of beliefs
The little girl with her drawing will form a memory of this event and her brain will attach a negative emotion to this memory, forming a neural pathway in her brain. Depending on whether she carries this belief into adulthood will depend on how many times it is reinforced. If her parents (or others) continually repeat this behaviour then the belief will be carried forward into later life.
Even in adulthood, reinforced beliefs can become stronger the more we repeat them. Nobel Prize-winning physician Eric Kandel showed that when we pass signals through a neural bundle in our brains, that bundle grows rapidly. The number of connections can double in just one hour of repeated stimulation (taken from Mind to Matter, by Dawson Church).
In addition, our brains have a Reticular Activating System (RAS) which is basically a filter for information. It only focuses on the important stuff; deciding what is important based on what we tell it. So, if we tell ourselves ‘we are not important’ that is the message the RAS gets and it filters out other beliefs as less important.
This is why someone can tell you you are brilliant, but you don’t believe them; that message does not match your belief in yourself, so it gets filtered through the RAS; it’s almost as though you don’t hear it.
I’ll explain more about the RAS in a future blog, but for now it will give you a start to having a better idea of what is happening in your brain.
The good news is that once you recognise your negative beliefs, you can look at rewiring the brain, and create new, more positive beliefs.