Most of our behaviours and actions in life are controlled by what we believe. Your attitude to money will depend on what you believe about money. If you think having lots of money is a bad thing, you are likely to sabotage yourself when trying to earn a lot. Or you’re not even going to try.
If you think you’re not loveable, you are likely to engage in unhealthy relationships and find yourself “people pleasing” or tolerating behaviours that hurt you.
Whatever we believe in life has an impact. Most of the time our beliefs are held at the subconscious level, and one of the thing coaching helps with is to identify those beliefs, bring them to consciousness and examine if they’re helpful or not.
When we find limiting beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough to build a business” or “I don’t deserve a nice relationship” to name a few common ones, we need to do some work to change it. Beliefs are very influential in our lives – have you heard about the placebo effect? This is when we believe we take a pill but it’s just sugar – and yet, we still get the health benefits as if we were taking real medicine…this is one of the most powerful example on how what we believe can impact us.
One of my favourite tool to change beliefs is CBT. It works on the principle that we create beliefs through our experiences in life. Think of Santa! As a kid, we create the belief that Santa exist because 1. our parents tell us, and 2. because we keep bumping into Santa in the shopping mall 😀
On a more serious note, think of some beliefs you have that don’t serve you. Such as I can’t succeed on my own, or I am not beautiful enough to have a boyfriend. Where do those beliefs come from? How were they created? It is very likely that at some point you had an experience in life that led you to create that belief.
Perhaps you’ve learnt from your family that success is difficult to achieve on your own. Or you’ve witnessed your parents struggling to be successful. Maybe someone told you at school that you were not pretty and that’s why they didn’t want to be your boyfriend. Etc, etc.
But one event is rarely enough to create a long-lasting belief. Unless that event is quite traumatic or emotionally powerful. I had a client once who had been assaulted in the street. That traumatic event alone led to the belief that walking alone at night is not safe. She didn’t need more assaults to not feel safe walking at night. Understandably.
However in most cases, it takes more than one situation to develop a belief. It actually takes a repetition of similar events for a belief to get strongly embedded. Because the brain only learns through repetition – or through strong emotional impact.
Beliefs are therefore created through our experience, and reinforced through accumulating evidence throughout the years. Including how many times we bump into Santa in the shopping mall.
So how do we change our beliefs?
The first thing we need is to actually identify those beliefs. And because most of them are unconscious, they are difficult to spot. However, I realised something this week : behind all our fears, there is a belief.
I was talking to a client today who was scared of being assertive with her best friend. And I asked her “what is the belief behind that fear?” and at first she couldn’t answer me. She kept explaining to me rationally why and how the friendship might be at risk if she dared putting her foot down. But we kept digging. And eventually, she realised that the belief hidden behind that fear was that her friend didn’t value the friendship as much as she did. Therefore, if she stood her ground and disagreed with that friend, there was a strong possibility – purely based on that belief – that the friendship would end. And that’s what created the fear.
So when you’re scared of something, ask yourself “what is the belief that feed that fear?” so you can pin point it. And then, how do you change it?
CBT offers an elegant quick answer to that dilemma. It suggests to explore all the evidence we have of that negative beliefs, and through analysing and reviewing them, challenge their veracity. And unless those beliefs are facts, it is very likely that you’ll find those evidence are false.
Once you’ve challenged the foundations of that old belief, you can then start to formulate a new belief. And start to look for evidence in your experience that support that new belief. I was talking yesterday to a client who believed he couldn’t run his business once his partner left. And we discovered through analysing his experience, that he has multiple evidence in his past that he has run businesses successfully by himself. Sometimes it only takes a bit of enquiry and challenge.
However, when you work on beliefs that are linked to your identity rather than your behaviour, you might find that knowing rationally that the belief isn’t true – is not enough. What I mean by beliefs linked to your identity, is things like “I’m not good enough”, or “I’m a fraud” or anything that starts with “I am…”
Those core beliefs are harder to change because they are part of who we are. They’ve probably been here for a very long time, they actually helped define your sense of self. So naturally, they are going to be harder to challenge, and you may even notice a resistance to changing them. Our subconscious holds on very tight to our identity, and the minute we try to question and change it, it naturally resists by fear of losing the sense of who we are.
CBT explains that in order to create new beliefs, it’s not enough to challenge the old ones and then create new ones. Because of how beliefs are formed, you actually need to experience the evidence that support the new belief. Not just know theoretically those evidence, but experience them. How do you do this? By creating life situations that will provide an opportunity to collect those evidence.
So for example if you changed the belief “I can’t speak in public” using the CBT approach – by deconstructing it, challenging the false evidence that supported it and even finding evidence of situations in the past where you’ve been quite comfortable in speaking in public ; would that be enough for you to shift that belief for good? Probably not.
You would have to have a few experiences of speaking in public AND feeling comfortable whilst doing so, in order to start changing that belief.
But with core identity beliefs it’s much more difficult. That approach itself is unlikely to give lasting changes. We need to work at more in depth to change the belief at the unconscious level.
I love hypnotherapy for that. I’ve found it extremely useful to make those kind of very deep changes that coaching or CBT alone don’t nail. Because it allows us to dive in the depth of the subconscious, where the foundations of the belief exist, and reprogram our mind at that level. We implement new beliefs that will have a lasting impact, because we actually change the root of it, not just the superficial manifestations.
So how does hypnotherapy work in that case? One of the first step I would suggest, is to imagine what having the new belief looks and feels like. And create a multi sensory visualisation whilst being “under” in order to experience fully that new belief.
I often recommend my clients to practise that visualisation after the session, as often as possible. That speeds up the implementation of the belief at the unconscious level and gives much quicker results. A daily repetition is quite important, as if we create a new belief both at the conscious and unconscious belief, but in the background we keep running the old stories, we are likely to relapse at some point.
Hope you find those reflexions useful, and feel free to drop a comment below with your own experience!
Have a nice weekend in the meantime! 🙂