We all hold beliefs about world and have assumptions regarding people, events and situations. It is interesting that these beliefs play a significant role in judging others and they also seem to determine our reactions towards others. We form these beliefs in the childhood based upon our experiences with our care givers, teachers, peers, and authority figures. These beliefs become an integral part of our thinking and we do not even realize how they affect our attitude towards others and determine our reactions and perception. We take them for granted and believe that they represent reality. It is also important to note that all our negative self talk comes from these deeper lying beliefs or assumptions about ourselves, others, and life, in general. Some of these beliefs are mistaken, but they guide our behavior. For example, we could hold a belief that we are powerless, or we should always be pleasing to others no matter how we feel. Mistaken beliefs often damage our self esteem and put limits on our self worth. Many of us are limited by the belief that we must be approved by others and if we do not get approval of others, we are worthless. The reality is that every person has a worth and dignity regardless of the approval of others.
How do we deal with these beliefs which are limiting us and have become an obstruction towards our goal achievement? We must let go of these beliefs and assumptions to become successful, have positive relationships with others, and deal with the stress in life. Following are the five questions that you can ask yourself to dispute your irrational beliefs. Writer will also recommend reading the blog written on Rational Emotive Therapy by the writer to learn about the process of challenging irrational beliefs.
Questions to Ask Yourself in order to Challenge your Beliefs:
1. What is the evidence for this belief?
Look for proof and objectivity because many times we become subjective, biased and do not really look at the reality before forming opinions and prejudices. It is possible that our biases and failure to see the truth, is coloring our perception and we draw conclusions, based upon our biases and preconceived notions. If you cannot back up your assumptions with a solid and rational proof, then your belief is mistaken and you need to let go of it. It is like challenging your negative self talk with Socratic questions, which put our thinking to rational scrutiny. Just like a criminal cannot be accused of a crime if there is no proof in the court, our irrational thoughts are worthless if there is no proof.
2. Does this belief always hold true for me?
We sometimes jump to conclusion about others, events, and situations based upon our past experiences. However, there are times when we could be reading too much and allowing our beliefs to color our perception. We fail to look at the times when we had the opposite experience and make the error of overgeneralization. If this is true then we should look at the times when things were positive versus coloring our perception with irrational beliefs.
3. Does this belief look at the total picture?
It is important to note that we tend to focus on the negative all the time and fail to recognize the positive aspects of the situation. This causes let down, frustration, anger, and unhappiness. If we begin to become more open minded and not let the negative aspect of the situation bother us, we will be able to deal with the situation better and handle our feelings more skillfully. It is like looking at the half empty glass and not being appreciative of the half full. This happens so automatically that we do not even realize it. People, who are anxiety prone and depressed, begin to worry about the negative aspects of the situation, fail to look at the positive aspects of the situation and form their beliefs accordingly. However, when you ask this question, you might be able to discern the truth and change your reaction to the situation, person or event.
4. Does This Belief Promote My Well Being?
When you become angry and upset due to your mistaken beliefs, it is not healthy for your mental health and you will not be at peace. Therefore it is important to check the validity of your belief and change your “self talk” pertaining to the event, person and situation. Sometimes our beliefs like, “I have to be pleasing no matter what” could make us angry from inside. As a result, you will be holding on to the anger because you were not able to express your true feelings and put up a façade of being pleasing and nice. This incongruity in message is not healthy and does not promote well being. If you cannot change the situation, it is better to accept it and move on versus worrying about it all day long. Try to become a problem solver rather than worrying about something that you have no control over.
5. Did I choose this belief on my own or did I develop it from my experience of childhood?
Many of our mistaken beliefs are formed due to our upbringing and the kind of messages we got during our growing up. Various types of dysfunctional childhood situations often provide the basis for developing mistaken beliefs. These beliefs need to be scrutinized and looked at objectively because they will continue to cause anxiety and stress in youif left alone. It is important to let go of the past and focus on what can be done in the present to deal with situations versus letting these mistaken beliefs take control of you.
It is important to mention here that once you have challenged the mistaken belief, it is very crucial to use an affirmation to reinforce your newly formed belief about the situation, person and event.
Affirmations are like mind chatter that facilitates the positive programming of the subconscious mind. They also help in erasing the irrational beliefs and guiding you in your reactions to the situation in hand. Writer has discussed the importance of affirmation in the blog on Automatic Self Talk and Panic Disorder. I would refer the readers to review them for more details. Before replacing your mistaken beliefs with affirmation, it is also important to make a counter argument when you ask yourself the above five questions.
Following are some examples of Affirmations that you can use to challenge your mistaken beliefs:
I am learning to be kind to myself.
I am a good person.
I can accept criticism and learn from it.
I love and accept myself.
It is okay for me to take care of my needs without feeling guilty.
I have a right to express my feelings.
I am learning to let go of my worries and think positive.
In this way, we see that it is possible to challenge our mistaken beliefs and change our self talk to deal with our situations. Once we have challenged the mistaken beliefs and used affirmations, it is possible to replace our mistaken beliefs with a new rational belief. You need a lot of determination to be able to uproot your mistaken beliefs because you formed them over the years. Persistence and perseverance will ultimately give desired results.
The five questions to challenge mistaken beliefs are taken from the book written by Edmond J Bourne “Anxiety and Phobia Workbook”
Hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.