Some years ago, I was talking with a client about his particular limiting beliefs. I remember sharing with him the notion that belief is the basis of action, and watching as revelation dawned in his facial expression. He wrote it down in his notebook in large, bold letters, and repeated the phrase a few times to himself, “Belief is the basis of action.” To paraphrase his response, he said to me, “Already, my outlook on life is changing, just by hearing that one statement. I’ve been paralyzed, and afraid to act; but, if I truly believe that I have something to offer the world, if I truly believe that I am talented, if I truly believe that I am capable, taking steps toward my goals is so much easier! This has been the missing link for me. I wonder why I didn’t see it before. ”
I suggested that he go home and list everything that he absolutely believes to be true. Then, I proposed that he extrapolate from those belief statements and examine the consequences of each belief. Take a look at how this works:
People use violence because they believe it will get them the results they desire. Someone who is “invisible” in society immediately becomes visible when they hold a gun to the head of another human being. Organizations with an unknown, unheard of, un-championed cause immediately become newsworthy when they bomb a building, or demand ransom for hostages. They do these things because they believe their actions will get them what they want. In the same way, we respond to anger in our own lives with particular actions or words because we believe that those responses are the best way, or the only way, or the most effective way to deal with our anger.
My question to you is this: Are You Sure? Are you so sure that the only way to get respect is to berate and belittle your subordinates? Are you so sure that the only way to get your kids to behave is to beat them? Are you so sure that the only way to get what you want is to make others feel guilty for not knowing and giving it to you before you ask? Are you so sure that squashing your emotions inside of you won’t make you sick?
I wrote Anger Solutions because I have worked with countless people who have struggled with these very questions. Their core beliefs were breaking them, and inherently they knew it but didn’t know what to do to change. In every case that I can remember, the underlying issue was the same. The foundational beliefs on which my clients based their behaviour were skewed, faulty, based on something other than reality. The things we are taught can affect beliefs, just as much as the things we are not taught. Foundational beliefs can be influenced by our life experiences and the value we place on them. The things we see on TV and hear on the radio can affect beliefs. Traumatic events and their outcomes can also influence beliefs. Conversely, as we grow and mature, those same foundational beliefs affect the way we receive or reject teaching. They determine how we respond to our life experiences, and whether or not we accept or reject the ideas foisted on us by the media. My point is that just because we have always believed that certain behaviour is right doesn’t make it so.
There is nothing wrong with challenging or checking your beliefs every so often; that is, as long as you are doing so in a systematic and open way. Often people will challenge their foundational beliefs by espousing the exact opposite of the principles they have always lived by. Doing so doesn't necessarily make them better... just different. In order to make challenging our beliefs a useful exercise, we must ensure that we embrace beliefs that are based in fact, as well as that are empowering to us AND to others. Here are some examples of what happens when we allow our beliefs to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other: