What is the girl to the right thinking? Is it positive? Is it negative? Is it true? Is it false? Where do her current thoughts come from?
The lens of the past is a difficult one to look through. Most of what we believe comes from past experiences. Past hurts, past mistakes, past relationships, past experiences of abuse, and a host of other things color the way we see things. We see ourselves through these lenses. We see others through these lenses. We even judge the way the world works through these lenses.
The problem is we overgeneralize. In other words, we go through a particular experience and apply our thinking during that experience to other situations. For example, if we were abused by our father as a child, we may have an underlying belief that men are dangerous. These beliefs usually aren’t conscious. However, they do color the way we see the world.
Okay. The idea of having beliefs that are unconscious seems a little weird. Agreed. It is a little weird to think about. However, most of our thoughts are actually rather automatic. We’re not really aware of them until something happens to make us aware. Think about the last time you drove your car. Did you really think about how far or how quickly to turn the wheel? Were you aware of how far you pressed the gas or brake pedal? How about that traffic light you just reacted to without thinking about it?
Since my beliefs determine how we see the world, we would do well to understand how problem beliefs impact our behavior and emotions.
All of these things are controlled by thoughts. However, we were probably not aware of them. When something changes or something unexpected occurs, we are suddenly aware of our automatic thoughts. For example, we don’t think about how to stop at a red light. Our brains initiate all of the motions necessary. It’s the same for green lights. However, when the light turns yellow, we are suddenly aware of our driving. This occurs because we have to make a decision. Those thoughts we weren’t aware of suddenly become front-and-center.
Identify Problem Beliefs
Since my beliefs determine how we see the world, we would do well to understand how problem beliefs impact our behavior and emotions. This is quite different for every person. Think about your past experiences. Which ones have caused you the most difficulty? Which ones make you cringe when you think about them? What did those experiences teach you at the time? What “learning” have you applied to all other situations?
Here are some examples that we tend to hear:
- I always fail when I try something new
- I have been hurt too many times to get into a relationship again
- My life has always been bad so it probably won’t get any better
- I always have bad luck
- My mom/dad didn’t want me so why would anyone else
- If I don’t do it perfectly, I failed
- Not pleasing everyone means I will be rejected
Hopefully, you get the idea. These statements aren’t things the individual is aware of all of the time. In fact, they probably aren’t aware of them hardly any. However, they color the person’s perception of others as well as the way the person feels and acts.
In the next few posts, I will be discussing ways to begin correcting problem thinking. We would love to hear your comments below. Feel free to post them there.
What beliefs about yourself or others tend to cause you problems?