Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
– Howard Thurman

Today I want to talk about one of the best and also worst things about being human .. our minds.  For most of my life I’ve fed my mind like it was an insatiable creature, even neglecting other parts of my existence in the process.  This is clearly not a whole-self loving thing to do.  I have loved my mind, and it has, in return, kept me entertained, occupied and driven to move forward.  I have also attempted to ‘free myself’ using my mind, except that my mind had me imprisoned with a clever prison guard who offered scraps of hope and glimpses of freedom while keeping me fully trapped.

I recently tried out a process which provides a key to the jail cell and a way to reinvent your reality.  It was so powerful that I am sharing it here.

Jail Bars of Belief

Tool #6 from Teal Swan’s ‘tool kit to self love’* is titled Jail Bars of Belief.  It offers a process for identifying and then dismantling any belief.  I will attempt to summarise the process and will share my own process as an example.

 Your beliefs determine your life

Your reality is a physical reflection of your thoughts and beliefs and is unique to you.  If you want to live a happy and fulfilled life, it is imperative that you don’t stay stuck with beliefs that cause you to be unhappy.  This is part of loving yourself.  It is not your circumstances that make you unhappy, but your thoughts about your circumstances that make you unhappy.  

Living in the moment

The ‘Jail Bars of Belief’ chapter describes two different approaches to dismantling thoughts and beliefs, the first of which is very similar to Byron Katie’s The Work.  I will discuss The Work in a separate email except to say that it is a profound way of challenging thoughts and beliefs by turning them around and inside out to offer a radical new way of looking at any situation in your life in a totally new light and releasing the suffering those thoughts are causing.

Identifying a hidden belief

The second process is what I want to share.  Using this process I had a profound shift that helped me to identify an unconscious hidden belief that was controlling me and holding me back in profound ways.  When negative beliefs become embedded in the subconscious they sabotage us without our conscious awareness.  When we make them conscious we can replace them with more helpful beliefs.

The ideal opportunity to identify a negative core belief is when you are in a situation where you are experiencing strong negative emotions.  You do this by chasing every statement you have with two questions:

     Why would that be a bad thing?

     What would it mean if that were true?

Sharing my process to show how it works

I want to preface what I’m sharing below with an explanation.  When I look at it as it is written it looks strange, so I imagine it will look strange to an outside observer.  It was essentially around a struggle I’ve been having around finding work I can do that doesn’t feel like it destroys me in the process of doing it.  And when I tried to think of making my focus the sculpture project I was sabotaging and stopping myself with a fear that I was being ‘selfish and indulgent’ .. which is something I seem to have spent my life avoiding by being ‘selfless and denying’ .. but of course the things we resist we also give power to.  Anyway, here is what I wrote:

I feel as though I’m selfish and indulgent and I don’t feel like I have anything to offer to the world.

Why would that be a bad thing?
Because I am taking from the world but not giving enough back so I’m a drain on the earth.

What would it mean if that were true?
It would mean that I’m a parasite .. that I’m a taker and not a giver .. that I don’t really belong in the world because I’m not giving anything.

Why would that be a bad thing?
Because I have so much to offer but I am being stingy and holding back on what I have to give.

What would it mean if that were true?
It would mean that I am mean and stingy and that I’m a bad person.

Why would that be a bad thing?
Because it would mean that people will judge me and think I should be doing something to offer the world or to contribute to the world and they would not like me and they would reject me.

What would it mean if that were true?
I would be despised by others and rejected and I would feel lonely and sad and hopeless.

Why would that be a bad thing?
Because I like people and I want people to like me.  
Because if I am alone and rejected and hopeless I would rather be dead.

What this process uncovered

This might not be the best example of this process but it gives you an example which hopefully helps you to understand it.  In this case, the negative core belief, according to my understanding of the book, would most likely be ‘if I am alone and rejected and hopeless I would rather be dead’ .. which goes to show what a strong hold these beliefs have on our life.  Doing the process something shifted for me.  I started to see how my resistance to feeling selfish had me trapped in a state of denying myself whatever I desired.  I saw how I had actually been living my life only doing things that didn’t feel good to me because if I did what I wanted I would feel selfish. My fear of being ‘selfish’ meant I had tended to reject my own desires to cater for others needs, leaving me feeling drained and resentful.  This is what drove me to choosing, a long time ago, to prefer being alone to being with other people, in an ironic twist, since this was the only time I felt I could sense or attend to my own needs or preferences.

Experiencing the emotional hold this belief had on me by identifying the core belief that was holding it in place has helped to free me of this belief.  When I got to the core belief, which had me in tears as it touched on the deep rooted fear, I was able to shift how I saw that belief, like a cord had been cut.  And the freedom I felt from releasing this belief had me feel like I was floating .. like an anchor that had been holding me down had been released.

An example of this shift in my experience happened the following day during a trip into Bellingen.  I passed by a person who I had tended to get stuck talking to because cutting off the conversation felt ‘selfish’.  It was like I suddenly had permission to do what I wanted and I walked past the person (who didn’t notice me) guilt free.  That’s probably not the best example, but you get my drift.  

There are so many beliefs that hold us trapped in our life and challenging and dismantling these beliefs, and creating new and beneficial ones, is how you can transform your reality into one that allows you to thrive.

But wait, there’s more

The process of identifying the hidden belief is only the first part.  What follows is a process of dismantling the belief and replacing it with a new one.  The book uses the analogy of a table, with the tabletop representing the belief and the legs of the table representing the evidence supporting that belief.  Superglue securing the table legs to the floor represents the emotional payoff for keeping the belief.  

5 steps to dissolving and replacing a negative core belief:
(using my example to elucidate)

Step 1: What is the emotional payoff of keeping the belief and is it worth the pain it causes?

If I believe I can’t be selfish then I get to rely on everybody else’s needs to determine what I should do and this takes the pressure of making my own decisions off me. I then can’t be judged for what I do since it isn’t ‘my choice’. I ‘take myself off the hook’ for being responsible for what other people experience since it is what they want.  I’m also not responsible for what happens to me.  I get to feel like I am a victim.  I get to feel good about myself for being ‘selfless’. I can feel like I’m ‘being a good person’.  I have an excuse for going off and doing things on my own.  
 Step 2: Seek out alternative evidence / explanations that undermine the validity of your detrimental belief.

A. As a toddler I needed to ‘be selfish’ as that is a healthy part of childhood development and differentiation.  If I was judged at this stage in my development I might have turned the judgement back on myself and tried to stop ‘being selfish’

B. I like to do things ‘my way’.  This is part of my uniqueness and doesn’t need to be seen as a fault.  It could even be seen as a gift. 

Step 3. Work out a belief you would rather believe.

I have an unconventional way of doing things.

Step 4: Find evidence to back up your new, more beneficial belief.

I don’t like doing things the way that other people say they should be done without question.  I like to work out my own way.  I like to be a free thinker.  This way better solutions can be found than those that currently exist.  Doing things in different ways is fun and a creative process.  Often the way things are done are just routine patterns that are done without thought and I like to think about things and not just ‘follow the leader’.  Doing things differently makes life exciting and interesting.  Quite often people and societies get stuck in unhealthy ways of doing things and I don’t want to be party to that.  I want to be part of the change, not part of maintaining the status quo. Life is about change not stagnancy.  It’s my life so I want to do it my way.  

Step 5. Look for the emotional payoff of the new belief.

I can inspire people to look at things differently and live their life according to their own choices.  I can be an agent for change.  I can help to deconstruct stale and unhelpful patterns within society.  I can help to liberate people.  I can help people to see things in a different way.  I can feel a sense of agency and control over my life rather than feel trapped by what others think or expect.  I can help shed light on what no longer works.  I can be like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale environment.  I can feel a sense of purpose and meaning in my life and not feel like I’m a pre-programmed robot.  I get to feel more alive.  I get to feel more me.

We have the power

As you can see, this process involves consciously dismantling and then reconstructing your beliefs.  And how amazing is it that we have the power to do this?!  You can recreate your life in a more beneficial way using this process.  And as Teal says in the book, “You Are Worth the Effort”.

Through writing this email I’ve taken myself more deeply through this process than I had gone before.  And having done it once I’m ready for the next strong negative emotion to come up to help shed light on, and shift, another limiting belief.  

“The old payoff just isn’t worth it any longer.”

Your turn

This is life-changing work.  Next time you feel a strong negative emotion, rather than feel stuck in the pain, try this process.  If you feel like sharing I’d love to hear how you go with it.  And if you’d like support in the process, please get in contact.

By creating new beliefs and thinking thoughts that feel good, you will be creating neural pathways in your brain that reinforce these new positive thoughts.  As you starve the old beliefs and feed the new ones your reality will improve.

Yes it takes effort, but this is your life – and you’re worth it!

With love,

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* from the book Shadows Before Dawn by Teal Swan