How Beliefs Affect Our Emotional Health
"My dad knows everything!"
"My mom is the best cook ever!"
"My big brother can take out your big brother any day!"
As children, our beliefs were simple and profound. We just knew that our family was the best, and no one else could match them! Unfortunately, there came a time in life, when we realized that even though we wanted something to be true, it wasn't necessarily so!
During adulthood, we come face to face with the beliefs that we carry with us from our childhood, and begin to question their validity. Some we are able to discard, others are so ingrained that they remain a part of our psyche all of our lives. These long-standing beliefs become assumptions upon which our actions are based. In this hub, we will explore what these beliefs are, how they affect our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and how we can change them.
Common Core Beliefs
"I was made this way."
Many people believe that they were born the way they currently are. Psychology has long debated "nature versus nurture" and has come to the conclusion that although we receive physical and personality traits through our genetic heritage, it is the response of our caregivers, their current reality, and what we do with it, that ultimately shapes our destiny.
"The world is an unsafe place."
Perhaps our parents went through some horrific experiences before we came along and like Marlin in the movie, Finding Nemo, pass that belief on to their children. When Nemo went to school, he realized that others did not have fears about venturing into the unknown. This caused him to question his father's actions.
"You have to work hard to make it anywhere in life."
Those in the baby boom generation worked hard physically in order to be where they are today. They knew the value of education and made sure that their children didn't have to suffer like they did. In our current society, however, things are different and technology is advancing at unprecedented rates. Most people today seek information through surfing the Internet rather than purchasing and reading books or taking classes.
"You have an essential value, worth, and dignity just by virtue of the fact that you're a human being."— Edmund J. Bourne, Ph. D., The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
"Self-esteem is delicate and must be guarded and protected."
As much as the "feel-good" era of the 70's advanced positive psychology, it has been concluded more recently that we have to do something to give ourselves these feelings. We need to learn skills, live in productive ways, and realize that we have innate worth as human beings. It is okay for people to make mistakes and learn.
These are only a few common core beliefs that affect the way we are raised, how we see the world, and the decisions we make on a daily basis. Every behavior that is a part of us is the result of a core belief that has been taught, observed, and lived in our lives.
Robert S. Kelly, in his song I Believe I Can Fly, tells how beliefs can and do change. When we find ourselves in a rut with no way out, the key to our better future lies within ourselves. The following paragraphs talk about recognizing our mistaken beliefs, how they are detrimental to our emotional health, and what we can do to change them for the better.
In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund J. Bourne, Ph. D., writes about "mistaken beliefs," or those that have a detrimental affect on us emotionally. He indicates that we may learn them in our childhood through the example or teaching of our primary caregivers. Some are adopted when we react to things we experience in life. The table below lists examples of mistaken beliefs and how they affect us emotionally.
I am not good enough
Low feelings of self-worth
I have to be accepted to be loved
Fear or rejection or criticism
If I make a mistake, I am a failure
Anger is the same as rejection
I have to look good to feel good
When I need something, I cannot wait
Impulsive spending and addictions
We may not recognize a mistaken belief until we experience the consequences of it. Irrational thought patterns and behaviors surface when we have emotional difficulty. Notice in the I Am Wheel below that beliefs are at the center, and desires, thoughts, feelings, and actions rotate around them. Our "I am" beliefs, such as "I am strong," "I am loved," and "I am able," are the basis for our self-worth. Positive "I am" beliefs lead to feelings of strength, choices for our better health, and treating others with dignity and respect.
Negative "I am" beliefs, such as "I am stupid" or "I am ugly," automatically lead to negative thought patterns, feelings, desires, and actions. The individual with these core beliefs has no inner strength, therefore, will easily fall prey to power struggles, putting others down, bullying, and hurting others in an effort to build feelings of worth.
To find the mistaken beliefs, we have to rewind the wheel. First, we look at our actions, then our desires, thoughts, and beliefs. Going through this process on a regular basis, we start to see patterns of behavior that result from particular beliefs. We have "aha" moments when we realize that the roots of these behaviors started in our past with particular situations or events. As we see how they are affecting us, we are in a position to make choices to change them.
Changing Mistaken Beliefs
Once we are able to identify our mistaken beliefs, we are in a position to do something about them. Dr. Bourne teaches that we need to question and challenge them, find the evidence for or against them, and if they are found to be unprofitable, replace them with better ones.
Using one of the previously listed beliefs, let us walk through this process:
Belief: If I make a mistake, I am a failure. In other words, If I am not perfect, I am worthless.
We ask ourselves:
- What is happening?
- What am I feeling?
- What am I thinking of doing?
- What are the consequences?
- Is that really what I want?
- Is there something better I could do instead?
- What would be best for me and others in the long run?
What is happening? I am human. I make mistakes. I do not know everything and I do not have time to learn it all. No matter how hard I try, I do something wrong.
What am I feeling? I am embarrassed. Every time I turn around, I do something I shouldn't. I am angry with myself because I can't get it right. I hate it when this happens!
What am I thinking of doing? I am thinking about hurting myself. I am not worth living. I am flawed and hopeless.
What are the consequences? If I am no longer here, my family won't have to worry about me anymore. They would be better off without me.
Is that really what I want? Wait a minute! What am I saying! No! They wouldn't be better off without me! I am a vital part of this family! I've seen what happens to the families of people who have taken their own lives. This is not the answer!
Is there something better I could do instead? I do not have to be perfect. I do not have to do this alone. I can turn to others who will help me. There are people who love and accept me in spite of my imperfection.
What would be better for me and others in the long run? If I make a mistake, I will acknowledge my error and correct it. If I don't know how, I will find someone who does. I am not a failure unless I stop trying, and I will not stop trying! I am a worthwhile human being!
The result of this process is an affirmation that can be posted in a visible place where we will see it frequently. Reading and repeating it often allows us to re-program our beliefs, and as a result, change our emotional health.
As human beings, we have the ability to analyze, interpret, research, and solve. We are able to look beyond what we already know and find something that is better for ourselves. We do not have to continue in the "status quo" that we have lived all of our lives.
Hope is the ability to look above and beyond our current circumstance, realizing that it is only temporary. Things change. They always do. No matter where we find ourselves at the current moment, whether in happiness or misery, that state is not permanent. It will change. The only constant in this world is change.
Because things are changing all around us, it is only natural to realize that we can change. We do not have to keep going the way we are now. If our emotional health is in question, we have the ability to figure out how to make things better. Our beliefs affect our thoughts, feelings, desires and actions. Now is the time to check them out.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 Denise W Anderson