Limiting beliefs - how do they form and can we change them?
A belief is a feeling of certainty about something. Because we believe something, we gather evidence to corroborate its truth. This strengthens the belief. To understand how limiting beliefs are created in us, it is useful to first understand the differences between the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind.
The subconscious mind is the deeper seated, non-analytical part of the mind where habits, thought patterns, beliefs, memories and fears are stored. It is responsible for up to 90% of our thought processes and nearly all of our automatic life choices.
The conscious mind is the analytical and critical part of the mind responsible for logic, reasoning and voluntary bodily actions, such as moving an arm or leg. Freud compared the mind to an iceberg, with the conscious mind being the small area above the water and responsible for only 10% of our thought processes. Whereas the vast area below water represents the subconscious mind and is responsible for our beliefs, emotions, habits, values, protective reactions, memory, imagination and intuition. The subconscious is powerful and this is why we work directly with this part of the mind in hypnosis.
The rational filtering system of the conscious mind doesn’t start to kick in until we are around the age of six. This means that as impressionable young people, we are wide open to external influences for the first few years of our lives. At this very young age, the communication and the actions of others and our experiences of the world, both negative and positive, can pass straight into our subconscious minds. This is why psychologists often say that much of our conditioning regarding our character and self-worth begins when we are very small, when the subconscious is wide open to suggestion and without the rational filter of the conscious mind.
If the messages we receive about ourselves and the world around us when we are very young are confidence-boosting and positive, then we start our lives with a good basis for growing up with a healthy amount of self-esteem and trust in ourselves and others.
Often, however, without the intention of damaging us, our parents, teachers, or relatives unwittingly feed us with their own shortcomings, doubts, and fears (which, in turn, came from their own upbringings). This can be in the form of their actions and comments, or sometimes we just pick up these messages by observing our elders and unconsciously mimicking them, in the way that children do. This is how we learn, by observing and copying those older or bigger than we are.
Certain beliefs or ‘programs’ then become stored in our subconscious minds for later use. These limiting beliefs can become entrenched in our subconscious minds and can affect our decisions, our view of the world and our place in it. This is often a totally unconscious process and we’re not really aware of why we react to certain situations in the way that we do. But our responses to life’s events are nearly always controlled by what is stored in our subconscious. Any negative conditioning can unknowingly affect us for years, even for life, if we don’t replace and transform it into more helpful and empowering thoughts and beliefs.
So can we change our thoughts and beliefs to more positive ones?
The good news is that ‘reprogramming’ ourselves is totally doable. The subconscious mind learns by repetition rather than logic. It is possible to retrain and reprogram your mind by repeatedly planting positive affirmations, beliefs, and visualisations to crowd out the old patterns, which eventually lose their strength and hold. Daily repetition of a new replacement ‘program,’ thought, or belief for a period of time will bring about profound change. This is why it is important to listen to a positive suggestion audio recording regularly if this is provided by your hypnotherapist and in my view, repetition is a big part of any therapy of this type.
And how does this reprogramming help us in our lives?
As our thoughts and beliefs around a situation change, so will our responses and actions. This brings about new behaviours, which in turn produce different results in our lives. This turn of events, results in more favourable things happening, compounding and strengthening the new habit or belief, which persuades the subconscious mind to drop the old one for the new.
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