Emotional beliefs are almost impossible to eradicate, but we can diminish their influence upon us. Here are three ways.
1. Choose to not feed them.
2. We can think about what each belief is doing to us.
‘This belief is undermining my ability to do my best.’
‘Does my belief make me look like a goose, and prevent me from maturing?’
‘My belief is prompting me to waste a lot of time and money.’
‘My belief disheartens me.’
Write ten ways your belief is disabling you, in the fashion above. (Don’t be distracted into looking for examples to support the view, which is tempting; your job to list the ways the belief disables you.) For example, Sam believes all women are after his money. Sam might write:
‘By believing that women are only interested in my money,
1. I might not realise when a woman I like thinks I’m special.
2. I will continue to miss out on the exquisite pleasure of trusting someone.
3. I will continue to miss out on the pleasure of being trusted.
4. I look like a goose, because it’s obvious many women are not interested in a guy’s money.
5. I will miss out on the pleasure of feeling close and intimate with someone.
6. I will miss out on the pleasure of knowing that someone is enjoying my company.
7. I will continue to have a tunnel-visioned, myopic, superficial understanding of love.
8. I will miss out on the possibility of making a close friend.
9. I will continue to foster bitterness and resentment within me.
10. I will doom myself to remain lonely.’
3. Bid the disabling belief, ‘Goodbye’.
In his book The Happiness Trap, Dr Russ Harris gives a few ideas on what do do when an emotional belief pops up and tries to interfere. He suggests we tell ourselves:
‘Here’s that thought about me being bad. Hello thought. Goodbye.’ Or,
‘Here comes the “I’m the victim” story. Hello story. Goodbye.’ Or,
‘Hi thought, see you later’ and let that thought drift away.
After telling the thought ‘Goodbye’ we can then make the right decision, even though it might feel like the wrong decision. It’s the right decision even if we don’t get the promotion, or the date. At least we are not letting the misbelief direct our life.
Q. ‘When I say ‘Goodbye’ to my thoughts they keep coming back.’
They will. Keep saying goodbye. Meanwhile you can make the right decision, despite how wrong it feels.
4. Challenge the thoughts behind our emotional belief.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) involves disputing what they call core beliefs in a variety of ways, and there are claims that it works. CBT aims to make the unconscious, conscious, and then challenge those now conscious beliefs. If it works, great. My concern is that if we don’t apply that strategy properly, and simply try to prove to ourselves that we are not ugly, or not stupid, a voice inside us might insist that we are. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb says, ‘Good, enlightened advice and eloquent sermons do not register for more than a few moments when they go against our wiring.’ There is another way we can challenge the thoughts behind our emotional beliefs: by simply asking questions of our belief. We can ask the hard questions, as though we are a lawyer cross examining a witness.