BY DR. ATHENA STAIK
Are your thoughts life energizing or zapping? Enriching or limiting? Empowering or disempowering?
Do they ignite reactivity and defensiveness? Or have a calming, assuring effect on you?
Your thoughts are no small matter.
They emerge from your beliefs to form your attitude; in turn these can influence your emotional state, shape your behaviors and produce results, accordingly.
In the long run, beliefs determine the direction of your life, your destiny. When you get triggered during a discussion with your partner, for example, it's likely because one of your beliefs tricked your mind into thinking your "physical survival" was literally at stake. This defensive reactivity can erode intimacy in a couple relationship, and create distance between you and those you love.
It may surprise you to know that many of the core beliefs you hold may not be your own. All of us have been exposed to widespread beliefs in our culture, and many limiting beliefs that limit the optimal functioning of our brains were passed down for generations.
What characterizes a false or limiting belief?
•Defines you (others, life) in ways that limit what you are truly capable of.
•Activates low energy emotional states in you, such as fear, shame or guilt.
•Causes you to look outside yourself for strength, approval or worth.
•Makes you judge yourself or others (often both) in harsh, punitive terms.
•Shakes your confidence or trust in your self and inner resources.
•Places more weight on what others, outside of yourself, think about you.
•Makes you focus on how others are to blame and should change.
•Is more interested in proving who’s right or wrong than real healing.
Limiting beliefs are neural patterns set in childhood that continue to shape your emotional reactions to stress. They literally mold the brain to react to certain triggers by activating the body’s fight or flight response.
When you get triggered, it means you interpreted an event as a “threat” in some way. Perhaps, for example, you learned to interpret a parent’s anger – or withdrawal – as an indication their love or esteem for you was absent. The particular way you chose to restore your sense of safety and value, in those triggering situations, formed a pattern that was imprinted in your body’s cellular memory circuits. For example, some learn to cope with rejection by people pleasing to feel loved.
Your body is designed to work this way. Since its primary directive is your survival, events that triggered your fears, such as rejection or abandonment, get special handling by your brain. They are stamped as top priority in memory, and used to monitor systems once learned.
There’s good news: Your current self-concept is not a fixed reality.
It is a dynamic creation of your mind, and not a static one. Now that you’re an adult, these neural patterns no longer serve you. You have the ability to heal and to create yourself anew beyond the limitation of old neural patterns. You can learn to improve or develop a radiantly healthy self-concept. You do so by engaging in conscious processes that allow you to empathically connect to self and others, get to know yourself and others with an understanding love.
That is how healing works. It is an inside job.
You heal yourself when you consciously chose to reinterpret what you believe about past experiences in memory. When you do, this rewires your brain, literally, altering physical structures in the process. To heal, you must be willing to identify, to look at and to change any limiting beliefs. It is not easy to do; it is a labor of conscious-love, yet most certainly worthwhile!
The benefits are many! Even your immune system can start to heal whatever it could not before. It tried before; but it was akin to trying to sweep a porch during a windstorm. Once you give it a heartfelt go, you’ll find the process energizing, if not inspiring. You may even wonder why you would return to a limiting view of yourself (or others), when, in truth, the sky is the limit?
So, what do you think? Is your current mindset working for you?