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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd

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Our beliefs strongly influence our behavior. They motivate us and shape what we do. For instance, it is difficult to learn anything without the belief that it will be pleasant and to our advantage. What are beliefs? How are they formed and how do we maintain them?

Beliefs are our guiding principles, the inner maps we use to make sense of the world. They give stability and continuity; they are stable data that helps us to make order out of confusion. Shared beliefs give a deeper sense of rapport and community.

Beliefs come from many sources - upbringing, imitation of significant others, conclusions as a result of past traumas, and repetitive experiences. We build beliefs by generalizing from our experiences of the world and those of other people. Some beliefs come to us ready made from the culture and environment we are born into. When we are young, we believe what we are told about ourselves and the world, because we have no way of testing, and these beliefs may persist unmodified by our later achievements, because they had parental authority and became embedded as unconscious commands in the developing Superego.

“Positive beliefs are permissions that turn on our capabilities; they are permissions to play and explore in the world of possibility.”

When we believe something we act as if it is true; we have then made an investment of effort. This makes it difficult to disprove; beliefs act as perceptual filters - events are interpreted in terms of the belief, and 'exceptions prove the rule'. Beliefs are not just maps of what has happened, but blueprints for future actions. Positive beliefs are permissions that turn on our capabilities; they are permissions to play and explore in the world of possibility. Limiting beliefs on the other hand, usually center around, 'I can't...' This may be a valid statement at the present moment, but believing it is a description of your capability now and in the future, will program your mind to fail, as it will prevent you finding out your potential capability. Limiting beliefs have no valid basis in experience.

Beliefs can be a matter of choice. They change and develop. We think of ourselves differently, we marry, divorce, change friendships and act differently because our beliefs change. We have each created many beliefs about our possibilities and what is important in life, and we can change them. But it is no use attempting to do so in the context of structurally conflicting intentions. We have to understand such conflict-structures completely so that we can accept their reality and then they will no longer be charged and limiting. Only in that context, knowing ourselves more fully, can we then visualise new possibilities, ones that we genuinely want to happen, without limitations, and work enthusiastically towards them with a creative (integrated high arousal) frame of mind. This creates a new tension-resolution system that is not in conflict and will be unstoppable.

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