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Belief Systems: Big 5 Culprits

The Big 5 That Develop Your Belief System

by Cathy Campbell, Inspired Personal Developmentprincess frog

From the moment you come into the world, you begin developing your belief system. And just how do you do this?

That first sentence contains a major hint of a notable attribute of developing beliefs… your system of beliefs forms from irrational input as well as rational!

Obviously as a newborn you don’t have a well formed capacity for logical deduction, so developing your belief system is not necessarily a rational process. Rather, it’s a process based on your experience of the world.

Whatever information comes to you in a form that you can digest, (ie. you have the necessary perception to process it), you file appropriately into your fledgling belief system.

As you mature, your abilities and understanding expands, and ultimately you are developing your belief system based on 5 primary methods of gathering information. Note that: only one of these stems directly from your personal facility of critical thinking!

Five Main Reasons You Believe

It can be very helpful and enlightening to know why you believe what you do. You might be surprised to realize some of the shaky ground you have formed your belief system on.

The big 5 are:

  1. Evidence
  2. Tradition
  3. Authority
  4. Association
  5. Revelation

Evidence Based Believing

Evidence shows that one thing causes another. The understanding of causation appeals to the analytical and critical thinking part of your mind.

Developing your belief system through this method is very rationale and based on the use of logical thinking.

The skills associated with evidence based believing develop as we mature, and become more honed through education. In this mode you look for facts. You look at events that are measurable, and where one thing directly causes something else. Scientific studies supply results from research and critically tested hypotheses to support evidence based beliefs.

You can also establish beliefs based on your personal experience of cause and affect. You might continually witness a consistent outcome from your actions. For example:

  • If you drive a certain route at rush hour, you know you will be 10 minutes late and upset yourself and others. Therefore you believe it’s best to take an alternate route during rush hour.
  • When you make dinner for friends, they express their appreciation, and you feel great. Therefore you know you will get enjoyment by creating dinner for friends.

This method of forming beliefs is also responsible for ‘learned helplessness’. If you consistently perform a behavior, and always get a negative outcome, you may come to believe that you have no power or influence in creating what it is you are aiming for. For example:

  • Because you are always 10 minutes late when driving that certain route at rush hour, and it is the only route possible to take, you know you will be 10 minutes late. You will feel upset, and you will upset others. Therefore, you always feel distressed in this situation.
  • When you make dinner for friends, no one expresses their appreciation, and you feel like a failure. Therefore you stop cooking dinner for friends.

The trick in the learned helplessness scenario is to adjust the elements that you can, and accept the things you cannot change. This might possibly include altering the physical elements such as setting alternate meeting times or places, or cooking different meals or inviting different friends!

But certainly one thing you can change, through gaining understanding, is how you view these events. For example, you could say:

  • If that is the only route possible to take during rush hour, and I cannot change appointment details, I will be 10 minutes late. That is reality.

Therefore, I have 10 minutes in traffic to put to use as I wish by listening to relaxing radio, personal development recordings, or reviewing the things I’m thankful for today. I will explain this situation to any other people affected. Whether they decide to make the best of the situation, is up to them. I am not responsible for how they view reality.

  • If I cook dinner for friends, and no one expresses appreciation, I can ask myself exactly why it is that I want to cook these dinners. If you feel like a failure when no one expresses appreciation, then you are likely looking to others to reinforce your self worth. That shows it’s time to recognize that your self worth is something always with you. To tap into it, spend some time talking to a life coach for personal development.

Adopting Traditional Beliefs

The traditions perpetuated through families and societies are a major factor in developing your belief system. We are often showered with traditions day in and day out when growing up, so they can be extremely easy to adopt, without even questioning. When you believe in a tradition, recognize that they have served some generation well. Yet it does not mean they are based in truth, nor necessarily have continued usefulness for your life.

There is a funny and telling story about a woman from a certain family where the women always cut their roasts in half prior to roasting. The third generation daughter said she did it because she understood that it made the meat more tender. Her mother said that she learned it from her own mom and thought it was to reduce the cooking time and save on energy usage. When the oldest woman, grandma, was asked about it, she said that the oven she had when raising a family was very small and it was necessary to always cut the roast in half to fit it in!

So not only was there a belief being passed down that it was important to cut the roast in half, the reason behind the belief was totally lost, and no longer relevant to the women’s lives!

It is through family and cultural tradition that many people formulate their primary belief system. Social culture, family bias, and societal prejudice all strongly influence formation of:

  • global beliefs such as:
    • what God is
    • political theory
    • science
    • personal value
  • topic specific beliefs:
    • the specific religious practice to support
    • which political party to vote for
    • which sport team to cheer for

Ask yourself ‘what role has tradition played in developing your belief system?’.

“We are so conditioned, so heavily burdened with belief, with tradition, with the past, that this actually prevents us from seeing or listening.”
-J Krishnamurti

Authority Steers Beliefs

Many beliefs are adopted from people that have a role of authority in our lives.

Sometimes these figures of authority also fall in the category of tradition, as you can imagine. For example, your parents play a role of authority in your early life and they are regularly passing traditions down to you.

Other times authority figures are independent to tradition. Some examples of authority figures who may influence your beliefs (while theirs are not necessarily based on traditional beliefs) might be:

  • a new age religious cult leader that espouses having a special direct line to ‘God’
  • doctors who tell you they absolutely know best about your health and all conflicting ideas re rubbish
  • a school teacher who you look up to, whether or not they follow ‘tradition’

Beliefs by Association

Who do you hang out with?

Whether you run with the ‘in crowd’ or the ‘nerds’, you will be adopting compatible beliefs to your own, as well as reinforcing common beliefs that you hold with your group. It is pretty much a case of ‘what you see is what you get’. As you are continually faced with particular ways of thinking within the group, you start to adopt and reinforce those ideas as the ‘right way’ to think.

Basically, by sharing time and activities, you rub off on one another and mutually influence one another’s belief system.

If you associate with hard working people who feel they are short on time and money, chances are you will be developing your belief system based around those ideas as well. Alternatively, if you spend your time with people who feel they have a very rich blessed life spending their time for their own delight, your attitude will likely be quite different.

Revelations Induce Beliefs

The definition of revelation referred to here is “disclosure of information to man by a divine or supernatural agency”. Basically, this is the experience of attaining information through what you might describe as:

  • a feeling or sense about something
  • a hunch or an inkling of an idea
  • an intuition or premonition about something
  • an insight through your sixth sense
  • a gut feeling
  • your minds eye or imagination

There are two primary and common understandings of how you may have ‘received’ this enlightening communication of knowledge:

  1. the information has been fed into your subconscious through external stimuli. It was just bubbling below the surface, and then some obscure occurrence brought it to your attention.
  2. your developing intuition, a sixth sense of perception of our world that everyone has. It may be that this 6th sense is just as powerful and ‘real’ as our other 5 senses. It has the ability to tune into other aspects of reality that humanity does not yet fully understand, nor have accurate measurements to assess.

Such inspiration can strike at any time; in the shower, driving to work, gazing at the ocean. Where ever it might have originated from may be interesting to ponder. Yet, I think the really interesting question is, ‘is the information valuable to you and how can you use it’.

Certainly Albert Einstein asked this question of the wild ideas he came up with, and look where it lead him and the world. He ushered in a raft of new beliefs for humanity. Just some of Einstein’s words of wisdom on the subject:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.
For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,
while imagination embraces the entire world,
and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

The Art and Magic of Believing

It is widely understood that most beliefs you hold have not originated with you. Rather, you have primarily adopted what makes sense to your experience and understanding at the time. You continue in developing your belief system largely by agreeing with ideas that come into your awareness.

Once you understand this, it gives you great strength to:

  • review your beliefs, and ask with nonattachment, “do they have a solid basis and do they serve you well?”
  • drop any feeling of threat when your ‘adopted beliefs’ seem to fall short, or come under attack

You have accepted your beliefs based on what you knew at the time. As you learn more, it is reasonable that your belief system will undergo change and growth.

© 2008-2013

The Mental Shift That Can Change Everything

…RESPONSE-ABILITY at work and at home.

adapted from Fred Kofman, PhD. April 2013

“Sorry I’m late.
Traffic was awful!”

How many of your meetings start with this lame excuse? You know it’s a cop-out, yet an irrepressible urge makes you take the easy way out over, and over, and over again. It is not your fault, I know. It’s the irrepressible urge that makes you do it.

In Control versus Out of Control There are two types of causes: those within and those beyond your control. You have a choice about where to focus. The latter makes you look innocent. You are not to blame. The former makes you powerful. It is your “response-ability.” Being “response-able” means focusing on what you can do to respond to a challenge. It’s about taking ownership, rather than assigning blame and playing the innocent victim. As I wrote here, the price of innocence is impotence.

You can explain any result as the balance between these two causes: the challenge versus your ability to respond. When your ability is higher than the challenge, you succeed; when it is lower, you fail. Think of it as weight lifting. If your strength is bigger than the weight, you lift it; if it isn’t, you don’t. There is a funny asymmetry, though. When you lift, you call yourself “strong.” When you don’t, you call the weight “heavy.”

Has anyone ever told you that he was not capable enough to do the job? Yet how many times have you heard, “the job is too difficult!” The missing terms at the end of the sentence, the most important ones to avoid the victim mindset are “for me,” as in, “the job is too difficult for me.

Both explanations are (partially) true. The victim story gets you stuck in resignation and resentment. Someone is harming you and there’s nothing you can do. Life is not fair! The responsibility story empowers you. The ball is in your court. How are you going to play it?

Why are they stuck? My colleague Andrés found himself under the gun. While he waited for his garage door to open in Buenos Aires, two armed thieves assaulted him. “Get out of the car!” they threatened. He did. “Open the door of your house or we’ll shoot you!” they barked next. Andrés teaches people how to be response-able. Shaking, he calmly said, “My wife and daughter are in the house. I will give you my car, my money, anything you want. But I will not open the door.” The thieves took his car, his money, his watch, his phone and his laptop, but they didn´t take his life. I asked Andrés what he thought at that crucial moment. “If these guys were going to shoot me for not opening the door, God knows what they would have done to my wife and daughter inside. If they shot me in the street, they would have had to run. I could have died, but I would have protected my loved ones.”

The ability to respond does not mean the ability to succeed. Response-ability does not guarantee that you win, or even survive. It only reminds you that you can choose how you play and how you live.

Asleep with the Enemy We all want to be liked, as Dave Kerpen writes. The problem is that rather than following Dave’s counsel, many of us attempt to be liked through Idiot Compassion. We collude with the person stuck in the victim mindset. We blame, we moan and we groan.

“I can´t believe they did that to you!” “They shouldn’t have!” “You deserve better than that.” “They should fix it right now!”

These comments are soothing – like a drug – and equally deadly. They calm you down with sweet protection and rev you up with righteous indignation. But they don’t give you a way to address the situation. You may think the person making them is on your side, but your drug dealer is not your friend.

Fight Back! I am always tempted to collude with my clients. They are in pain and I want to be compassionate. However, I want to offer them wise compassion. For example, a call center manager whom I coached had a bad case of victimhood. His automatic response when his boss asked him about poor customer satisfaction was to blame his employees for poor manners, the finance department for small budgets, and the training department for lack of skills. I listened to his story, feeling for him. I expressed my sorrow and then asked him if he wanted my help.

When he agreed, I challenged him with these questions:

  • What is the challenge you are facing? (Instead of “What did they do to you?”)
  • How have you responded? (Instead of “What should they have done?”)
  • How has that worked out for you? (Instead of “How are they wrong?”)
  • What could you do now? (Instead of “What should they do now?”)
  • If you need help, whom could you ask? (Instead of “Who should fix it?”)
  • What can you learn from this? (Instead of “How should they be punished?”)

The pattern is simple: turn “they” and “should” into “I” and “could.” Stop blaming them, but don’t blame yourself either. Ability to respond does not mean guilt. It doesn’t matter who is responsible for the situation. What matters is that you see yourself as able to respond, improve and learn when confronting the situation.

What my client found is less important than what your colleagues can find when you ask them these questions with intelligent kindness.

A final word of caution: Remember that to earn the right to challenge someone out of victimhood, you must first listen, acknowledge his or her pain and ask permission to help. I have seen too many relationships broken by eager friends and spouses who interrupt with, “Oh c’mon! Quit being a victim and start thinking of what you can do to solve this problem!

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior
is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge,
while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
— Don Juan, Mexican shaman (quoted by Carlos Castaneda)

Question for readers: What is your favorite victim explanation?

Fred Kofman, PhD. Economics, is Professor of Leadership and Coaching at the Conscious Business Center of the University Francisco Marroquín and a faculty member of Lean In. He is the author of Conscious Business, How to Build Value Through Values.

Who The Hell is “Society”?

“I am enough. I am not my history” – Melody Ehsani

This article’s theme area:

From My Perspective: Sihle Mahonga January 22, 2013

Never did I ever think that I would be one of those ‘shamed students who take FOREVER to complete their degrees. I am now in my 5th year out of school and still have a year and a half to complete my degree. Now, you might be thinking to yourself “geesh whats taking her so long to finish a 3 year degree?” and this is what they DON’T tell you when you fail or you take another major or you simply want to take your time.

  1. The somewhat shame that is connected to an underperforming or ‘slow’ student
  2. The raised eyebrow every time you say your student number in relation to your year of study
  3. Your own voices telling you “LOSER” “STUPID” “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING” “I KNEW IT, ITS TOO HARD”

I know them all…but you see it isn’t all black and white between achievers and non-achievers.

There are those who, stifled by society, are pushed into the life of academia. Those who at 1am in the morning cut cloth, paint, draw, write music, update their scrapbook – only to get up in the morning and carry the never-ending flow of textbooks. Those whose parents pressure their children to do something that they never thought of themselves doing, all for a piece of paper called a degree.

I’m not calling down on academia but I am calling down on those who think academia is life. Right now I have applied to study Music and Fashion (depending on which one I am chosen for).

I wasn’t built for academia

I was built to create and inspire, to roll around in my imagination and bring forth life.

I write, I sing very well, I draw- what I can do with these hands and mind is enough.

My creative mind is enough.

My body (and the crazy things I adorn it with) is enough.

I am enough

I’m not my high school math paper (which mind you, was 23%). I am not what my friends think when I told them that I was on a different path to them. I am not my so called ‘lost years’. I am not my history.

I am going for it and I know somehow, I’m going to make it through. Don’t let doubt and deviant behavior of society define who you are. You who are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am enough. I am not my history.

Are You Your Own Martyr?

Are you giving up too much
to keep everyone else happy?

Taking on the martyr role in any relationship is a recipe for unhappiness. In the following article, Dr. Robert Holden explains that there are two types of sacrifice: unhealthy sacrifice and healthy sacrifice.

Understanding the difference and finding a balance between what you give and what you get in your relationships is essential to your happiness, health and well-being. From co-workers to friendships to family, there are key reasons behind the sacrifices you’re making in your relationships that upon closer examination, will reveal whether they actually “contribute” or “contaminate”. See if you recognize yourself in any of the following real-life examples, and if so, pay attention to the powerful exercises to help you “let go” and say YES to a more beautiful – and less exhausing life. -SL

10 Steps to Letting Go of Unhealthy Sacrifice

By Robert Holden
August 06, 2010

So… there are two types of sacrifice: unhealthy sacrifice and healthy sacrifice. In my work, I have seen people try to use unhealthy sacrifice to save a marriage. It appeared to work at first, but love and dishonesty are not good bedfellows. I have seen lovers try to play small in a relationship so as to heal power struggles and avoid rejection. I have seen children get ill in an attempt to heal their parents’ relationship. I have seen business leaders nearly kill themselves for their cause. Unhealthy sacrifice is often well-intentioned, but it never really works. Healthy sacrifice is a different story. To be happy in a relationship, for instance, you have to be willing to sacrifice fear for love, independence for intimacy, defenses for joy and resentment for forgiveness. To be successful at work, you have to be willing to sacrifice being in control to allow for innovation and sacrifice chronic busyness for genuine success, for instance. Healthy sacrifice helps you to let go of what does not really work in order to embrace what does work. So, how much unhealthy sacrifice are you in right now? Sometimes the habit of unhealthy sacrifice is so unconscious we are the last to recognize it in ourselves. Would you be willing to sacrifice unhealthy sacrifice so as to shift your life and experience greater joy, love and abundance?

Assess your “sacrifice personality” with the following 10 questions:

1. I am true to myself in my closest relationships. In our first coaching session, Claire, a 28-year-old classical pianist, told me, “I want you to help me prepare for a conversation I need to have with my parents.” Claire grew up in a musical family. Her father was a well-known conductor. Her mother played first violin. “Classical music is a religion in our family,” Claire said. Claire was an accomplished classical pianist. “I’m good at it, but my heart’s not in it,” she said. “I really want to play jazz. That’s what my soul wants. But I’m afraid it’s not what my parents want.”

The story of sacrifice usually begins in the family. The primary sacrifice is a movement away from your authentic, unconditioned self to a more adapted, pleasing self. Early on, you notice what wins smiles, applause, approval and love, and also what doesn’t. Being adaptive is normal and healthy, but too much of it can cause a pattern of unhealthy sacrifice later in life. The movement away from your authentic self to a pleasing self is a fall from grace that leaves you chasing happiness outside of you. Other symptoms include feeling unworthy, being afraid of rejection, always giving your power away and ultimately feeling unloved and unsuccessful.

Letting Go Exercise: Meditate on being true to yourself. First, ask: “What does being true to myself really mean?” Second, notice how good it feels to listen to your heart, to follow your joy, to trust yourself and to be authentic. Third, look at where you could be truer to yourself. Fourth, notice any fears that arise and question: “Are these fears true, or are they just fears?” Be willing to let go of being “good,” “nice” and “pleasing” so that you can be real and so that people can see who you really are. Remember this: When you are true to yourself, you cannot betray anyone else.

2. I feel guilty if I am happy and others are not. Lucy was 22 years old when we first met. She had fallen in love with a man she would eventually marry. “I’m in love, very happy, and I feel guilty as hell,” Lucy said. Growing up, Lucy’s father suffered from depression and alcoholism. He was occasionally violent toward her mother. “It was me who helped her to be strong enough to finally get divorced,” Lucy said. Lucy’s mother fell into two more abusive relationships. Each time, Lucy helped her mother untangle herself. “We bonded together through adversity,” Lucy said, “and now I’m afraid that my happiness will somehow tear us apart.” Unhealthy sacrifice is often perpetuated by an erroneous fear that your happiness is selfish. If you believe this fear, then too much happiness will feel wrong, bad, illegal, blasphemous and harmful to others. Is this really true? Here’s what I believe: You can’t get depressed enough to make somebody happy; you can’t get ill enough to make someone else well; you can’t get poor enough to make somebody rich; and you can’t betray your heart to save someone else.

Letting Go Exercise: To help you let go of the belief that sacrificing your happiness makes everyone else happier, make a list of all the people who are truly grateful for your self-sacrifice. This list should take you two seconds to complete! Next, consider this affirmation: “My happiness is my gift to others.” Think about how this might be true for you. Reflect on how your happiness can help you to love others more. Letting go of the fear that your happiness is selfish creates new possibilities of growth and joy for everyone.

3. I often end up being the caregiver in relationships. “I’ve fallen in love with the most handsome man, and I want you to help me not turn into his mother,” said Stella, a 36-year-old human resources director of a global company. Stella had had two previous long-term relationships. “Each time the big, strong man became a little, helpless boy,” Stella said. “And the gorgeous, sexy woman [i.e., Stella] ended up in employment as a full-time carer.” This was Stella’s first serious relationship for six years and she didn’t want to fall into a role again. Roles in romantic relationships are usually a projection of roles first forged in childhood. When I asked Stella who was the martyr in her family, Stella replied quickly, “My mother, big time.” If a family has one martyr in it, then unhealthy sacrifice is something everyone will have to deal with. Classically, everyone in the family tries to heal the martyr, and they usually end up in unhealthy sacrifice trying to do so. The authentic, unconditioned self is lost as you take on the job/role of being the helper, the good child, the peacemaker, the healer, the responsible one, the grown-up one, the hard worker, the strong one, the invisible one and the martyr.

Letting Go Exercise: Take a look at your family. Identify the roles everyone played when you were growing up, including you. Notice if you still play these roles in romance, with friends, in work and on your spiritual journey. Notice what this costs you. Playing a role leaves you feeling like a cardboard cut-out of your real self. You feel flat and lifeless. You try to be positive, but really you feel removed, unappreciated and resentful. Remember this: Roles are self-appointed. No one said you must take on this role. If you are in a role, there must be a better way. It’s time to make a new choice.

4. I am afraid of giving too much in relationships. “I’ve met a new girl, and I think this time she could be the one,” said Dan, a 34-year-old firefighter based in New York. “You don’t sound very happy,” I said. “I am very happy,” Dan replied. “I’m also very scared.” “Why?” I asked. “Because every time I commit to a girl, I end up giving too much,” Dan said. “Is that really true?” I asked. “It feels true,” Dan replied. “Is the problem that you give too much, or is it that you give yourself away?” I asked. The unhealthy sacrifices you have made in the past can, it not healed, put you off relationships for life. Or they can put you off taking the next step in commitment and intimacy in your current relationship. When you are in love, you recognize that love wants to give everything, totally, and there is no feeling of loss. However, when you are in unhealthy sacrifice, giving always feels like loss. Why is this? Well, partly it is because unhealthy sacrifice is an attempt to give without receiving. Also, unhealthy sacrifice is a covert operation of “giving in order to get” (e.g., “If I give myself away to you, you will keep me, wont you?”).

Letting Go Exercise: When you play the role of the “giver,” you usually also end up playing “the loser.” Inevitably, your relationships end up feeling one-sided. People seem to take more than they give. Your relationships seem to take a lot out of you. The first step in letting go of the role of “giver” is to inspect the role more closely. You may find, for instance, that “giving too much” hides feelings of unworthiness, a desire to please, a fear of rejection, wanting to be the one in control, a reluctance to receive and a lack of authentic presence and openness on your part.

martyr woma

5. I am good at asking for what I want. “Whenever I need something from someone, I buy chocolate,” said Carol, a 44-year-old schoolteacher. “Why’s that?” I asked. “Chocolate never says no,” Carol replied. “How much chocolate do you eat?” I asked. “A lot,” Carol said. Unhealthy sacrifice leads to dysfunctional independence. If you are a DIP—a Dysfunctionally Independent Person—you are trying to do your life all by yourself without help from anyone else. This is your way of declaring to the world: “I have no needs.” Truthfully, you have plenty of needs; it’s just that you suppress them. Why? Probably because you are trying to avoid a repeat of past disappointments when some of your needs were not met. Inevitably, you end up more needy than most, but you cover it up by being strong, being a giver, being cool, being independent, being cynical, being busy and being dishonest with yourself.

Letting Go Exercise: When you let go of your dysfunctional independence, you feel so much more alive, open and abundant. You also discover that asking for what you want is a chance for others to connect with you, to know you and to love you. Being willing to forgive and let go of old wounds helps you to move out of separation and unhealthy sacrifice. Now, instead of expecting people to read your mind and know what you need or want, you can actually tell them. Doing this feels emotionally risky, but it’s a risk that’s worth taking. Now you’re ready for a real relationship.

6. I find it difficult to receive fully from others. “I hate birthdays,” said Phil, a 38-year-old doctor from London. “All birthdays?” I asked. “God no! I love other people’s birthdays,” Phil said. “You hate your own birthday,” I said. “I don’t like the attention, and I don’t like being given presents,” Phil said. “I love presents,” I said, being a bit provocative. “When someone gives me something I feel like I owe them, and I can’t relax until I’ve paid them off,” Phil said. Unhealthy sacrifice promotes a kind of giving that blocks receiving. There are usually two underlying dynamics at work. The first dynamic is unworthiness. Your self-worth creates a personal allowance that judges how much you will let yourself receive from others. With especially low self-worth, receiving from others leaves you feeling indebted, obligated, owing and duty-bound to give back. The second dynamic is pride. And hidden beneath pride is competitiveness, superiority, egotism and other murky feelings. According to pride, to receive is unnecessary and to receive is to fail.

Letting Go Exercise: In my book Shift Happens!, I wrote a chapter saying there are no shortages, only a lack of willingness to receive. Being willing to receive starts with letting go of your fear of receiving. Complete the following statement 10 times: “One of my fears of receiving is…” After you have finished, look at each fear and discern for yourself if the fear is really true or if it is just a fear. At least 90 percent of fears are just fears that dissolve the moment you give them some attention. Next, make a decision to be a great receiver. Really! Make this your new affirmation: “I am becoming a great receiver.”

7. I say yes when I really mean no. “I drank too much coffee this morning,” said Julia, a 40-year-old media executive, holding her hand over her heart. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “I ordered a small coffee, and they gave me a large coffee.” “Tell me more,” I said. “The barista recognized her mistake when she handed me the coffee. She said to me, ‘This is a large one, but you ordered a small one, right?’ I said yes, and she said, ‘Are you okay with that?’ And I said yes.” “But really you meant no,” I said. “In my language, yes means yes, and it can also mean no,” Julia said. “And then you drank all of the coffee,” I said. “Yes,” Julia said. Unhealthy sacrifice is inauthentic. It means you are not really being true to yourself. When you are not true to yourself, you get confused about what is real and unreal, what is important and not and what is a yes and what is a no. This lack of clarity in you creates pain and conflict in your relationships and your work. People don’t know where they stand with you. You give out mixed messages. You are ambivalent. You try not to make decisions. You procrastinate. No one knows what you really feel or what you really want.

Letting Go Exercise: The desire to be more authentic, and to be more real with yourself and others, will help you to give up unhealthy sacrifice. One way to do this is to focus on the word “yes.” Get out a pen and a blank piece of paper and write down on the top of the page: “My Sacred Yes.” Now list everything that is a sacred yes for you, for your life, for your work and then for one important relationship (you can do it with other relationships later). The clearer you are about a sacred yes, the easier it will be to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.

8. I’m exhausted. “Hi, Robert. Sorry, but I can’t make our session this afternoon. I’m too tired to get out of bed. I’m too tired to drive anywhere. I’m too tired to do anything. I’m taking a duvet day.” That is a message left by my client Tina, a 41-year-old senior personnel manager. Exhaustion forces you to stop, and above all it wants you to stop being in unhealthy sacrifice. Unhealthy sacrifice is exhausting: you lose touch with your original energy; you override your real feelings; you don’t listen to your wisdom; and you end up feeling out of sync with yourself. More symptoms of unhealthy sacrifice include scattering yourself, wasting your energy, chronic busyness, overcrowding your schedule, feeling overstretched and overcommitting yourself. The last thing you want to do is let people down, but that is exactly what eventually happens.

Letting Go Exercise: Exhaustion is a sure sign that you are in sacrifice somewhere in your life. Exhaustion is an internal memo that is asking you to stop trying to do everything, for everyone, all the time. Exhaustion is telling you that you have to sacrifice what isn’t important for what is. One of my favorite mantras is: “You can always do one thing less than you think you can.” Yes, you’ll probably feel a bit guilty about doing less, but the guilt will wear off fast if you hold your nerve. Be wise, be courageous, remember your sacred yes” and prioritize accordingly.

9. I find it difficult to put myself first. Sian is a 42-year-old mother of two children under the age of 5 and also the vice president of a well-known global healthcare brand. She came to see me after her doctor had prescribed her antidepressants. Sian disagreed with her diagnosis. “I’m not depressed; I’m exhausted,” she said. Sian told me about the challenges of her role at work combined with raising a young family. “I have no time for me,” Sian said. “The only way I can get my haircut is to book a group appointment with my kids’ hairdresser.” My first task as Sian’s coach was clear: to help Sian get a proper haircut! Unhealthy sacrifice forces you to leave yourself out of your own life. You think something is missing in your life, and it is. What is missing is you. The real you. Every day you fill out your to-do list, and you are nowhere to be found on your own list. You make no space for you, no provision for you and no time for you. Be clear that this is you doing this to yourself. When you catch yourself saying, “I never have time to do what I want to do,” what you are really saying is, “I don’t take time for my needs.” In truth, you are depriving yourself. Therefore, you are the solution.

Letting Go Exercise: “If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul,” said Prophet Muhammad. To heal unhealthy sacrifice, you have to be willing to let go of the habit of depriving yourself. Take a pen and paper and answer the following questions: “What feeds me?” “What inspires me?” and “What do I love?” Next, make a commitment to stop neglecting yourself and to treat yourself better. Everyone will benefit from you doing this. Life always gets better when you treat yourself better.

10. I feel happy and fulfilled in my life. I had been coaching Emma, a 38-year-old lawyer, for nine months when she was offered a promotion to the board of her firm. This was the first time in the long history of this firm that a woman had been offered such a position. “I’m so happy, but I’ve decided not to accept,” Emma told me. When I asked her why not, she told me, “I’m afraid the position will demand too much self-sacrifice.” I agreed with her. And I told her that, “So long as it’s healthy sacrifice rather than unhealthy sacrifice, you have nothing to fear.” The next level of success and happiness in your life, your work and your relationships does require sacrifice. Specifically, it requires you to sacrifice unhealthy sacrifice. In other words, you have to learn the difference between giving yourself away and giving more of yourself. You give yourself away when you are not true to yourself, when you play a role, when you don’t ask for what you want, when you don’t prioritize properly and when you deprive yourself, for example. Remember: Whatever you try to achieve with unhealthy sacrifice can be achieved without it.

Letting Go Exercise: Success and happiness require you to let go of your unworthiness, to let go of your wounds, to let go of your defenses, to let go of your story and to let go of your ego. The more you let go, the more you inhabit your authentic, unconditioned self again. And now you are more present, more connected, more open and more able to give yourself without giving yourself away. The more grounded and centered you are in the truth of who you are, the better you understand that to give yourself simply means to be yourself, and in “being” there is never any loss.

Boundaries 101


Modified from the book
Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin
by Anne Katherine



• When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting.

 • You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for clearly and respectfully communicating your boundary. If it upset the other person, be confident knowing it is not your problem. Some people, especially those accustomed to controlling, abusing, or manipulating you, might test you. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing.

• At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway and tell yourself you have a right to protect yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.


• When you feel anger or resentment or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.

• Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.


• Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic people from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.

Establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing them builds self-worth and confidence—all very healthy, very inviting, very attractive, very sexy qualities.

I hope you take the time this week to put into practice some of the above ideas. Please share any insight, and even struggles, so we can support each other.

Fear Busters

This article’s theme area:


When you get stuck,
you have countless ways to free yourself. Here are five potent fear-busters from Dan Neuharth PhD MFT:

1) Measure Fear’s Track Record
2) Get Curious
3) When Fear Plays the Survival Card, Call Its Bluff
4) Check Your Assumptions
5) Recognize and Break Denial

Fear-buster #1: Measure Fear’s Track Record
Fear’s job is to get your attention, yet for many of us fear has a lousy track record. We worry about worst-case scenarios regardless of likelihood. To bring fear back into line, try this experiment: Write down everything you are afraid of or anxious about that might happen to you in the next week. Then put your list away and forget about it. Seven days from now, take out your list. How much of what you feared actually came true? Most people find that few of their fears materialize and, for many of those that do materialize, they aren’t as bad as you’d thought or you find yourself able to handle the situation just fine. And remember, you’re not alone in having self-doubts. Look what some others have said:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“There will be no proof that I ever was a writer.” – Franz Kafka
“My life has been nothing but a failure.” – Claude Monet

Fear-buster #2: Get Curious
In the face of overwhelming feelings, asking yourself the right questions can move you from a reactive to a proactive stance. For example:

  • If you find that you tend to criticize yourself or others to excess, keep the question “What positive thing can I say at this time?” close at hand.affirmation courage
  • If you feel emotionally numb, ask, “What am I feeling right now?” or “What was the last emotion I recall?”
  • If you’re an overwhelmed overachiever, a question might be, “What would be most satisfying right now?”
  • If you’d like to improve the quality of your primary relationship, the next time you are around your mate, keep in mind the question, “What would she most appreciate from me right now?”

Creative questioning can give fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. For example, when faced with a perplexing challenge, look at it from several different angles. Ask yourself:

  • If this was my only problem, how would I solve it?
  • If this was my smallest problem, how would I handle it?
  • If I knew I could make a difference, what would I do?
  • How much will this matter in a year?
  • How would I assess this situation if I were ten years older or younger than I am now?


Fear-buster #3: When Fear Plays the Survival Card, Call Its Bluff
Our worst fears devolve into concerns about our survival. When your fears deal the survival card, play it out. Ask yourself:

  • Is my actual, physical survival at stake?
  • What is the likelihood that a life-threatening situation will materialize?
  • What are my options for action?
  • What have I done in similar situations in the past?

Fear-buster #4: Check Your Assumptions
Fear makes the leap from possibility to probability, and it does so on the backs of unrealistic and illogical assumptions. For example, you might think: “If this relationship falls apart, I’ll never find another love.” Such a fear is based on such unfounded assumptions as:

  • We only get one love per lifetime.
  • Whether I meet appropriate partners is completely outside of my control.
  • I don’t have the ability to mourn, heal, and move on.

Another example: “I could never tell my lover some of my negative thoughts about him.” The underlying assumptions:

  • If you love someone, you won’t have negative thoughts or feelings about him.
  • People who love you will leave you, retaliate, or fall apart when they hear a negative judgment.
  • There is something wrong with me that I sometimes think negatively about my lover.

When you recognize unrealistic assumptions, you have the chance to redefine your reality from a healthier perspective.

Fear-buster #5: Recognize and Break Denial
We all have a personal “Defense Department” designed to keep internal emotional and psychological peace. A certain amount of denial can be adaptive. Ignoring, forgetting, or pretending can help you through rough times. However, like a faulty circuit breaker, denial sometimes trips prematurely or stays off too long. We are not always aware when we avoid our feelings or overreact to events.

Denial is the glue that binds the parts of ourselves which disturb us. The good news is that if denial is the glue that allows for self-deception, awareness is the solvent that dissolves denial. Here’s an exercise to bring your denial into the light of day where you can dissolve it.

Think of a current or past situation that troubles or puzzles you. Then ask yourself:

1) Are any of my thoughts, feelings, or actions serving to . . .

  • Sidestep or camouflage more painful feelings?
  • Procrastinate or avoid something?
  • Assuage my guilt?
  • Pre-empt loss?
  • Take the focus off me?

2) Do I feel distracted or fixated?

3) How grounded and authentic do I feel right now? Is this how I want to feel?

4) If someone I deeply admire asked me what I’m in denial about, what would I say?

5) How would the best part of me handle this situation?

Feeling Insecure?

This article’s theme area:

Feeling Insecure: How to Get a Self-Esteem Boost
-Ed and Deb Shapiro

Have you ever been to a party and 10 people tell you how good you look, but one friendself_esteem_whiteMirrorBLOG says, “You look weird,” and all you can think about is that one comment?

If lack of self-esteem has got you down, find out how meditation can transform your negative fixation and help you find the inner confidence you’ve had all along.

The Dalai Lama met with a group of Western psychotherapists and asked them what was the most common issue their patients came to see them about. We were told they were unified in their response: a lack of self-esteem. Apparently, he found this quite hard to believe because self-esteem was not a known problem in Tibet. Later, we talked to one of his translators, Tashi, who’s now living with his wife and child in London. Tashi told us children growing up in Tibet would be welcomed and loved by the whole village, which he found very different from the way children are raised in our more nuclear family–oriented culture.

Perhaps it is this culture that has contributed to confidence issues, because it can be difficult to develop a good feeling about yourself if your home life is conflicted or limited. Ed’s family of five lived in a three-bedroom apartment in the old Bronx, at a time when children were told they were to be seen, but not heard. This inevitably influences a child’s—and later the adult’s—sense of worth or self-respect.

We watched as an eager, young television reporter from CNN asked the Dalai Lama:

What is the first thing you think of
when you awake in the morning?

We thought the world’s most famous meditator would say something deeply profound or insightful, something along the lines of vowing to save the world from its own ignorance. Instead, the Dalai Lama simply replied,

 “Shaping motivation.”

He said everyone, including himself, has to be vigilant so intentions are focused in the right direction, and that shaping his motivation on a daily basis reminds him to extend loving kindness and compassion to all others. Such motivation takes you beyond yourself so you are not limited by a lack of confidence or self-esteem.

When we met privately with the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, India, he held our hands tightly as if we were dear friends. It felt as if he was filling us up with that kindness and compassion, so that we were re-invigorated with self-belief and certainty.

2 ways meditation can give you inner confidence
There are two very specific ways meditation can help you transform a lack of self-esteem into inner confidence and self-belief. First, it enables you to meet, greet and make friends with yourself. You get to know who you really are, and to accept and embrace every part. You’ll soon find that your doubts, insecurities or fears are really only superficial, as you begin to connect with a deeper place of trust, dignity and self-worth.

meditation3Second, it awakens you to the inter-connection between everyone, the sense that you are not alone here. Rather, you are a part of this wondrous planet, and the more you extend yourself with kindness, the less you will be focused on your own limitations. Discovering your inter-connection takes you from a place of self-centeredness to other-centeredness.

As you bring acceptance and loving kindness to yourself, you may uncover the deeper belief that you do not deserve to be happy, that you do not believe you
are good enough—a sort of built-in self-destruction clause. As Oprah says:

“What you believe has more power than what you
dream or wish or hope for. You become what you believe.”

So you invite kindness into that self-negation and lack of self-esteem, until such uncertainty dissolves in love.

Loving Self-Meditation

  1. Find a comfortable and upright place to sit. Take a few deep breaths, and watch the flow of your breath as it enters and leaves.
  2. Bring your focus to your heart, and as you breathe in, feel as if your heart is opening and softening; as you breathe out, release any tension or resistance.
  3. Now bring into your heart either an image of yourself or repeat your name, and hold yourself in your heart, tenderly and gently. Silently repeat, “May I be freed from self-doubt, may I be happy, may all things go well for me.”
  4. Keep breathing into your heart, holding yourself with love and repeating the words. This will generate a deep, loving kindness and appreciation for yourself.
  5. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go. Then go about your day with a caring heart and a smile on your lips.

Breaking The Cycle of Anxiety

This article’s theme area:

There are many types and many reasons for anxiety. There is no “one size fits all’ solution to resolving the anxiousness that you personally are experiencing. Many forms of anxiety require time and guidance of a therapist; most often, however, it simply requires a new perspective or definition of some old views, behaviours and habits that have more than outworn their welcome. Perhaps you can affect this yourself, or perhaps you need to reach for some assistance: whichever path you choose, there is peace within reach.

I’ll offer many perspective on anxiety to get you thinking… and more importantly FEELING! Watch for the “eeks” or “poke” feeling – that will tell you that you have hit a vein of a pattern that is no longer working. You will feel it instinctually: trust it. 

Breaking the Cycle of Anxiety

-Deepak Chopra November 05, 2010


Sometimes life’s everyday stressors can send you into a tailspin. But if you always let your emotions rule, your body won’t remember to calm down. Get Deepak Chopra’s strategies to overcome those fears that keep you up in the middle of the night.

Fear is a natural reaction built into the mind-body system triggered by danger. After the danger is past, so is the fear response. But when fear spreads out into a general condition, it becomes a mysterious thing: anxiety. Anxious people are afraid even though there is nothing “out there” to be afraid of. Others overreact to triggers that ordinarily should be fairly easy to handle, such as being left alone for a day on their own. Still others are nearly paralyzed by highly specific phobias such as fear of heights, open spaces or insects. What is going on and what can we do about it?

Record numbers of people in modern society, predominantly women, suffer from mild to extreme anxiety. Billions of dollars are spent every year on tranquilizers to treat this condition, yet as the doctor writes out a prescription, he knows that the cause of the condition is unknown. Since human beings have lived with the fear response before recorded history, there should be a way to heal anxiety, and perhaps the best way to approach the mild-to-moderate types is not as a disease, but as a challenge. In anxious anxiety weapon2people, fear is allowed to roam freely; we can truly say that fear rules the mind. Yet it should be that you use your emotions, not that they use you. The challenge is to bring the fear response back under control. Otherwise, anxiety becomes ingrained and over time will spiral downward. The anxious person begins to be afraid of being afraid, because she knows that she has no power against it.

Because anxiety comes and goes, people tend to overreact when it appears, only to forget about it when it isn’t present. In order to find an answer to anxiety, you must start by dealing with anxiety when it suddenly rears its head in panic attacks, but also healing its underlying causes. Anxious people also tend to be worriers, so that must be taken into account as well. For now, I will focus on how to deal with anxiety when it appears. The acute attack is the moment when sufferers need the most immediate help. Over the next two months, I will discuss healing the causes of anxiety as well as managing worry.

Fear and the Body
Fear is rooted in the body, which has a natural way of dealing with it, as it does with every feeling. First there is a trigger that causes the body to react with fear. Once the cause is gone, the body clears away the fear response. Finally, it calms down, returning to its normal state of balance. The body knows how to get out of fear, a knowledge it has possessed for millions of years. So why don’t we let it?

thoughts swirlPeople who suffer from anxiety bypass their bodies because they get trapped in their panicky thoughts. The voice of fear paints scenarios of disaster that seem believable. Panicky thoughts quickly become obsessive, running through one fearful outcome after another. Anxiety makes it all but impossible to make rational decisions; therefore, the voice of fear becomes ever more believable even when the disasters it foresees are not reasonable at all. For example, a phobic feels that he will die if he climbs a ladder, goes out of the house, touches a spider or whatever the phobia happens to be, yet in these cases the voice of fear is talking nonsense when viewed rationally. Rationality is not what matters here. It’s what you believe that matters, always.

If you suffer from anxiety, your mind has gotten into the habit of holding on to fear instead of letting the response follow its natural cycle. What you need to do is to get it back into its normal rhythm. Your body wants to respond naturally but is being held back. Left to itself, the fear response isn’t mental; it’s physical. There are three steps to get the body accustomed to being in charge of fear again.

1. Get out of your mind and back into your body.
2. Clear the fear response.
3. Calm the body into its natural state of relaxation.

These steps must proceed in the order above. You can’t use simple relaxation until the fear response has run its course, and the response won’t end as long as the mind keeps fueling it with new reasons to be afraid. If you perform each step thoroughly, anxiety will subside and go away.

Step 1: Get Out of the Mind and Back into the Body
It is best to notice if you’re having anxious thoughts early on, before the spiral of anxiety fully takes hold. To get out of the mind, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes, and feel your body. The sensations won’t be nice, because fear is cold, contracted, stiff, empty and trembling. Those are the basic sensations your body will be feeling. There may also be muscle weakness like when your knees turn to jelly or an ache around the heart. A sick feeling in the pit of the stomach is common. Even though these sensations aren’t pleasant, rest assured, they want to go out. Your body always tries to discharge discomfort, but it can’t do that while you are living in your head and blocking the release that needs to happen.

free your mindTake a few minutes and let yourself settle into the feeling of being in your body before you go on to step 2. For many anxious people even a few seconds feeling the body is too long. The mind jumps back in to take control. Before they know it, they are caught up in anxious thinking. Here are some tips on how to stay with your body instead of jumping back into your thoughts:

  • Take deep breaths. Draw the air down into the pit of your stomach, then easily and slowly release it again.
  • Follow your breath as it goes in and out, feeling it pass through your nose.
  • Lower your shoulders, a very relaxing movement. Letting your head nod until your chin rests on your chest is also very relaxing.
  • Sigh or yawn.
  • Accompany your sighs or deep breathing with a low moan of relaxation.

Of course, you shouldn’t do all of these at the same time. Once you are in your body again and not overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Clear the Fear Response

Now that you feel your body, bring its unpleasant sensations to an end. By its nature, fear is temporary, but if it insists on sticking around, give a clear message: Let go. The message can’t be in words, however. The body’s language is entirely physical. So you need to send your instructions physically. This is unusual for anxious people, who have been sending mental signals of distress, vigilance, tenseness or worried anticipation for years. But, it isn’t hard to do. Your body can be retrained.let go6

If you try to attack it all at once, fear is too overwhelming. So break the body’s sensations down and deal with them one at a time. This is a very effective way to regain a sense of control. Here are the characteristics of fear and the methods to alleviate the sensation:

What you feel: Cold. Your body shivers and trembles. The sensation of coldness adds to a sense of weakness, like being naked in winter.
What you do: Lie in bed under a blanket while doing the remaining steps. Make sure the room is warm. Have the lighting be soothing, neither too bright nor completely dark. Darkness accentuates anxiety.

What you feel: Stiff. Fear paralyzes the body. It goes tense and motionless, frozen with anticipation of something dreadful that is about to happen.
What you can do: Lie on your back, slowly stretch and twist. Be like a cat waking up from a nap. Reach up as far as you can, rotate your shoulders, wiggle your toes, and stretch your feet and legs.

What you feel: Breathless. Tense and vigilant, you stop breathing when you are afraid.
What you can do: Use conscious deep breaths, going as low into your abdomen as you can. Draw in air slowly and deeply until you feel your diaphragm start to bulge out. When it can’t comfortably go out any farther, exhale with a whoosh. Don’t push the air out, but let it escape as if your lungs were a balloon collapsing. Whenever you feel anxious and notice that you aren’t breathing, consciously take a breath. The breath regulates the movement of emotions.

What you feel: Unable to make a sound. Fear tightens the throat, and even when you feel like screaming, you can’t. At its extreme, this leads to a condition of silent horror.
What you can do: Make sounds that activate the fear to leave. This kind of “toning,” as it is often called, takes practice. Sometimes you may want to scream into a pillow; other times a low, guttural sound is needed.
Laughter can help or a silent tone that goes out the top of your head. These sounds help carry away stuck feelings that are harder to get at. But each kind of sound has to come spontaneously. Don’t scream and cry in order to exhaust yourself. The sound shouldn’t be forced. Begin by humming as your attention scans your body, using a high tone in the head and a lower tone going down to the abdomen. Breathe the fear out with the sound. In time, you will find that bodily sensations can be eased out using many kinds of sounds. However, if you find yourself getting sadder or tenser, then the tone isn’t helping. Deep breathing would be better at such moments.

What you feel: Contracted. Fear brings on a sense of seizing up or shrinking, drawing up into a tight protective ball. When that happens, many anxious people tighten up even more, as if growing smaller and smaller will make fear stop noticing them. But contraction has the opposite effect. It prevents the release of deeper residues of fear.
What you can do: Put your attention on your heart. See it filled with white light. Now, while you slowly breathe out, see the light expand. Don’t force this; perhaps the light only expands by a small amount. Take another breath and repeat the process. See yourself expanding with the light, growing more expansive and open. Let the expanding light go beyond your body. See it fill the space around you. Now have it fill the room and finally go outside the room into the rest of the house and out into the surrounding world.
After you know how to do each of these techniques, you can combine them. But as you stretch and relax, always remember to keep breathing. These steps should be taken patiently, allowing at least 10 minutes to deal with your bodily sensations.

Step 3: Calm the Bodytea chamo
When you feel the sensations of fear subside, lie on your back with eyes closed and relax. Sink deeper into your body. Soothing music and aroma therapies are helpful as well, choosing scents that are traditionally known to help clear negative energies, like orange bergamot, camphor, clary sage, peppermint, clove bud and wintergreen.

Don’t rush into activity. Your body will be in recovery mode for an hour or so. Drink some herbal tea, avoid stimulants like tobacco and caffeine. Let the calming process continue. Light reading and television are fine. Don’t enter into situations that will bring up your anxiety again.

It is natural, however, for relaxation to bring up more physical sensations like the ones you’ve just cleared. Anxiety attacks in the middle of the night occur because your body is relaxed and therefore tries to release stuck energies of fear and tension. Adopt an approach of countering anxiety in its early stages with the aim of restoring the whole mind-body system to its natural balance. Don’t rush or expect instant miracles.

Recovery is a process. Have patience with your body. The whole trick in gaining control over anxiety is to remember that your body is your best ally. Once you train it to let go of negative energies, it will willingly cooperate.

Secrets You Keep From Yourself

This article’s theme area:

This is a HUGE subject, that will be discussed here in many forms and fromliar many perspectives – SL

Secrets You Keep From Yourself:
How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness

book by Dan Neuharth, PhD

“It’s as if a part of you doesn’t want the rest of you
to know what it’s doing.” – Dan Neuharth, PhD

“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.” – Eric Hoffer

“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.” – Emily Dickinson

Self-deception is universal. Often harmless. At times humorous. But sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you.

You define who you are in every moment.
You can see yourself as big or small, smart or dumb, worthy or unworthy, winner or loser. Sometimes self-definitions are benign, even humorous. For example:

  • In an Australian study, 86 percent of workers said their performance was above average. 1 percent said below average
  • 80 percent of U.S. drivers surveyed rated their driving as better than average
  • 85 percent of people rated their own manners as good or excellent. Only 23 percent give the same marks to others
  • 94 percent of university professors ranked themselves better than average at their jobs
  • 25 percent of high school students rated themselves in the top 1 percent in leadership ability.
  • 87 percent of Americans surveyed said they expected to go to heaven. In the same survey, only 79 percent said Mother Teresa would go to heaven.

Other times you may define yourself and your options in counterproductive ways.

Examples of common self-defeating thoughts:

  • I must never quit
  • I must be successful
  • I can’t let anybody beat me
  • I can’t be alone
  • I am not competent
  • I must be different from others
  • I must be like others
  • I cannot survive arguments or disagreements
  • I can’t be happy when others close to me are not
  • I cannot break the rules
  • I cannot tell a lie
  • I cannot get caught in a lie
  • I cannot be bored
  • I cannot openly ask for what I want

Counterproductive self-deception
Negative self-deception can take many forms. Look through the following 12 examples and ask yourself: Do I recognize behaviors like these in myself or people I know?

  1. Repeatedly enter inappropriate romantic relationships, each time vowing that this one will be different
  2. Spend more time fantasizing about improbable financial windfalls, like winning the lottery, than working
  3. Overbook and overpromise so often that you no longer trust what they say
  4. Work hard to lose twenty pounds through various diets, then quickly regain the lost weight and then some
  5. Dwell on regrets or resentments and can’t seem to move on
  6. Endlessly take care of others’ needs ahead of their own but, in a candid moment, tell you how unappreciated they feel
  7. Procrastinate by submitting a job application late after hours of hard work, only to find the job filled
  8. Make major decisions without considering the consequences
  9. Automatically shun advice or a helping hand
  10. Ignore a romantic partner’s mistreatment, or stay in an unhealthy relationship even after deciding to leave
  11. Overspend wildly, but get a steady stream of new credit card applications
  12. Yearn to have children, but choose potential mates who send clear signals that they aren’t interested in being a parent

If you do recognize a pattern of self-deception or self-defeating behavior, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you, or that you are “bad” or “flawed” as a person. Self-defeating behavior is not anything to hide or feel guilty about. If you sometimes miss the boat, “step in it,” or trip yourself up, you are simply human. Self-defeating behavior is a habit reinforced by biology, culture, and your individual upbringing and development. Like any habit, it can be unlearned.

Secrets You Keep From Yourself: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness A new psychology / self-improvement book published by St Martin’s Press and written by bestselling author Dan Neuharth, PhD

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