Are Your Beliefs Your Friend or Foe?
by Diane England, Ph.D.
Self Improvement (Free) Newsletters
Article excerpt from the Official Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Are you aware that you operate under certain beliefs and assumptions that help you to make sense of this world and your life experiences, and that also guide you as you maneuver through each day?
Perhaps you're very much aware of the fact that you have such a framework...often referred to as a world view. For example, you may believe that you were put on this earth for a God-given purpose. Hence, you?re striving to understand and adhere to what that purpose is. You?re open to examining things that happen to you because you believe they have lessons to teach you and indeed, may be guiding you towards new directions you need to now be taking.
You may also deal with life's problems and setbacks well because you see them as developing your ability to cope with what may yet lie ahead on this path you believe you're being asked to follow by a higher power that you may refer to as your higher self, the universe, or God, for example. Furthermore, you may believe that even tragedy offers newfound opportunity if you?ll but look for it and seize it.
Hand-Me-Down Beliefs or Your Own?
Even if you can not relate to what you?ve just read, you?re undoubtedly operating in accordance with certain beliefs and assumptions?likely handed down by significant adults during your childhood. Then again, they could come from conclusions you drew as a result of experiences during that phase of your life.
Since the smoothness of your early life was largely dependent upon your ability to please the significant adults in your life, or to adopt and live in accordance with their beliefs, it is not surprising that you operate automatically in accordance with these beliefs.
Also, since it is important that, as citizens of this country we all adhere to certain beliefs so as to remain productive and law-abiding members of our society, it has likely been helpful that you've clung to beliefs taught by teachers and others.
Still, while there are guidelines as to what is considered reasonable or rational thinking and behavior within our country, there is nevertheless a considerable range of beliefs and assumptions under which you could operate and still remain an upstanding citizen of both our country and the world.
Sure, there may be some folks out there who will judge you as unreasonable for clinging to beliefs and assumptions that clash with their own. But just because they don't realize that by being open to evaluating their beliefs and assumptions, or by modifying their personal world view, that their lives could offer them more possibilities than they can imagine for themselves today, that doesn?t mean that you shouldn't do so.
That said, even if you have been operating under a world view that you believe has been serving you well, it may be time to re-evaluate its appropriateness for both your life today and where you want to be tomorrow. After all, these are challenging times for many people throughout the world.
You may need to change up some beliefs and assumptions so you can still notice and embrace life's possibilities at a time when negativity may seem ready to engulf you. On another note, if you have doubts about continuing to walk the path you were committed to previously, it may be time to consider some remodeling.
You may become more self-aware by striving to continually examine your thoughts, your emotions, and your behaviors. So, shall we look more closely as to how you can use these to direct you in ways you've perhaps not considered before?
Listening to your Mind or Not?
Many people experience their minds as something akin to committees of people chattering and arguing anyway in their heads. They hardly know how to proceed because of all the conflicting messages their minds feed them. Hopefully, though, this is not your situation?or that you have a somewhat calmer mind most of the time, at least.
Assuming this to be the case, or that typically one thought at a time seems to jump forth, you may still be wondering if you should listen to it or not. In other words, should you trust that all thoughts that come to mind are essentially your friends and hence, will serve you well?
People who suffer from the mental disorder, schizophrenia, often come to realize that their minds feed them many thoughts that need to be disregarded. Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, on the other hand, may believe that his thoughts (the majority of narcissists are men) are perfectly fine while indeed, they create havoc and emotional pain for those who must interact with him or who suffer the consequences of his choices made as a businessman, for instance.
The person who develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD following a traumatic event may have once been able to trust his or her thoughts, but now realizes because the brain was changed by trauma, it is no longer a good idea to do so that whereas some of the individual's thinking may be right on, other thoughts fall into that category known in twelve-step programs as "Stinkin Thinkin" instead.
Even if you have a calm brain and a world view that has served you well, just as you may want to stay attuned to the functioning of your seemingly well-running car, you'll want to review your automatic thoughts and how they're continuing to serve you. After all, thoughts can fuel emotions that can fuel behaviors that may prove detrimental and take you away from the path you intended to follow.
Let's look at an example of this, shall we? Justin and his Relationship with his Verbally Abusive Boss...
Let's say that I know a man named Justin who continually feels angry at the put-downs of a verbally abusive boss because Justin knows these simply are not true. Nonetheless, in his mind, Justin keeps thinking or telling himself that he has no choice but to accept his boss's verbal abuse because he could never find another job, or develop a business, that would provide the income he currently makes and furthermore, he is absolutely convinced he needs to survive financially, too.
Justin has strived to control his thoughts in such a way as to help him cope with a difficult situation and he has successfully done so for awhile now. However, in recent weeks, he has become aware of even more constant churning sensations in his stomach. And the truth is, they have become more vicious during the past week. But then, the extent of Justin's boss' abuse has been worsening not only towards Justin, but towards all the people his boss supervises. But then, this executive is an equal opportunity abuser.
Justin may want to stop and think about what his anxiety may be trying to tell him. Could it be there to awaken him to the fact that this is a very destructive situation? That it may be time to face his fears and move on nonetheless since this job and this boss are just too destructive to his well-being?
In fact, how can he live in accordance with his highest self; how can Justin let this self shine forth when he is being verbally and emotionally abused regularly by another? It is nearly impossible for most people. So, would it be preferable for Justin to give himself an opportunity to experience something better?
Are You seeking to Understand the Lessons to be Learned from Your Emotional Reactions?
Can you now better appreciate how important it is to pay attention to your emotional responses and any messages they may be seeking to deliver? Remember, your emotions can be a warning system?there to help protect you or remind you that there are changes you need to be making to move forth with your life and purpose.
The anxiety or emotional pain, for example, may become severe enough that they seem impossible to ignore because, indeed, you aren't supposed to be ignoring them! They are there to awaken you to the fact it is time to take action to make some changes in yourself or your life.
What you want to strive for instead is a balance between emotion and thinking. In other words, do not subtract either from the equation but instead, evaluate both your thoughts and your feelings regularly to become more self-aware. Hopefully, now you'll be more capable of keeping your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions aligned so that they continually lead you toward a purpose-filled life. After all, you should soon feel calmer and hence, be better attuned to any inner guidance or you'll perceive and seize opportunities put before you that you were undoubtedly inclined to miss when you weren't so self-aware.
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Author's Bio: Dr. Diane England, Self-Growth?s Official Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, is a licensed clinical social worker who is also the author of The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy. Additional Resources on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be found at:
*Website Directory for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
*Articles on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
*Products for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
*Dr. Diane England, The Official Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder