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Unconscious Beliefs

I was sitting with my wife Lisa in the back yard a few weeks ago. The moon was out and almost full. I had read that when the moon rises as the sun sets, it will be full. If the moon rises at midday, it will be a half moon. If the moon rise happens at sunrise, then we have a new moon, one you can’t see because the illuminated side is away from us, or only see a sliver. I had some time to think about the geometry of the planets, the phase of the moon as related to their time of rise and set made sense to me. It was a surprise when I read it, and yet so simple. After years of watching the moon and sun rise and set I had never noticed the pattern or put these things together.

Lisa was quiet thinking about it for a while and then asked in curiosity, “How did they figure that out, what goes around what? How did they figure out the orbits of where each body is in the solar system?” I didn’t know.

I could imagine people watching the sun, moon, and other planets pass in the sky. It would be easy to assume that we are stationary and everything moves around us. Turns out that is what smart guys like Plato and Aristotle did 2500 years ago. It fits with appearances so would be believable and as such, we wouldn’t look further. But for real understanding there would need to be a more disciplined system and skepticism. That would come about 2000 years later with Copernicus and Kepler. They would need to take careful records and chart what was happening over time. They would also need to account for little bits of data that didn’t fit with the expectations, like a planet going into retrograde.  It’s important not to dismiss the small stuff that you don’t know what to do with.  A person’s memory is not good enough to track all 28 days of the phases of the moon in their head and see the pattern. However, charted on paper, the pattern would be there.

It would take longer to determine the tilt of the earth and deduce the earth revolving around the sun. It seemed that one of the biggest leaps to understanding would be to imagine that, even though we have the sensation of standing still, that the earth is spinning and traveling around the sun at thousands of miles per hour.

It’s is easy to see that without careful recording of the changes, and charting of all the bodies that a person could get it wrong. If you take things as appearances, then you are going to assume that you are standing still, and everything revolves around you.

The same thing happens when we look at what goes on in our mind or even in our relationships. We give it a glance, our mind comes up with a quick explanation for why we had a certain behavior, or an emotional outburst, made a bad money decision, or ate too much food that didn’t agree with us. We rationalize why someone else did what they did.  We have quick explanation for ourselves or them, but it is likely that we get it wrong.

We don’t know the truth of how unconscious belief systems are moving us on the inside. We cannot “see” these beliefs with our intellect, much in the same way we cannot detect our motion around the sun from watching it pass overhead.  Our intellect sees the sun passing from east to west, when unknown to us we are spinning from west to east.

 

If you want to really understand how your behaviors and emotions are being moved by your Unconscious Beliefs, then you will need to take some time to do some observations, and write them down. Your intellect and memory doesn’t have the ability to track your emotional, behavior, and thought patterns over the course of a day, much less a month. We have more than 10,000 thoughts a day, and our intellect can handle only about 7 bits of data at a time. To understand your self with some clarity it helps a great deal to write things down for a while.

The Self Mastery Program provides an organized system for taking data on your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.  It then allows you that ability to shift your point of view from a stationary egocentric one the way astronomers did and see what is really going on.

Repressed Emotions

An excerpt from my book MindWorks

Memories are a kind of informational energy that we can store for years.The physical body has the ability to store energy in the form of emotions as well. These stored emotions can be held in the body without our intellect knowing they are there.  When we don’t have memory of these emotions and lack an effective way of releasing them these emotions remain repressed or suppressed.

Imagine that little Johnny is three or four years old. It’s time to go to bed and he is told to put away his toys. Johnny is having such fun and loves what he is playing so much that he ignores the direction. After a few failed attempts at getting him to comply, Mom or Dad takes Johnny’s toys out of his hands. Johnny has an emotional response of sadness at the loss, or perhaps hurt at losing the feeling of joy he was having with his toys. Some of these emotions can be genuine, some generated by attachments through belief systems.

As a defense mechanism against these unpleasant emotions, Johnny becomes angry. Anger is a natural response that we use to protect ourselves from danger. Johnny isn’t in any physical danger, but his automated system responds the same way to pain and, in this case, to emotional discomfort. Anger may also arise from a belief system of Victim/Villain because of his attachment to his toys. Regardless of whether his anger has one or more sources, Johnny expresses it to his parents.

But this doesn’t go over well with Mom and Dad. Disrespect and angry behavior are not going to be allowed, so they respond by raising their voices, scolding, physically lifting him off the floor, or even expressing anger back at him. Mom and Dad’s response scares Johnny. After a few experiences like this, Johnny finds that when he gets angry he starts to feel afraid. Johnny learns to be afraid of Mom and Dad’s response and associates this to feeling angry. Johnny becomes afraid of his emotion, and even more afraid of expressing his anger.

The next time Johnny gets told to stop playing, he still feels the hurt and has the emotional reaction of anger. That part of the emotional response hasn’t changed yet. However, as the anger starts to build, so does the fear, and he instinctively pushes down the energy of anger back into his body so it doesn’t get expressed. He holds it in and doesn’t let anyone know that he has anger inside. After doing this awhile, Johnny becomes so good at it, and he does it so quickly, that he has no conscious awareness of the responses of anger going on inside him. Later in life, he feels afraid of letting his anger out because of what might happen or what he might do. The fear of feeling anger is bigger than the anger itself, as it is a layer of energy and emotion holding the anger in.

In later years a person’s repressed anger may not be so easily controlled. The anger being held in the cells of the physical body has built up too much pressure and needs to be released. The emotion may come out at traffic, employees, oneself, or one’s spouse for the smallest of reasons. When a repressed emotion bursts out, it’s often completely out of proportion with the cause or trigger. This is confusing, and the mind scrambles to come up with a reason for it. When we have enough awareness to recognize that the justification we give is bogus, our Judge and Victim characters pile on with their stories and condemn us for our outburst and inadequate excuse. The characters use what we did to make us wrong again, which encourages us to return to repressing our feelings. We then add guilt and shame, as well as fear of angry outbursts, to our emotional layers. We might also express some anger and hate at ourselves for being so angry, thus increasing our level of hurt and ensuring further repression. In a vicious cycle, this kind of expression from our characters adds more emotion to our emotional field and makes it more likely that we will have an outburst again.

Commonly repressed emotions are anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and grief. We are most fearful of these emotions because of how we will behave, what others will think, or how much we will judge ourselves for feeling them. These fears and judgments about our emotions interfere with releasing them. When these emotions are not released in a healthy way, they can take a toll on our physical body, often manifesting as a physical pain. Or they end up getting released by venting to other people in inappropriate ways, taking a toll on our relationships.

A solution out of these fears and judgments is to make an inventory of the thoughts, beliefs, and judgments your characters have about the emotions you feel. A better understanding about why we feel what we feel, and a compassionate acknowledgment of those feelings, will help remove the forces of fear and judgment that keep these emotions repressed.

While some of these repressed emotions are belief-based and have an accompanying story or belief, some do not. We may have repressed natural-response emotions as well. For many of the natural emotions there are often no stories, thoughts, or beliefs to dismantle. When they are released there can be a great deal of emotion with no connecting thought or memory. For example, when we lose someone we love there is often grief. It is a natural response that even animals have, despite having no belief systems. There are no words, thoughts, or beliefs that accompany these natural-response emotions. As humans, we also have a mind that will project thoughts, beliefs, and images to form stories. Both these belief-based emotions and the emotions that have no story have to be allowed and released.

At first the healing and change process is just a matter of letting the suppressed feelings empty out. The emotional body, much like our physical body, has its own guidance and healing system and release mechanisms. It will have bouts of crying or rage for no apparent reason. As best you can, allow the process and let the emotions be vented off without inflicting them on others. What will take the most work, particularly in the case of anger, will be to refrain from expressing that anger at anyone. The mind will try to justify and explain in some simple way why we feel what we feel. In these intense emotions it is looking for an answer. In reality, you don’t need one. The work that needs to be done is to let the emotions move through you in a healthy way without sending them to anyone or believing the accompanying thoughts. It will be helpful to suspend belief in any of the justifications for these emotions. Investing faith in justifications just adds more emotion-producing beliefs to your system.

 

The work that needs to be done is to let the emotions move through you
in a healthy way without sending them to anyone or believing the accompanying thoughts. If we fall into the cycle of believing the related thoughts we generate more of the same emotion. 

 

The Repression of Love

Surprisingly, one of the biggest emotions that we repress is love. As very young children we were free to dance and express excitement and joy through our body. While growing up, we were told not to be so silly, that laughing is inappropriate, and that we should be more serious. We learned that how we appeared to others was more important than expressing our joy. As we learned to be more responsible, we also tried to act more serious. All of these little moments add layers of energy that hold back our natural expressions of joy, wonderment, humor, creativity, curiosity, and love.

As we sort out career choices we may put aside interests we love, like art and music, dismissing them in favor of more “practical” fields of work. Our worries about making money and financially providing for ourselves and our family take precedence, and the expressions of love that come with those other, cherished activities are repressed. We try not to think about what we gave up because it hurts too much not to express that love for things we are passionate about.

If we fall in love and then have our heart broken, we can make an internal agreement that love hurts, or that we have to be careful, which really means to be afraid of love. We become hesitant to love again, unaware that it wasn’t the love that hurt but rather the pain of not loving when it ended. We create false interpretations and beliefs about our emotions and future actions. We hold back our feelings of love as if love itself were painful. Like the child who stopped feeling joy when his toy was taken away, we also repress our painful reactions at the loss of love by covering it with layers of denial about feeling anything. “I’m fine” is a convenient statement to repress the hurt, and to repress the love we want to express underneath.

As we remove these layers of denial and notice what we feel with honest acceptance, we first find fear and judgments of our emotions. Beneath that are repressed layers of sadness, grief, and anger. But below those layers are the repressed layers of love, passions, and an abundance of joy in great reserves. Some of those emotions based in love have been held back for years and may at times rush out in overwhelming waves. Once that repressed love is no longer under pressure, it returns to a normal authentic flow in a balanced and sustainable way. However, there isn’t one specific way this looks for everyone; each person’s experience of this process will be unique to them.

For methods on accessing repressed emotions, see the exercises in the Self Mastery Course and the special exercise on Releasing Emotions.

This article is an excerpt from Gary’s book MindWorks: A practical guide for changing thoughts, beliefs, and emotional reactions.

Improving Relationship Communication

Small Relationship Changes That Get Big Results

John Gottman studied relationships over many years noticing the small things we do in our interactions.  By observing small gestures in their conversation he could tell with better than 80% accuracy whether couples would still be married in 6 years. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gottman).

I say that these behaviors “seemed small” because at the beginning of his research they were not deemed significant. However, these small communication dynamics of how people bid for attention and responded to each other, when compounded over years, added up to make or break the relationship.

Here is an example with person A and B so that you can perhaps see your behaviors on either side of the conversation.

When partner A is talking does partner B follow up with a question to gain a deeper understanding?  Or, does B assume to have all of the information from their statement about what is going on and reply without asking questions for clarification. Does the response acknowledge or validate person A’s experience, or do they contradict it? For example, if you are having a difficult time communicating with your partner how do you phrase the issue? Do you say something like? “You don’t listen to me.” Or, do you phrase it closer to: “I don’t feel I am being understood.”

The first, with the phrase, “You don’t…. “ is going to be heard as an accusation or criticism. You might be stating a fact, but when your message is packaged as a statement about their behavior failing you, yourr partner will likely hear it as a criticism. They are then likely move to a defensive posture in the conversation. Their response will be more defensive, a criticism back, or change the subject as it has become emotionally uncomfortable. Your response to their criticism or withdrawing will likely amplify emotions to another level. In any of these scenarios, what you wanted, which is to be understood and get a closer emotional connection, didn’t happen.

You have a better chance at a constructive conversation by phrasing it as, “I am trying to express myself here and I don’t feel that I am being understood.”  Someone might point out that they essentially mean the same thing. If person A is not listening it is equivalent to saying that person B is not being understood. Except that our minds don’t process these as equivalents.

To be a better communicator we need to be aware of how our phrasing is going to be heard, or misinterpreted. To be a better listener we have to be aware of our own responses of attack, defend, withdraw, criticisms, and rebuttals and have enough personal power and mindfulness to put them aside.  That takes some work putting our false beliefs, and emotional reactions under scrutiny and dismantling them. Once you do that, you can then move to the next step of a connecting response.

What would make a healthy response?  How about, “I heard you say that I don’t listen to you. Can you give me an example?” This question opens your awareness to something specific so you can reflect on what interfered with listening and understanding. Another response might be, “I heard you say that I don’t listen to you.  When that happens how do you feel inside?”  This response first affirms that you heard them.  Asking for a level of deeper is an effective way to connect. With these exploratory questions you also have a chance to the core belief of the problem provided it is done respectfully.

A middle ground here is to rephrase what was said and say it back.  This is called active listening and sends the message that you are paying attention and trying to understand.  This isn’t always necessary.  If your husband asks if you want to go to the movies you don’t need to say, “What I hear you saying is that you want to go to the movies and that you would like me to go with you. Is that correct?” When it is straight forward conversation we don’t need to work that hard. It is during conversations about abstract problem issues like our emotions and behaviors that we need to employ a different kind of listening, what I call Listening for Understanding.

One of the backwards things that often happens in our communication is that instead of asking for what we want, we push our partner away from giving it.

What we probably want is a closer, stronger, connection with them.  The more honest thing to say is, “I want to feel closer to you and one of the ways that happens for me is when our conversation slows down and we really take the time to understand each other. Will you work with me so we do more of that?”

One of the things you notice is that this is really long. That’s not how we automatically communicate. We have learned to say things in a short hand style and most of the meaningful context is lost.  With our shorthand we expect the other person to get it, but that is unfair. They can’t know all the context and associations we have in our mind.

The mind processes the two statements differently. When Person A told their partner they weren’t listening the focus of that comment was on the partner and what they were doing wrong. Person B is now in a defensive mode and concerned about protecting their image from more criticism. The subject is no longer about what Person A is feeling and what would help. Person B’s mind is not likely to make the jump between these two things.

You have to make the changes within your self.

The hard part of all of this is that the changes to make are part of our belief system and unconscious responses.  If something is unconscious it means that you don’t notice it.  It is difficult to change things we don’t notice. That part where you stop responding in a defensive manner, withdraw, or criticize back happens so quick that it is done before our intellect knew we did it. It will take practice to catch those moments and change the habit. Part of the challenge is you first have to refrain from the automated defensive/withdraw/criticism response. The steps to this are:

  1. Taking the time to become aware that you do this.
  2. Taking responsibility for our expressions
  3. Identifying the emotions and beliefs behind this response
  4. Changing the emotions and beliefs behind the impulsive response.
  5. Developing the habit to speak in a connecting way

If you are trying to solve issues in your relationship you are likely looking for something big.  Because of this you will likely look at this process, or other suggestions and dismiss them with the justification that these changes are too small or will take too long. These changes don’t seem to be big enough to fit the size of the problem you have. Because of that unconscious criteria you will push away 100 small changes you can make, and should make.  The pattern to notice here is that if you are dismissing and not doing the little things that voice will also dismiss and not do the big things when they show up.

The reason the relationship probably got into problems is because you and your partner began doing lots of little things that weren’t helpful. You probably didn’t notice them at the time. Those little jab comments were funny in the beginning when you had plenty of other positive communications. But a couple years later, when you or your partner are stressed about work, finances, or children, they don’t feel funny anymore. Commenting to correct, instead of listening to understand, interrupting, not asking for what you want but expecting them to provide, all add to the negative emotional impact.  These are all small things, but when you do them 20 or more times a day they build substantial momentum of disconnection, frustration, and resentment.

If you want to make big changes get some skills and successes
at making a lot of small changes.

Start by getting it in your mind that a lot of little changes will add up and be worth the effort.  To really grasp this, go outside to a somewhat open area and make a note of where you are standing. Then begin walking in one direction counting out 100 steps.  When you get to 100 steps, stop. Turn around and look at where you started. Notice how far it is. Then ask yourself, “Could I have gotten that far in one jump?”

You can find specific exercises to address these small changes in beliefs, emotions,  behaviors, and communication in the Self Mastery Course and the Relationship Course. 

Forgiveness Self Mastery

A message from a subscriber about her experience doing the Self Mastery Series Exercises.

Gary,

I wanted to circle back with you on this newest installment of the Self Mastery program on forgiveness. I must say that it could not have been more timely. Over the weekend my preteen daughter was assaulted by another girl at a sleep over. There are few things that a parent or a mother can go through when a child tells you something of this magnitude that is as hurtful as this. 

At first, I had an understandable emotional response, and then the Ego’s Judge came out about the other person and people needing punishment. Then the Ego’s Victim in my mind showed up and proclaimed that I was powerless to do anything about it. I did approach the parents of this other child and held in my mind the expectations that I had thought would be upheld at a trusting scenario like a sleepover. When that didn’t turn out as I had expected, the Judge and Victim voices of the Ego started another vicious cycle. I had put myself in Emotional Hell. Actually, I was there, rented an apartment and had started charging rent. 

 I started to punish myself over the next week and suffering. Working out and sleeping less, not eating. waking up early, and mentally abusing myself without any consideration. Then today I heard your message of how to forgive from the Self Mastery series. It was hard to listen to, I’ll admit. Mostly because the Ego Judge wanted to continue terrorizing everyone and the Ego Victim accepting it. But then I did as you said from the other exercises. I stepped outside of the argument these NON-personas in my head were having and said, “Who is it that we are angry with” and they all shrieked, ” YOU!!” we’re ALL angry at YOU because (filling in blank)…SOMETHING must be done…. So I asked, “Exactly what is it that can be done??” And they paused and said, “Well, honestly we don’t know, but this seems like a good idea to continue harassing you and   It seems to FEEL like we’re doing something, so maybe we should just keep doing this? 

It was actually really, really funny and I started laughing.  Here I was, nearly in tears over this admittedly unfortunate situation with my daughter and the Ego voices in my head, with their own personas leaped on to my emotions like a pack of ravenous wolves. They were very loud, very certain about doing something, or that I wasn’t doing enough. But when I really looked I saw that they had nothing of value to add.

Finally, I became the forgiver and it was like a dimmer switch in my head was turned down. They became less and less visible, less and less noisy. They aren’t all the way gone, but it’s much better to an extent.

I will continue to monitor how I do over the coming weeks. .
Thank you.  A. K. 

How Not to be Jealous of Your Friends

Our mind can work like a computer doing multiple processes in parallel. In one story we are happy for our friend and their recent success. In a parallel emotional track we have a pang of jealousy for their same success.  On a third track, or following that jealousy is a self-judgment about what a lousy friend we are.  Then, with that bad feeling about being a bad friend, we might even over compensate with congratulations to make up for it in a way that feels false. This is all possible because our mind can do multiple narratives and emotional responses at the same time or in rapid succession.

The first step to getting past such jealous responses is to be aware that this is what the mind does, even if you don’t want it to. Much like the doctor tapping the knee to check your reflexes, the mind can have a number of conditioned responses to the same input.    Often we are pulled into the next layer by judging ourselves, or our mind for these rapid responses. Unlike the reflex in the knee, you can change the responses of your mind and emotions.  Acknowledging and accepting breaks the self-judgment cycle.

The second step involves identifying the source of the reaction. When it comes to jealousy and envy of our friends successes one of the biggest factors is often self-judgment.  It is likely that you have had in your mind an image of success about where you wanted to be in your life at this point. Beliefs are acquired over years form Images of lifestyle, income, relationship, children, and career that you have labeled success.  Your mind unconsciously remembers all of these standards. Whenever you see someone achieving such a “success”, an Inner Critic jumps to compare where you are to the stored reference of success.  It then gives you an emotional slap for having failed to achieve unsaid forgotten standard.  Your friend getting what they want, is just a trigger for the Inner Critic to give you an emotional slap.

Why the emotional slap?  Sometimes we have learned through negative reinforcement.  We have collected in our memory a way to motivate our self even if that motivation has made us feel bad or label us as a loser/failure.  Are we really upset that our friend got something they wanted?  No.  We are more likely hurting because our mind quickly and unconsciously did a self judgement. If we don’t have awareness we don’t notice this dynamic. All we see is our friend with what they have and think that is causing us pain, so we direct or ill feelings to them. When you notice these less conscious layers of beliefs then you can detach from them and the emotional response changes.

At more layered levels we might add in a sense of comparing ourselves not just to our fictional image of perfection for our self, but to them.  Sometimes our mind’s mental function of comparison doesn’t use its own image of success, but uses someone else as the basis for comparison.  In that case the Inner Critic labels one person as the successful winner.  In its continual game of comparison and keeping score when it labels someone else as a winner it indirectly labels us as the failure. This self-judgment is often at the core of the jealous reaction. Detach from that belief dynamic and you will not just be a better friend to others, but to yourself also.

You can find more specific instructions on finding and changing these core beliefs by doing the exercises in the Self Mastery Course.  The first four sessions are available free. 

Related Articles:  Jealousy 




The Self Mastery Course: Practical Tools for Getting Rid of the Emotional Drama in Your Life
  • Stop Emotional Reactions
  • Change Core Beliefs
  • Quiet the Criticizing Voice in Your Head
  • Develop Communication and Respect in Your Relationships
  • Create Love and Happiness in Your Life
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