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What is a Belief

This article is the transcript from the podcast, “What is a Belief” which you can find on iTunes or listed in my free audio. 

”What’s wrong with me? “Jim asked.  He is basically fighting depression, barely gets out of the house and off the couch some days. Lots of chatter in his head, most of it negative chatter about being a failure and not good enough. Emotionally he feels miserable a lot of days. Some days he’s great, and often feels great at work and doing things. Outside wise, Jim looks great. He is a martial artist. He’s got a PhD. He’s running his own business. He is very successful in so many regards, but internally he feels miserable.

So he asked me: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ My answer is to him, the same as it is to everybody else I talk to, “Nothing.” You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you.” Then he asks: “Why do I feel so miserable?” This is where I have to make a distinction between what is Jim, and what constitutes his thoughts and emotions.  “You’re fine, but you don’t feel fine. The reason you don’t feel fine is because of all the negative thoughts running through your head, sourced in all those negative beliefs, false beliefs, fear-based beliefs. All the negative thoughts arise from those, and you react to the beliefs and the thoughts emotionally, and those emotions aren’t pleasant. So no, you don’t feel fine. You’re fine, but the program set of beliefs and thoughts running through your head, you’re having the appropriate emotional reactions to those, because they’re fear-based and they’re negative. So the emotions are appropriate to those beliefs, and they don’t feel good. They don’t feel fine at all. That’s what you’re feeling. At the same time, underneath it all, the core essence of what you are, you’re perfect. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

This is my essential message to everyone. If you have followed my work, what I’m telling you is, you are fine. If you’re troubled, you’re having emotional reactions, doing drama, self-sabotaging your relationship or your finances. Even if you’re doing that, you’re fine. You may be operating with a system of beliefs that are negative, false, fear-based and that’s a problem, but you’re not the problem.

Let me break out the layers of it this way. The things that Jim notices are his thoughts and his emotions. Let’s take a metaphor of a computer. What shows up on your screen, what’s displayed when you type words or numbers into a spreadsheet, or word processing program, whatever your software program is, you type that stuff in and it’s displayed on the monitor. That’s what you can see. Thoughts and emotions are stuff you can see. But it is not the software underneath. The software underneath is that spreadsheet program, that’s crunching the numbers. It’s made of all sorts of symbols and characters that software programs are written in. That’s the belief system.

We don’t always see our beliefs. We don’t see our belief system, we are not trained to look for it. But it’s producing a lot of thoughts and emotions. Just like we don’t see the software running on our computer. What we see is what’s displayed on the screen. Underneath it all, there’s a computer made of hardware that is a separate system. There’s a core processor and a motherboard, all those mechanics that make the computer run. The essential you is the hardware. You’re that processor, that’s centrally in this metaphor what you are. And you’re fine. Your computer system is running perfectly. But if you’re producing a lot of negative reactions, negative thoughts, unpleasant emotions, fear, anger, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, that’s because the software, meaning the belief system, has viruses. They’re, what I call, false or fear-based beliefs that then produce what you can perceive in terms of very unpleasant thoughts and emotions.

You’re the central processor in this. You’ve got a software program, that’s your belief system, and it produces what you display on the screen, is the thoughts and emotions. The thoughts and emotions might be bad, but that’s not the problem. That’s just what’s displayed. What’s really running your mind is core-based beliefs. Those beliefs are all fouled up and false. That’s why you feel the way you do. That’s why you experience, your mind, emotions and your thoughts the way you do. Underneath it all, that computer, YOU, perfect. It’s running perfectly. You are fine. You’re just running a software program that has a virus of false beliefs with fear, self-judgment, and hopelessness, etc.

What I pointed out to Jim is this question ”What’s wrong with me?” has got a big belief embedded in the question that “I’m broken.” That’s an assumed belief by itself. That’s part of the program of thoughts that generates more negative thoughts. Now, he can’t answer the question, because he’s like “I don’t know. I’m confused.” Now he feels confusion as an emotion. He feels like he’s a failure, because he hasn’t figured this out, and for a PhD, to not have an answer, that’s very frustrating. He feels like a failure for not having figured out this question, “What’s wrong with me?” But the problem is the questions is bad. It’s a falsely generated question from a virus in his belief system that has him looking at him, the hardware, when in fact you should be looking at the software of the belief system. That question What’s wrong with me is a really distorted question. It has us looking in the wrong place and has us feeling like there’s something wrong with us, when there’s not. It makes it hard to notice the real problem, which is in the software of the belief system.

What I endeavor to do is put your attention on this software program of belief system. So you have a better idea what it looks like, how it affects us emotionally and what’s involved in changing it. I think having that lay of the land is extremely important, if we’re going to change the emotional reactions and our emotional states in our life, in our relationships, and everything. Our beliefs are the main generator of our emotions. There’s other sources of emotions of course, there’s actually several sources of emotions. But most of the negative emotions we feel, are from the false and fear-based beliefs we have in our mind. When you identify and you change those, which I explain how to do in Self Mastery Course, your emotions change and you feel different.

What is a belief and what does it look like? That’s a big question. There’s multiple parts to a belief, the way it’s constructed in our mind. We’re not trained to notice it, so it takes a bit of work to separate them out with clarity.

The first part to understand about a belief is imagination. It takes place in this vicinity of the mind. The thing about imagination is it’s amazing. It’s creative. It has incredible depth and can appear to extend forever. You can just imagine the stars going out in space beyond galaxy, beyond galaxy, beyond galaxy. You can imagine the galaxies, hundreds, thousands of galaxies. How big is your imagination? Create this incredible virtual world in the mind that’s massive. Then you can go into any galaxy within that world, and then a solar system within that galaxy, and planet within that solar system. Then you can imagine going into one person’s head in that galaxy. Now you see, we’ve gotten into layers, and layers, and layers. Now in that story, we are going to one person’s head and that person is imagining what’s going on in somebody else’s mind. It’s imagining, “That person must think I’m an idiot or I’m wonderful, I’m the best person in the world”. This is the field of imagination and it’s incredibly creative.

If you watch kids play, they do extraordinary things with their imagination and make believe. They take a box and that box is their car, their airplane, their spaceship. They’re traveling all over the world or all over the state. They’re visiting new places, they’re on alien planets in their spaceship. That all takes place in their imagination, even though they haven’t physically left the living room. This is how creative, and fast, and amazingly our imagination works to project onto the real world around us, a virtual world. While we live in the real world with its physical constructs, we also have this virtual world of our imagination, and it can change moment to moment.

In that virtual world, one of the things that happened is we can assume different identities. In that little kid’s mind, they become a superhero, they become a space traveler, a cowboy, an Indian, a fireman, a road builder. They really feel they are that persona. When kids play dress up, or they play pretend and they make tea and have a tea. Little kids, 5 year old, you can watch their whole body posture change, their voice changes, their mannerisms change. They embody this whole personality of an adult princess having tea, and they’re 5. They know how to do it, because they imagined it and then they embody it. They make believe. While they’re living in the regular world in the same living room or the same house, all of the sudden, it becomes this whole other world, it becomes a castle where they’re having tea and they’re princesses.

We do the same as an adult. Like Jim. He has, in his imagination, this picture that he is a failure, that there’s something wrong with him. He embodies that. It’s a whole persona thinking other people are criticizing him and his imagination, and his body posture takes that on. His emotions feel that. He includes mannerisms and all that. Even the thoughts he generates, the kinds of things he thinks, and the words that come out of his mouth, are from that persona of a broken person, ”there something wrong with me” is the one talking and thinking. “I’m not good enough. I’m not lovable.” Within that belief field or bubble, not only is there an imagination of what we project out into the world, but there is a persona we embody. Not just this image, or self-image. But no, we embody that and we say that is what I am. When we do that, now that picture of the world we project isn’t just coming from ourselves, it’s coming from this false identity, this ego-created, mind-created image of what we are. We call it EGO itself, ego personality of something’s wrong with. It’s a false identity, but we call it ”ME” or ”I”.

The projection we have of the world is now from that false identity. If we have the belief There’s something wrong with me, I’m not lovable, what we project now and how we see the world that we imagine, it’s no longer stars and galaxies, and traveling in spaceship, or having tea. We project other people and we imagine what goes on in their imagination, and assume that they think something’s wrong with us. Or that we’re not likeable, or an idiot, or something negative. Our imagination field doesn’t just include what’s in our mind, it includes our beliefs software version of what’s in their mind.

What makes this particularly tricky is, now there’s a factor in this imagination field we have to add, that makes it a belief. That’s what I call faith. Not a religious version of faith, but faith in terms of a kind of personal power. We add faith when we have to accept or believe, or agree, YES, that’s true. It is the power of conviction that sometimes goes with an idea.  I accept that as a truth. Faith is a personal power. It’s a force that we invest into this imagination field that says that’s reality. “I know this.” I agree to that. That is the world that I live in, or a cause I believe in, or a principle I will even die for. When we do that, it now looks like the real world. When we do that, we say that, what is in my imagination, is the real world. That which is my false identity is my real identity. That agreement when infused with faith, which is a very powerful force of our will, we lose the line between what is in our mind’s imagination and what is reality.

You can look at lots of beliefs that distort reality. From anorexia, a woman is not able to see the real reality of her body vs. what she believes her body to be. We can look at what’s going on in a financial market and say: ‘Oh, it’s just going to keep going up forever.’ That looks like reality and we lose track of it when it is already going down. Or we imagine it’s going to go down, it’s going to be catastrophic, we’re all going to end up on the streets, or I’m going end up on the streets pushing a shopping cart. Our imagination creates that. We imagine ourselves in that identity role of that happening. We feel the emotions as a natural result of believing that, and that appears to be reality. What it really is, is a virtual reality. I often use the word DREAM, because it is as if we’re having a daydream, but it’s as if it’s even more real like a nighttime dream.  You’re experiencing as if it was really happening, having all the emotions as if it was real, but it’s a dream. Because you’re not aware it’s a dream, you react the way you do. But when you wake up ‘Oh, my God, it was a dream, that was wild.’

Having that clarity of perception, in terms of what’s going on in your mind, that is reality and maps clearly on the world vs. unawareness of what is virtual reality is what I call awareness. Without awareness it is like saying “This is my virtual reality of my imagination and belief system, and it perfectly represents what is reality.” What I call awareness is that ability to perceive clearly, that which is our imagination vs. that’s which is real.

This awareness is crucial to sorting out what is make-believe and what is reality. What’s virtual reality vs. what’s reality? That clarity in perception is what I call awareness. Awareness helps you make a distinction between what is this false identity that I’m embodying and feeling that I’m broken, there’s something wrong with me construct vs. What am I really, what am I as authentic and genuine. To perceive clearly the difference and when we shift between one and the other, having that ability is essential for change. This awareness can be developed with practice.

At first glance, a person might think “I’ve got awareness, that’s no-brainer, I know what’s real and what’s not real.” But we don’t have that awareness when we’re in a dream. We don’t have that same level of clarity when we’re in a daydream. We don’t have that same level of clarity when we’re having an emotional reaction. We exaggerate things, or make assumptions about things. We have thousands of thoughts a day, and our tendency is to believe what we think. When we believe what we think, we create a virtual reality version. It’s unlikely that 10,000 of our thoughts are all accurate. So how many aren’t accurate, that we then build a belief out of. How many of them during the day to you question? Having that kind of awareness in the midst of emotional reactions is the critical time to have it. It’s easy to sit back when you’re relaxed and look at things in a very sober way. “Oh, I know what’s real, what’s not real.” But when you’re in the midst of emotional reaction, you’re caught up in this virtual version of what’s going on in your imagination, that’s when it counts.

Let’s take someone as an example, who has the belief I’m not lovable. They’re fine. They’re perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with them in the core essence of what they are, that hardware system, the central processor is, they’re fine. But they have this software program, somewhere they picked up, made the interpretation I’m not lovable and they agreed. “Yes, that’s true. That’s what I am.” And they formed this kind of identity, that’s false. They put faith in it, give it a kind of power and now that identity projects out into the world its own thoughts. Other people must see me as broken, false, not lovable and they don’t love me. This is the virtual reality, that’s projected into the vastness of the mind’s imagination that appears as reality. Now, that person imagines what’s going on in other people’s head. Now they really think it’s going on in other people’s head, that these people don’t like me, they must think I’m an idiot, they don’t want to talk to me.

That’s not what’s going on in other people’s head. That’s going on in the virtual reality of their own mind, but being unaware, they miss out on that and they react as if it’s real. They react in this virtual world emotionally as if it were real, because our emotional system responds to stuff that is believed to be real and stuff that’s real the same way. If we believe it to be real, our emotions respond. That’s just what our emotions do. Our emotional reactions system is working perfectly. Our thoughts that we have are, “They probably don’t want to talk to me, I don’t know what to ask”. Or our thoughts are about trying to impress them, what can I do that will make them laugh, what can I do to make them like me, and I can’t come up with anything. But we try really hard and then we feel like we failed, because we didn’t come up with anything. So all of our thoughts are playing on this trying to solve this problem and get people to like me. That’s what’s displayed on the screen of our mind.

What’s displayed in our experience, emotionally is all this anxiety of trying to come up with the right thing to say, and feeling like we’re not coming up with the right thing to say. Our thoughts of what they must be thinking about us, this is on the display portion. This is what we notice because it’s being displayed in thoughts and emotions.  But we don’t see the belief system that acts as the software.  It holds this operating system of I’m not lovable, and I’m this identity of a not lovable person, this is in the background. We can only notice where we project out and create this world, where I cast all these people in these roles, as people who don’t even want to talk to me, or don’t like me.

Regardless of whether they love you or not, we imagine people this way. We’re living in that virtual reality. That is a whole dream. Within that dream, you’re not even acting as yourself. You’re acting as this false identity, feeling as this false identity, even embodying the mannerisms and thoughts of this false identity. This kind of self-hypnosis happens in a daydream. You might try to change the emotional reactions or negative thoughts you have from this software program. We might try and change that, but that’s like changing the display of what’s on the computer screen. The real problem is that the software is just going to generate more of it. The virus is still in the computer, because the core beliefs haven’t changed. If you are running around wanting to change your emotions and thoughts, you might as well be putting white out on your computer screen. It’s going to be about that effective, because those thoughts and emotions are being generated from the software system that you’re not looking at. You really want to make those changes you’ve got to look at the software system, which is this false persona, the faith you put into it and the unconscious beliefs underneath. Projecting the virtual reality.

This all might be summed up with a few words like I’m not lovable. That might be the core belief, but that belief creates this whole dream world, this virtual reality dream world that then produces the negative thoughts and emotions. When you endeavor to change a belief, it’s not enough just to change the words, and say: ‘Well, I’m lovable’ and ‘Gosh darn it, people like me.’ Because those are just words that describe this dream world you’re in. You haven’t changed the identity you’ve adopted and, how you’ve projected in your imagination what’s going on in other people’s minds. You haven’t changed the framework of that belief. The framework of that belief actually exists in this whole field of imagination, and is supported and giving the appearance of reality, by putting faith in it. So when you go to really change a belief, to really do it, you’ve got to take your faith out. You’ve got to shift your perspective out of this false identity. You have to dissolve or detach from this field of imagination, where you assume to know what’s going on in other people’s heads. All of those factors have to change and then your emotions will change, because you’re not reacting the same way. Because you’re not in the same virtual reality of the dream, when your thoughts change.

I explain this to people and say: “This is what’s causing us emotional reactions and emotional suffering, is this software program with a fear-based belief virus, or false-based belief virus.” Someone usually ask me: ‘Gary, you can’t tell me that what’s going on with me isn’t real. I really am having a break up with my wife. I’ve moved out. I’m living in a separate apartment now. I’m only seeing my kids half the time. You can’t tell me that’s not real, and it’s not affecting me.’ And my answered to that is: ‘That is very much real.’ There is certainly emotional responses and experiences from something like that. Major changes in our life are going to create strong emotions.  ‘But what about the part where your mind imagines you’re a failure as a husband? That your life is ruined. That you’re going to be alone the rest of your life. That you’re not lovable. That you need her to be happy. That your kid’s life is ruined and they’re going to be miserable the rest of their life. And they’re going to be in therapy for the rest of their life.’

What about those stories that play in your mind? Are you reacting emotionally to those? They respond with, ‘Yeah’.  How do those feel? Miserable. Are those real? Are those things really true? No. Okay. So those stories, those kinds of thoughts, Doomsday, horrific, my life is over, I’ll never be happy again. Those are beliefs. He’s responding to those with emotions as if they were true, and that’s generating the majority of his unpleasant emotions. Yes, the reality is creating some emotions, but his beliefs amplify things to the unbearable.

Having an awareness and to see clearly that those are generated in this field of imagination is important. To separate those out from ‘Well, the actual facts are; Yes, I’m separated from my wife, and I’m only seeing my kids half the time.’ There’s emotion from that. But this other stuff about my kid’s life being ruined, that’s not true. All these other things about what my life is going to be going forward, none of that is true. I don’t even know what my life is going to be going forward. My mind is trying to fill in with scenarios, but it’s trying to fill in scenarios from the perspective of this false identity I’m not a lovable person, nobody wants to be with me, I’m a failure as a father and husband. That’s the false projection that the software system is creating all by itself. That’s what he’s reacting to emotionally, and those are the negative thoughts he’s having from that software system made of false beliefs and fear-based beliefs.

The steps to identify these false and fear-based beliefs that are causing so much of our unpleasant emotional reactions, are outlined in my Self Mastery Program. It is broken down into a number of steps, because as you can see, there’s a number of factors involved in addressing this virtual world that we create. It’s not enough just to change the words, in trying to tell ourselves “I’m a beautiful person, and I’m lovable”. My experience is that’s not enough. What you actually have to do is detach and dissolve this whole dream world, including this false identity, the false persona we’ve created with that, that I’ll call EGO.

So fundamental to this question I want to answer today is “What’s wrong with me?” That’s a kind of question you can see is generated as a thought and reaction to how we feel, and it points us in the wrong direction. It points us towards looking at ourselves as the problem and reinforces this false identity of us as a broken, unlovable person. That’s one of the things that happens in this field of imagination, when we believe it and we assume a false identity, the kinds of thoughts we have reinforce the very false world we’ve created. We end up asking a question like, “What’s wrong with me?” It has us looking at this false persona identity as the problem, until with awareness that you can wake up and see that false identity is not even me.

The false persona is an imagined construct of myself, that I’m wearing so tightly, I can’t see it as something separate for my own skin. But with awareness we learn how to peel that away, and find what’s underneath it all. You find that what’s underneath it all is something genuine and authentic, that’s always there. That always will be there. Always has been there, and that which is what you are, the essence, the core processor behind all this, is you, and you’re fine.

There’s nothing wrong with you. You have dreams and false ideas of what you are. You have stuff going on in your imagination that you’ve put faith in that’s false, and fear-based, and lies. It’s generating a lot of negative thoughts and emotions. But underneath it all, you’re fine. When you take the steps to develop awareness, you’ll see that these false and fear-based beliefs, this false ego identities, are not you. You’ll begin to experience yourself emotionally very differently, and you’ll begin to feel fine.

Hope this helps clarify the lay of the land of what goes on in our imagination and belief system, and why we end up with the unpleasant emotions and negative thoughts that we do. Hopefully it clarifies what’s involved in changing these virtual reality dream-worlds. It’s more than just changing thoughts and words.

Related Article: What is Wrong With Me

For a program with specific steps to help identify and change beliefs see the  Self Mastery Program.

this article transcribed from the free audio podcast by Gary van Warmerdam.




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  • Change Core Beliefs
  • Quiet the Criticizing Voice in Your Head
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