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Regret

Regret is a product of Imagination

How We Create Regret

Step 1.  Consciously or without our awareness our mind imagines a different life of different choices and outcomes.

Step 2.  Then or mind compares that imagined life experience to our actual life.  The choice we didn’t make, the path we didn’t take, the Imagined Life we didn’t live is held in our mind as better in some way.

Step 3.  The product of this comparison is to then feel a longing or desire to be living the life our imagination has dreamed up.

Step 4.  To wish we are somewhere else doing something else produces disappointment about our current moment of life, and regret about the decisions we made in the past.

The emotions of disappointment and regret are real.  That’s because all emotions are real.  But they were produced because our imagination dreamed up an imagined life and imagined decisions in our imagined past.  One that probably wouldn’t have turned out how our imagination conjured it.

Self awareness is the ability to perceive that your mind is dreaming up illusions.   Awareness  is a chance to awaken from those dreams of regret and be happy in the moment. The Self Mastery Course is a pathway to free you from those false dreams in your mind. 

Self Mastery Failure and Success

The exercises in the Self Mastery Course aren’t supposed to be easy. They might be simple, but that doesn’t mean easy. They do get easier with practice. It’s like learning to dance, or play an instrument, or a new language. In the beginning, you can’t put two steps, two notes, or two words together. Later, you can move through a song or conversation without having to consciously think about it. A single dance step, or playing one note is new, and an unfamiliar muscle movement.

The success is noticing that you are failing. It clues you into the nature of your unconscious beliefs and patterns. If you realize that, then you are on to something more important than successfully doing the exercise. You have a peek into the automatic mind, and begin the journey of bringing your unconscious thoughts, habits, and beliefs into awareness. This can lead to real and sustainable changes.

In some of the exercises I expect that people will have difficulty. Success won’t be automatic. There will be a lot of attempts and failure as you learn, like in anything. Free Exercise number 4, on Finding Neutral is an example. Agreeing or disagreeing with people in conversation, or with thoughts in your head is an automatic response. Our unconscious mind does it without a conscious thought. It is as automatic as driving a car. We get to our destination without thinking about which pedals to push, when, how hard, turning the wheel, or when to change lanes. We move in and out of traffic, control our speed, and obey all the rules while our conscious mind is on something else. Agreeing and disagreeing with people’s opinions is done the same way, but it can have a dramatic train wreck of a consequence on our emotions.

In the exercises I’m challenging you to notice those unconscious automatic behaviors, stop them, and do something different. You are going to fail at that when you first try. These things are so automatic it is a success just to become aware of the habits.  What I am saying is that you should fail. You aren’t going to change the agreeing/disagreeing pattern just because you decide to.

I present these first free exercises not so that you fail, but so that you will become aware of your unconscious patterns and how automatic they are. If you can do them successfully, then you will see changes in your mind and emotions. If you fail, you have a chance to learn, expand your awareness of what resistance shows up, and see the obstacles to change.

If you find the practices hard, it is because you are supposed to. If you find you have resistance to doing something that benefits you that’s helpful. You are supposed to have resistance, and the exercises help you see it.  What interferes with you feeling gratitude? You could decide to exercise some free will, and feel grateful for a while during the day. But maybe things get busy and your emotions go elsewhere instead. Why is that? It would be worth figuring out and changing that wouldn’t it?  Wouldn’t it be worth feeling more gratitude than less? To change that you would have to be aware of what your attention was on instead of on gratitude. This can be the benefit of taking failure and turning it into something advantageous.

Maybe, you put your attention into creating that feeling of gratitude but a series of thoughts show up saying things like, “you aren’t as grateful as you should be.”  So instead of consciously directing your mind, you discover contradicting thoughts that try to shame and guilt you for not feeling as much gratitude as you should.

I’ve heard this a lot from my clients about every exercise. “I don’t do the gratitude practice as much as I should.”  It’s an interesting story, one worth writing about in a belief inventory explained in later sessions.  It’s basically a belief that pushes back against feeling grateful. Instead it pushes your mind and emotions to feel like a guilty shameful failure for not being grateful enough. Very odd.

That kind of thought accomplishes the very opposite of what it says it is communicating.  Noticing that kind of thought in your belief system, is a gift. If you are willing to look at it in the right way it shows you what you are stumbling over. Noticing a thought that accomplishes the opposite of what it says should be accomplished is going to raise your skepticism. You are going to stop and look at that thought, and that is enough to make a small change.

In that moment of skepticism you aren’t going to believe the “you aren’t practicing gratitude as much as you should”. You are going to notice it is the Judge character in the mind, and not at all helpful like it is pretending to be. This step in skepticism is the beginning of breaking that thought so it no longer runs in that mind. If you break this self-judgment thought, then you can break the next one.

Noticing where you fall down is a kind of step forward. It is step forward because it tells you something is not right in the state of your mind. That can be helpful.  Noticing the backwards messed up thoughts of resistance to the exercises is an excellent way to see false beliefs at work. The other exercises provide the practices to really break them down and change them.  It’s a lot easier moving forward when you can see the things you are tripping over.

If you notice that you are failing at the exercise in some way you are achieving a success in awareness. The success is that you get to see how automatic and unconscious your thoughts, and beliefs, and behaviors are.

You are becoming conscious of how un-conscious small actions are. That is a clue that you might be in unconscious automatic pilot in other areas. You might also become aware that if you are unhappy, it is because you aren’t aware of the unconscious automatic thoughts and behaviors you are doing to create the unhappiness. If you become aware of this, then you have a chance to change these thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. A lot of little small changes like this one, and you travel a long ways down a pathway to greater happiness in your life.

Why Do We Not Get Recognized by Others

Why we Fail to Gain Recognition from Others

What kind of recognition do we seek from others? We want the acknowledgement of a job well done, or of something good about our character to be noted to us personally, or publicly. The essential attitude and emotional component of those comments is appreciation and respect. Appreciation and Respect are two common expressions of Love. Here is the obstacle that often precludes others from acknowledging our efforts and accomplishments. In order for someone to give appreciation and respect, they first have to have it. They then have to enough of it that they can give some to others.

Many people do not feel enough appreciation and respect for themselves, others, or the world around them to have it spill over into words of acknowledgments to others. If you are seeking to be acknowledged by someone that doesn’t operate in the emotional range of respect and appreciation for others, then you will be waiting a long time. It is as if we were hoping to receive a gift of money from someone who is in debt. They simply don’t have the emotional currency to put into those words of praise and acknowledgement and give it to you.

If you are not sure about what I am saying, or at least skeptical, then good. You should be skeptical of what people write and say. To find out, I encourage you to listen carefully to what people say. Or maybe you can take a few minutes to review the previous conversations you have had. How much conversation focuses on appreciation and respect, vs. how much centers around criticism and complaining?  Study what people say around you. Pay attention to what you talk about, and the comments you make. You might be one of those people that has more complaints come out of them than appreciation.

People give what they have. If they have a lot of complaints, then they don’t have much respect and appreciation to “recognize” other’s efforts and accomplishments.

Perhaps there are people around you seeking recognition in the form of appreciation and respect, but you are in debt yourself. You just don’t have it in you to give. If so, then in that debt of value, you might be seeking recognition from others as well. If this is the case, then we have multiple people feeling the debt of their personal value, all seeking to be enriched from someone else who is also in debt about their own value. This isn’t a viable solution

Consider that your boss is busy. Maybe busier than you are. Your client that you worked hard for, is stressed, and worried about making their payroll, has a sick kid, or elderly parent at home they need to get back to. Financial stress, work stress, deadlines, health, family obligations, add that up and you are in a state of fear. A fear state doesn’t cultivate emotions of appreciation and respect. Appreciation and respect come from Love, and is necessary to express recognition of someone else. If others are busy, or stressed, then seeking recognition from them in the forms of praise then you are seeking someone to see your value that can’t see past their own feeling of stress and overwhelm. People can’t give you what they don’t have.

How to Get Recognition that is Satisfying

If seeking your sense of value from other’s opinions leaves you exhausted from your efforts then maybe that is not the way to go. Being recognized by others is just a way we got in touch with and felt our own value. Feeling our own value is what we are really seeking. We don’t want or need others to acknowledge our value so much as we have become dependent on that trigger for being in connection and feeling our own sense of worth. It is possible for you to feel your own sense of value and worth without getting others to trigger it. If we do that, then we don’t need to over extend our work efforts to please others.

Of course, it is easy to reach this sense of our own value when people we are close to, and respect put attention on us in appreciative, respectful, or loving ways. When people close to us honor us, we feel that emotion, and the connection, and expands our sense of value. Having people like this in your life is an important part off healthy and happy relationships. However, expecting recognition and acknowledgements to come from people at work, isn’t the most reliable plan. If it is part of your plan, then be wise in choosing who you work with, and who you work for.

Feeling your own sense of value is an internal feeling, and internal sensation. We can have food in our fridge, cook in our own kitchens and feed ourselves with nourishment. It would be foolish to believe that we have to eat out at someone else’s house, or restaurant for every meal. The balancing act is to nourish ourselves with respect and appreciation, without tipping over into the ego version of self-importance.

Finding Your Own Value

What are you seeking when you seek to recognize and see your own value? You are looking to be in touch with a feeling within. Call it self-acceptance, self-worth, peace, happiness, gratitude, appreciation, self-respect, Integrity, or anything else you like. The one thing that is common is that you will experience it as a good feeling within yourself. How do you find this good feeling? You begin by paying attention to your emotions.

This will likely seem like an odd thing, and even a difficult thing. We have learned to be busy in achieving success more than we have learned to pay attention to our emotions.  It may seem like you are going in the wrong direction if you discover you don’t like how you feel. Who wants to pay attention to your emotions if they are negative, like anger, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, or fear. This leads to the next step in the journey.

Behind those unpleasant emotions are false beliefs. Those negative thoughts connected to such emotions hide beliefs that aren’t true, but that we carry in our mind. Every not good enough story, fear of failure, fear of rejection, disappointment, guilt, and shame is kept alive in us because we have false beliefs we are unconscious of. Find those false beliefs, change them, and those unpleasant emotions dissolve.

On the other side of those false beliefs are the good feelings. The good feelings are the self-acceptance, peace, self-respect, and self-love. When you stop covering up your intrinsic value, that real value that is always there, that was always there, and will always be there, you will feel it. You will feel your own loving presence, and you won’t have to have anyone recognize it, or see it, because you will “see” it by feeling it yourself. This is how you recognize yourself. When you do, you won’t need anyone else to see you.

Summary

You have your own intrinsic value which has been, and will always be yours. This is the value and beauty we see and feel in ourselves and others when we are in our Integrity. However, we have repressed being in touch with feeling good about ourselves through beliefs systems that generate internal negative thoughts of self-judgments, and comparisons to others.  This creates an emotional state internally of feeling “less than” and unworthy. In some cases those false beliefs create feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression.

The perceived “solution” to these falsely created feelings of unworthiness, is to seek to get that emotional fix from others. We do this through work, sometimes to exhaustion, or projecting ourselves as “perfect” in some way or trying to please others with our efforts just to get a few kind words. All the effort is to overcome a feeling that is manufactured by a false belief system. Then we are left disappointed or frustrated by others for not recognizing our efforts, with praise, approval, or some few words of respect, and acknowledgment. Which they may not have in them to give through no fault of their own, because they are without an abundance of emotions. But without that awareness, we create feelings of frustration, annoyance, or disappointment about their failure to give, or our failure to work hard enough to get recognition. Even if all that work is equivalent to fishing in a lake that has no fish.

The shorter path solution is to eliminate the false beliefs that hide the feelings of self-worth from ourselves. Eliminate your false beliefs and you will no longer be in the emotions about the lack of value those thoughts and emotions create. Then you can easily get in touch with, and feel your own Authentic Presence.

For practical steps in identifying and changing false beliefs, do the free sessions of the Basic Self Mastery Series.

Related Article: Why Do We Seek Recognition from Others

 

 

Why Do We Seek Recognition From Others

“People will work for money, but they will die for recognition,” is the way one business coach described the dynamic. Sometimes we seem to want or need recognition that bad. I was talking with a woman about this issue recently. She remembers being six years old, and deciding she wanted to be an actress. Her logic was that if she was on television she would be “seen.” What is it in us that seeks to be “seen” or “recognized this way?
What is in us that seeks recognition?

Usually the recognition we seek is from other people. Usually we don’t get it. Instead we end up with feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, emptiness, and disappointment at not getting it. From that result we work even harder at things still hoping for recognition get rid of those people and try the same thing with a different group. There is a different path to fulfillment of recognition.

First, let me break down this issue of not being recognized into some common false beliefs, some truths, and what can be done about it so you can be on your way to a happier life.

It Begins With a Truth

Let’s begin with a Truth. There is something in you to be valued. Let’s call that essential essence your Integrity. It is valued and feels valued when you or others put your attention on it with appreciation and respect. It is when other people put attention on that essential authentic part of you that it is seen and feels recognized. In that moment, you feel seen, and you experience your own value as a feeling. That feeling displaces those negative voices in your head. Essentially, you feel self-acceptance and it is good being you. You receive love in the form of appreciation, respect. This is a matter of attention to feeling your own Authentic Presence.  It is often not something that we are in the habit of doing ourselves, and this is the fundamental problem we will get to later.

We All Have Real Value

We all have real value. Something inside of us recognizes that. I call that part of ourselves that senses this Truth our Integrity. Others might call it their Authentic Self. This isn’t from a belief system. It’s a Truth, and not just a construct of ideas of self-worth or self-esteem. Self-worth and self-esteem are often conceptual self-images our mind makes up based on our essential value. The presence of your Integrity was there and is there simply because you are a living being.

Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” It was more than a declaration that people didn’t want to be ruled by a King. It was a declaration that all men, and women have value that is equal to the King. We want to rule ourselves.

We don’t need to go that far to find value in each person. We instinctively see it when we hold an infant child. Each child radiates a presence that we value. We instinctively recognize the precious nature of human life, in an infant, and at other times, in anyone, or everyone. It is our false beliefs and critical judgments that blind us from seeing this valued presence all the time.

We Cover Up Our Value with False Beliefs

This awareness of presence of value in each person is lost behind layers of negative beliefs as we grow older. We add expectations, which lead to unmet expectations and then disappointments and judgments. By the time we are adults we have been devalued by other people’s judgments and criticisms and lost touch with our own Integrity. We have also learned to tell ourselves the same kind of self-judgmental narratives and devalue ourselves with our own negative thoughts. The judge devalues other people with criticisms and so all of this seems normal. This is the long slow process of building belief systems that erodes our awareness of value in ourselves and in others.
The repetitive negative thoughts in our head create a feeling that we don’t’ have much value. This covers up the authentic sense of value underneath, and even makes it seem false, or distorts it to seem like it wouldn’t be true. The lies in our head about our lack of self-worth drown out our feeling of real worth.

We Learn to Mask Our Value From Others

You can put your attention on your own feeling of worth and honor it. This accomplishes the same generation of feeling worthy within yourself. You feel the truth of your own value. You could call it a lot of things. It might just be a feeling of calm presence with yourself, love, self-respect, or you might interpret it as self-acceptance.

One of the early false beliefs we learn interferes with being in touch with our own value. We were likely shamed or scolded if we spoke about this. It might be called tooting our own horn, bragging, or put ourselves above others. Adults would use comments like, “You are too big for your britches,” “Who do you think you are?” “Off your high horse before I knock you off,” “Nobody likes a bragger.” These comments hit us emotionally with guilt and shame.

At the time we were probably innocently noting how good we felt about ourselves, or something we did. We mentioned it to others and it became distorted into something else at a young age. We have poor and inarticulate ways of seeking to be valued at a young age and we get criticized for it. We learn quickly not to talk about ourselves positively, boast, or do any extroverted things to get praise or recognition. Instead we are more likely to work hard, keep quiet, and hope others notice, and comment.

We are shamed and criticized for communicating our value to others. This becomes the programmed false belief. From our Integrity we still seek to value our Authentic selves, but we refrain from presenting it to others for fear of criticism.

It can be difficult to learn good self-acceptance practices in childhood because of this. It is too easy for self-acceptance to be lumped into the category of bragging and boasting so we avoid the self-acceptance completely. They are not the same thing, and it is nuanced to do one and not the other.

We Repress Our Own Desire to Be Recognized

In adulthood we no longer need others to repress our actions or requests for recognition. We take the pattern of criticism and shaming we learned from others and we repress it ourselves. Sharon put a lot of effort into getting the business conference together. As people arrived things got busy and she was rushing around finishing things as people showed up. Everyone was happy to see each other, and events got started. Inside Sharon felt the impulse to bring attention to the work she had done. A voice in her mind wanted to hint to others with a comment like, “I put a lot of work into getting this to work out for everyone’s benefit.” Her mind searched for a way to make it less obvious.
Sharon had enough awareness to observe these thoughts of seeking recognition. As she saw them, another part of her mind judged and condemned her for it. The Judge voice said things like, “You are being such a pathetic needy person,” “What are you a narcists, needing all the attention on you?” “Grow up girl. You agreed to do this conference on your own. You don’t need praise from these people.”

And with that kind of internal rebuttal, that part of her that wanted to be valued, was declared a needy, pathetic, narcissists, and shunned. The, “who do you think you are”, response she learned from others, was repeated in her belief system to herself, just as she had learned to do years earlier from others.

Since we learn not to bring other’s attention to us, or to bring our own attention to our value, we learn an alternative solution. We work for others, or try to please others wants until our efforts are recognized. This leads to disappointment and frustration I will get to later.

There is probably a way to ask for recognition, or to be valued in our society that isn’t lame and pathetic, but it isn’t obvious and can easily be misunderstood. Our culture isn’t big on it. I did hear of an icebreaker exercise for a group of people meeting for the first time. As each person introduced themselves, each person was to include something that they had done that they were proud of, that other people in the room likely didn’t know about. It was different for each person. For some it might be that they had signed up to run a 10K. Someone else was volunteering at a food bank. It was a way to say to others this is something that I do that is worthwhile and valuable to me. For a moment it was okay to acknowledge that we value ourselves and have others join in with appreciation and respect. Everyone felt good in the group. Partly because it wasn’t just one person doing it. Everyone was allowed and encouraged. We don’t do this well in our culture. Our culture is more inclined to complain, than raise people up, but that is a topic for another day
The point here is that we suppress asking for what we need and want, and that is a problem. We repress it by first taking a real value of our integrity and distort it into something egotistical, needy, pathetic, etc. Then we suppress that need for feeling our value with a condemning judgment. Instead of valuing ourselves, we shame and guilt ourselves for being egotistical, weak, or needy.

We don’t have to. We can create different experiences like the ice-breaker exercise. It’ starts with awareness of our choices and actions.

The Adult Environment Does Not Support Recognition We Grew Up With

As children, hopefully we get lots of recognition, praise, and support, assuming we have decent attentive parents. Not everyone does, but most do. Either way, as we grow into adult years, we get less and less, and maybe no valuing recognition depending on how supportive our relationships are. In college grades come out less often than in grade school Once we are working, maybe we get a performance review once per year. Very often it is focused on areas we can improve, and not to celebrate our accomplishments and achievements.

As adults we follow the conditioning of seeking recognition of our value through other’s opinions. With so few opportunities to receive, and so much pressure to perform, the result is that we may overwork ourselves, or try overly hard to please others with the unconscious motivation to get recognition or praise. An annual review leaves you a lot of time to feel like you are starving in between. We might want to be “seen” or recognized by others as much as when we were six years old, but in the adult world, we are not in an environment where that is going to happen.

To free your self from this trap of seeking your value through other’s opinions, check out the free sessions of the Self Mastery Course.

Related: Why others don’t give us the Recognition we seek.

Core Beliefs of Anorexia

My new client has had anorexia for four years.  I’m not very far into the inventory of her beliefs yet, but already there have been some interesting discoveries.  As I suspected with issues like anorexia, it’s not about the food. Her eating behavior have to do with emotions and beliefs.

Jill (not her real name) has been doing some of the exercises in the Self Mastery program and it’s given her an initial understanding of what’s going on in her mind.

An important step in the process is that she wants to be free of the condition. Jill is mature enough to realize that the current condition of her body prevents her from living a life she wants. Jill spent some time writing out what she wants her life to be like. She wants to go to University and get a degree. She also wants to travel, hike, socialize and freely go out with her friends. She doesn’t eat enough on her own to do those things. Her parents are with her several times a day to get her to eat some food for a minimum number of calories. If left to her own behavior, she wouldn’t eat enough, and her body would collapse.

For achieving her larger life goals, Jill wants to put on weight and gain strength. However, when there is food in front of her, another part of her mind activates and wants her to push the food away. She has come to call this part of her mind, “the Eating Disorder.” It is made up of a number of false beliefs.

Belief Inventory of Anorexia

The process began with a “character map”. (You can it below) In this process we take a mindfulness approach and watch closely the thoughts and emotions. As the observer we then attribute patterns of thoughts and emotions to what we call sub-personalities or characters. Mapping out the different parts of your personality help you understand your motivations, inner conflicts, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and resistance to change. Jill has one part of her that wants to travel and this requires being physically stronger. She has another part that wants her to be skinnier. These are two of the several characters that make up her belief system.

We have some aspects of our personality (characters) that will conflict, some will be adventurous, some rebellious, some agreeable, and some will seek safety. Some are angry, some fearless, some afraid, and some, flexible, and some stubborn.

The Judge or Inner Critic

Jill saw her characters as occupying the kingdom in her mind. At first, she placed the “Judge” character as the king. It was the loudest and bullied all the other thoughts. It told her what to do and berated her if she didn’t do it. If she ate or put on a pound, then it screamed at her that she would get fat and be disgusting.

As Jill wrote about different characters like the “wise woman” “the compassionate one”, “the adventurer”, “scholar”, or “comedian” (as she has a wicked sense of humor) she realized that the “Judge” was not a king. The Judge didn’t control her sense of adventure, her compassion or her desire to travel. Nor did she want it to.

The judge wasn’t wise the way a King should be wise. It was more of a petty tyrant caught up in small issues. The judge was one dimensional. It criticized and bullied, that’s all that it did. It was loud, and it would shout her down. In some ways, it acted out like a child having a temper tantrum. It tried to get Jill to be perfectly in control, but the Judge couldn’t control itself. It acted like it was all knowing, but when she looked behind its justifications they weren’t that well thought out.

Even if the judge was the loudest voice in her head, Jill saw that it wasn’t completely in charge. If she continued to follow its direction she would end up in the hospital again and probably dead. Jill saw that the judge was really behaving more like an executioner in the way that it didn’t mind if she ended up dead.

The Victim

At the same time Jill had a part of her that was afraid of the Judge. It was afraid of breaking any of the strict rules the Judge had imposed on her. This fearful part that received the judge’s criticism and believed every word of it. It was a self-image that portrayed Jill as a loser and failure. She called it the Victim. Initially it appeared as if all the stuff wrong with her was true. When the Judge yelled at her, Jill felt victimized and her identity merged into the Victim.  But in the process of the mind mapping of characters Jill had to attribute this aspect to a character. This isn’t who Jill is all the time, it is only a role that she gets pushed into emotionally by the Judge, and then is out of it later. It is not her permanent identity, and therefore, more of an emotional point of view she adopts for moments and then leaves.

The Victim projects Victimization to Everyone

In previous years Jill thought that her parents didn’t respect her and tried to control her. They told her what to eat, when, and that she couldn’t exercise. They limited her social schedule at times if her weight dropped below the approved level. Not having power over these things is what she attributed to feeling powerless and dismissed. She felt controlled and victimized by them. In this frame the victimization seemed true, and Jill’s parents appeared to be the perpetrators.

However, when she looked at how the Judge treated her compared to the way her parents treated her, her parents looked pretty good. The judge over reacted and criticized her for the smallest things when her parents didn’t. She also noticed that she could just be sitting there doing nothing, and the judge would go on a tirade about something in the past, and do it over and over again, punishing her for the same thing dozens of times. The Judge didn’t know how to let it go. Her parents might punish her, but only once, not dozens of times for the same thing. Jill began to see that this Judge was far harsher. The Judge did more to create the feelings of victimization than her parents ever did.

Common Sense Check of Your Beliefs and Values

I asked if Jill talked to anyone the way the judge talked to her she replied with a resounding, “NO, that would be rude”.  I asked Jill if anyone else talks to her the way the judge speaks to her. Jill said No. I asked her if she would hang out with anyone that talked to her that way. Jill said, “No way”. One more question. “Would the victim hang out with the judge even though it treated her that way. Jill replied, “Yes.” It turned out that the victim part of her mind would accept all the abuse and harsh criticism. No other part of Jill would tolerate being treated that way.

For Jill it was like waking up and realizing that the victim part of her mind was hypnotized to take abuse and didn’t consider stopping it. This conflicted with Jill’s sense of values, and common sense. Jill didn’t want to be abused and didn’t want anyone to be abused. For Jill this is a core value. Finding these aspects of the belief system that conflict with her conscious values builds skepticism and is an important step towards changing beliefs. Changing her beliefs is a critical step towards changing her eating disorder.

Past Jill  – False Belief Character

In the map of characters, the judge often criticizes Jill for something that happened a week or month ago. Jill realized on the map that it was criticizing a past version of Jill. The memory image of Jill the Judge was criticizing had one failure aspect and the Judge focused on it as if that were the only quality of “Jill.” It wasn’t the real “whole” complete Jill with all her parts. Jill could see that the present moment Victim was being punished repeatedly for what past Jill had done once. By making this inventory Jill could separate herself from these false self Image’s of her identity and could begin to see that she wasn’t the person that the Judge described. This allowed Jill to begin to feel better about herself.

You can’t see the water in the pool when you are swimming in it.

This shift in point of view also helped Jill be more skeptical of what the Judge was saying. In order to change beliefs, it’s not enough to be aware of them. You also need to remove your self in a mindfulness way to a neutral observer perspective.

From inside her head the world looked one way. It looked the way the characters saw it through their foggy lenses of misinterpretations. When listening to the judge in her head, it all seemed true, and that she was worthless and disgusting.  With the character map Jill stood outside the foggy lenses that distorted things and it looked a lot different. She could see the foggy lenses each of them were looking through. When Jill could ascribe the feelings of unworthiness and disgust to the victim aspect she could see that she had other aspects of herself that were worthy at the same time.

Jill was beginning to get some perspective and she could discern that the voices in her head weren’t all from her, and furthermore, they weren’t telling her the truth.

In the process of changing beliefs, it is not enough to simply know what your belief are. You have to scrutinize them and evaluate them for elements of truth, and falsehoods. You can only do this from a new and neutral perspective.

 Characters or Sub-Personalities are part of our Belief System

Making an Inventory of the Characters that make up your Belief System doesn’t change is a start to changing the beliefs. It moves you out of the pool so you can see what is going on in the water.

A look into some of Jill’s core beliefs revealed the following about her anorexic behavior. This isn’t a complete list, but just one part of her belief system affecting her behavior. This part of Jill’s belief system consisted of a number of associations that would produce certain emotions.

  • Eating means “I” will gain weight. (even though you can eat and just maintain weight)
  • Gaining weight will lead to being fat.
  • Gaining weight will make her body disgusting. (even just one ounce) Jill already finds her body disgusting so to gain one ounce means more disgust. For Jill’s belief system, a healthy person of healthy weight is disgustingly fat.
  • Feelings of intense disgust can be avoided by not eating.
  • Having a fat body will also lead to people judging her and that will result in feelings of rejection.
  • Rejection is equivalent to not being loved and generates a feeling of unworthiness and emotional pain.
  • Unworthiness and emotional pain can be avoided by not eating.

Jill’s belief system has developed a shortcut for all this. It now does all these associations like a Pavlov’s dog response. If Jill thinks about eating food her belief system generates feelings of intense disgust and emotional pain from rejection. Jill feels these emotions of disgust and rejection whenever food is put in front of her. These emotional pattern responses are produced by her unconscious belief system.

Her conscious mind is left to pursue strategies in avoiding horrific rejection and feelings of disgust. Her conscious mind is thinking of ways to negotiate with mom on each bite, arguing with her therapist, negating what her doctor says, and how to fight against any calorie intake.

Add One More Fear from the Belief System

Over time, Jill has developed a fear of feeling disgust, and emotional pain from rejection.

What is important to notice at this stage is that Jill doesn’t have to eat any food in order to feel these emotions. Jill only has to imagine that she ate some food, or will eat some food tomorrow, and the full pattern of beliefs and emotions is triggered. She feels the fear of eating, the fear of feeling disgust and emotional rejection, and the disgust and emotional rejection without taking a bite. Jill is creating in herself the very emotions she is trying to avoid.

In her unaware state, Jill was certain that the emotions of disgust, rejection, and fear were because of the food. She is now becoming aware that her belief system is creating these emotions as an automated response to the idea of food.

Imagination is a powerful source of emotions. When false beliefs run the imagination, it is a powerful source of painful emotions.

 

Core Beliefs of the Perfectionist

“I” am Disgusting and not good enough. – Character

I asked Jill what would happen if she ate, not according to the Judge, but in a way that her parents thought was healthy. Her reply was that it would be horrible. It took a few more questions to discover what “horrible” meant. It came down to this. “I’d be afraid that if I wasn’t careful about eating then I would eat everything, get fat, and then feel disgusted with myself. I asked her to tell me about the fear.

I asked Jill, “Who is the “I” character that would be afraid and feel disgusted with herself?” Jill described a part of herself that she hated and knew was a disgusting failure.

“I” just want to be loved and accepted. – Character

Jill described that there was a feeling of fear, and it seemed to be saying that she desperately wanted to be loved and accepted. This aspect of her mind (or call it a sub-personality, or character, or just a feeling) didn’t feel love and so it devised a plan to get acceptance, approval, and love. It created the ideal Jill that would be perfect. To be perfect it had to be really thin. It had to get perfect grades, be athletic, funny, get awards, liked by everyone in the school, and get into the best university as well. If it did these things it could avoid all the criticisms of the judge that made it feel bad. It would also get the love and acceptance it so desperately wanted.

“I” will make a plan to be Perfect. – Planner Character

Odd thing about this structure of beliefs. When mom and dad, and the doctors and therapists, wanted Jill to eat more, this character interpreted all these efforts to save her life as a message that she wasn’t okay the way she was. The “not good enough/digusting” character used all their efforts at change to reinforce its own story of not being accepted. “I’m still not accepted and loved the way I am”, and so it felt emotionally worse about itself. The “not good enough” character dragged Jill along into these emotions.

The solution to those same emotions was the same plan, be even MORE PERFECT!.  This meant, be thinner and so fight mom and dad more and fight harder not to eat, and lose more weight. Then mom and dad, in order to avoid another hospitalization, fought harder to get Jill to eat more. Which Jill’s “failure” character used to interpret as a message of, non-acceptance and not loved. The mis-interpretation of the belief system was driving a feedback cycle that made everything worse.

The Planner – Character 

The Planner was convinced if she looked perfect enough that feeling of acceptance and love would come. The child inside her that felt unloved had devised the plan that this would work.  It had been four years, multiple hospital visits, and yet the feeling of acceptance hadn’t come yet. The characters, lacking any self-awareness, or ability to measure cause and effect, were still convinced that the solution to feeling love was the same, be more “perfect”. The characters weren’t able to evaluate their own plan. They just stuck to it. They were one dimensional in that the solution to the emotional acceptance and love issue was a body type. They convinced Jill in a kind of hypnotizing way because “they”, the characters talked about it so convincingly in her head all the time.

The Perfectionist – Character

People in her school get judged and made fun of for being fat, but no one gets criticized for being too thin. At first glance, Jill’s plan to become “Perfect”, the super thin, does everything perfectly, so everyone likes her will solve her emotional problems.  But this is at a glance. It’s a surface level look at the Perfectionist. The “Planner” took all of a moment to formulate the plan for love and acceptance, but didn’t think it through in depth. It grabbed it in the moment it flashed as a thought.

I had Jill take a good look at the Perfectionist.  Tell me what she is like I asked.  At first Jill described how thin and successful she was, and how everyone thought she was great, admired her, and wanted to be her. I then asked her what the “Perfectionist’ thought of overweight people.

“She has a lot of judgments about them,” Jill said.

How does the Perfectionist feel about the part of you that feels disgust?

“She hates that part. She hates the girl that feels disgusting and wishes she would go away,” Jill said.

How does the “Perfectionist feel about other girls in school that aren’t as thin as she is? I asked.

Jill said, “The perfectionist hates them too. Well, maybe hate is too strong of a word.  She feels disgust for them. She doesn’t want to talk to them or be seen with them.

I asked Jill what she thought of the “Perfectionist”

“She is really shallow,” Jill said.

Do you respect her or like her?

“No, but she is my ideal,” Jill said as the confusion set in. “That’s really weird. I hadn’t looked at her that way before. I just assumed she was perfect. But when I really look at her, and how she behaves and treats people, she’s not nice. She only cares about superficial things. She doesn’t care about people, she isn’t nice, she isn’t compassionate. She doesn’t care about the other things I care about.”

With this realization, Jill’s belief inventory of the Perfectionist began to show chinks in the shell. The “perfectionist” goal she had been chasing was no longer the end all and be all answer for love and acceptance. She had some human problems also. The “Perfectionist” lacked depth.

The feeling of confusion that Jill felt was appropriate. She had found out that the goal she had been pursuing since she was 14 was a superficial image. The eating disorder didn’t completely break at this point but we had made progress. Her confusion was a good step. Jill began to be more skeptical about where her unconscious beliefs were taking her. That helped her take the next step in changing the core beliefs contributing to her anorexia.




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