The Hard Work Of Breaking Down An Old Belief System, And Replacing It With A Useful One
Being stressed out because of other people sucks. And it turns out it’s entirely avoidable.
But here’s the thing about belief systems…you likely didn’t choose them (unless as an adult you intentionally changed them,) so you’re unaware of them and the effect they have on you. But that effect is monumental.
Here, I’m describing how I ignorantly behaved with my old belief system in practice, how I behaved once I gained awareness of it, and how I chose to think moving forward - and thus dismantled the old belief system.
The past week I’ve battled stress on a level 6 of 10.
Not life-threatening, but definitely joy stealing and emotionally binding.
I teach my clients that it’s so important to take care of yourself by:
Taking responsibility for your feelings, and allowing yourself to feel them - to be with them without resistance.
Recognizing shame & guilt, and dismissing them as the unhelpful, harmful emotions they are.
Not attaching your feelings to other people’s actions.
But I’d not been practicing those so well.
Intellectually, I know I create my own feelings, by the thoughts I’m choosing (consciously or subconsciously) to think.
I’m aware it’s emotionally harmful to me to hinge my own happiness on someone else’s actions.
And I know the power of thinking intentionally - deciding what I want to make circumstances mean, instead of running on auto-pilot.
But here’s the deal. I’m often ignorant of my own stuff.
And there is a belief (which I’ll refrain from sharing just yet) that I have had years of practicing, and I’ve carried it into my marriage, and it always causes me to react instead of respond in a way I’m proud of. It always encourages me to withdraw from my husband (and children if they’re around him).
So while I was meeting my family’s physical needs - feeding them, keeping them clean, cleaning the house, washing and putting away clean laundry - I wasn't fully present with them. I wasn’t the loving wife and mother that I love to be.
We’d eat dinner together but I was thinking how much I wish he would do things differently. I was thinking how unfair my situation was. I was thinking all the ways I’m right. I thought, “If he’d just change, things could be so much better.” And the doozie, “he clearly doesn’t love me, because if he did, he’d change."
I felt frustrated, irritated, justified, rejected.
And those emotions aren’t bad necessarily, but I thought I was feeling them because of my husband - not because of the way I was thinking.
And because I wasn’t taking responsibility for my feelings, I was resisting them. Big time.
I resisted them by withdrawing from my family and not truly being with them in the moment. I resisted them by withholding affection from my husband because to me, “he didn’t deserve it.”
And to make this experience particularly vibrant, I judged the fire out of myself. There was so much guilt and shame floating around.
“I should just accept my husband the way he is. Good wives don’t set crazy expectations on their husbands. I’m a miserable failure. Things would be so much better if I just accepted him. And look at the way you’ve withdrawn from your family. They don’t need a caretaker, they need a loving wife and mommy. Get your act together."
The interesting thing about this is, I was so ignorant about the whole process.
I’m able to identify this in a flash with my clients. Seeing their thoughts that create “negative emotion” and judging themselves for the emotion - creating an unwanted result. No biggie. But myself? It took me about a week to calm down enough to allow myself to work through it.
It felt so real. So justified.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
I’ve got mind-blowing amazing tools at my daily disposal, and when I utilize them, my life is delightful.
I’m excited about life. I’m present with my kids and husband. I enjoy my family. I can navigate stress like a pro. When I inevitably make a mistake or fail, I quickly brush myself off and move forward. I dream, and plan, and do.
But when I’m not utilizing the tools I’ve been given, things go sideways. I don’t enjoy my family like I could. I don’t want to be around myself, let alone anyone else.
So which tools did I use this week to get out of the funk?
I accepted responsibility for my emotions. I sat down, made a list of all my thoughts I was believing, and looked for the facts. I identified which thoughts were absolutely true, and which were subjective.
I then looked at the emotions those thoughts were creating for me, one by one.
Then I looked at the actions I was taking from frustration, irritation, justified, and rejected. Those actions were things I wasn’t proud of, but still was able to look at them and take responsibility. I felt those because of how I was thinking: not because of anything Jeremy did or said.
Then I looked at the results I created all week from those actions: lots of judgment, lack of connection, lack of peace and harmony. General unpleasantness. Yuck. And seeing it all on paper made things so delightfully simple.
I decided to feel those emotions, instead of resist feeling them. It’s just frustration. It feels like an uncomfortable warmth and tightness in my chest. And feeling rejected just feels like a tingle in my cheeks and heaviness in my chest. And once I was willing to feel the emotions, the power they had died down.
I noticed for the first time that I was layering guilt and shame. “Well no WONDER I’ve been blind to this all week. Shame REQUIRES that we hide.” Which is exactly what I’d been doing. As soon as I gained awareness of the guilt and shame, I let them go. They’re not useful to me. They’re not helpful, to anyone, ever, under any circumstances. EVER. EVER. EVER. And I’m becoming a person who doesn’t utilize those on purpose, ever. Because they’re so dreadful.
I know that feeling unconditional love feels amazing, and accepting people as they are is a wonderful way to feel amazing, so I decided to practice unconditional love with my husband. I used the same circumstances and instead of being on auto-pilot, I chose how I wanted to feel, intentionally. “Unconditional love. Accepting. Loving"
I found thoughts that created those feelings for me. “This is his battle. This has nothing to do with me. I accept him as he is, because I love him and I’m committed to him." And those thoughts felt amazing. The relief was instant. I suddenly felt so free. A weight released off my chest and shoulders, and I wanted to hug him and apologize. So I did. I may have given him a big smooch too.
And the next day, I noticed my brain’s old pattern of thinking those original thoughts. But they didn’t hold the same power they did the previous week.
Instead of judging myself and saying, “I thought you had conquered this already! What’s your problem?!” I remembered, “I am not my thoughts. I am the watcher of my thoughts.” And poof! Judgment gone!
I then chose compassionate thoughts, “I see what you’re doing brain. I know that’s a habit of thinking. You’ve had decades of experience. But we’re becoming a new woman. We think new thoughts now. You’ll get there."
And instantly my mind relaxed. And I’ve been able to do it 3 more times too, and each time it gets easier and easier.
The power of this work keeps surprising me, with every subtile and major shift I make.
And the growth I’m experiencing continues to be tremendously rewarding. I am so grateful that I found this work, and and can share it with other people.
I’m so passionate about sharing it, because I know there are other women out there suffering as I have.
And when you’re so deep in your harmful belief, you can’t see the way out. There doesn’t seem to be any other way of experiencing life. And that hopelessness grips your soul.
But being free gives you clarity and excitement and opportunity you never could imagine when you’re in the thick of it.
Give it a try for yourself.
And if you’re having a bit of difficulty following the process, perhaps I’ll host a free workshop to dive deeper into it. Just let me know if you’re interested!