“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.” -Louise L. Hay
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How False Beliefs Develop
Your belief system is the basis for which you view the world. Many of your beliefs about life were ingrained in you as a child from your parents and other influential adults. In most cases, these beliefs have served you well until a certain point.
After a certain point, some of these beliefs become limiting and perhaps, even damaging. For example, as a child you learn to clean your room so your parents will be happy with you. As that type of motivation becomes habitual, you develop this belief of only doing things to get approval from others. This kind of belief can be very harmful as you get older.
As an adult, the beliefs you created as a child no longer serve you as well as they did when you were young. As you age, your belief system can cause much of the pain and suffering you experience on a daily basis.
False beliefs have been created over many years by your mind and you cement these beliefs in your belief system by merely believing in them and putting faith in them.
As your mind conjures up a thought you have the opportunity to either believe the thought or disregard the thoughts as a fallacy. Disregarding thoughts take awareness and acute attention.
Many people don’t realize that every thought that pops into their head isn’t true so they are unable to decipher authentic beliefs from false ones.
This inability to recognize false beliefs from real beliefs may lead to lots of painful emotions, which in essence are self-created. Negative emotions are necessary and essential in order to live a fulfilling and happy life, but what happens when these emotions begin to take precedent over rational thinking and joyful living?
In the realm of understanding false beliefs, it is also imperative to realize that the internal world in which you live in is just as important as the external one. Obviously the external world of your family, friends, career, etc. is pertinent to your development and contentment in life.
But it is equally important, if not more so, to concentrate on your internal world as well. This is the world where false beliefs are created by your mind at a rapid pace.
Without the act of looking inward to observe how your thoughts transform into false beliefs, you allow it to contribute to detrimental mind states and prolonged negative emotions. This usually results in feeling mental anguish without necessarily knowing why.
Taking an objective look at your inner states help you evolve as you grow older. An angry teenager often times feels confused as to what he or she is feeling and they may lack the skills needed to self-regulate and cope. With the added pressure from schooling and peers, many false beliefs can come to light that will make the teenager feel angry, misunderstood, and insecure.
Fortunately there are many options available in order to counteract this pessimism, which the mind constructs. You will discover practices and therapies in positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as clinical psychology. Positive Education is an excellent method of reducing false beliefs from occurring.
False beliefs become an issue when you are unable to recognize them as being false and limiting. Perhaps you are so accustomed to just believing everything thought that enters your mind that you don’t realize you had any control of what and what not to believe.
Positive psychology doesn’t merely seek to get rid of all negative thinking and emotions and replace them with positive ones, rather it attempts to determine ways in which you can live contentedly while still experiencing negative situations. Adversity doesn’t shift your positive outlook on life.
Without challenging and questioning your beliefs, your thoughts, perceptions, actions, and especially, your emotions will always be on an unconscious auto-pilot. False and limiting beliefs are like parasites in that they stay inactive in your mind until some thought or event triggers their response.
They impede your ability to think sensibly and rationally. They affect your perception and perspective in a pernicious manner (Sisgold, 2013).
Positive psychology offers many practical methods that help you question and unravel false and limiting beliefs. 1 of the major methods that positive psychology concentrates on is mindfulness.
Mindfulness doesn’t only entail meditating. As defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It is really about living your life, moment-by-moment as if it was important and mattered to you (2015).
Practicing mindfulness arms you with the tools to hunt your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. It allows you to become more aware of the erroneous stories and scenarios that your mind creates.
As you take notice and observe these thoughts and notice how the mind uses your thoughts to generate beliefs, you will be able to determine which beliefs are genuine and which aren’t. You are no longer living on auto-pilot as a prisoner to your own mind. You will literally be able to change the way you think through consistent mindfulness practice.
It has also been scientifically proven that practicing mindfulness literally increases the amount of positive emotions you experience. Since your emotions are affiliated with your beliefs and your beliefs are associated with your thoughts, it behooves you to take the time to observe your mind in action (2015).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is premised on the idea that your internal thoughts lead to the emotions and behaviors that you experience than the external environment around you (NACBT, 2014). CBT’s focus is on changing the way you think and the way you shape your beliefs, not on changing your external environment.
CBT therapy sessions aim to teach clients how to deal with adverse situations skillfully. Therapists don’t tell you how you should feel, rather they supply you with the skills to handle all the situations life throws your way (NACBT, 2014).
Using the Socratic Method, CBT assists in breaking down false beliefs by asking a lot of questions about the thoughts and beliefs you have. When you begin to ask questions about where your beliefs come from or if they are even valid, then you will be able to dig deeper and find the root of the problem.
Clinical psychology concentrates on unearthing the limiting and false beliefs at the unconscious level. When the mind is aware and conscious it sees things as they are clearly and defined. The unconscious mind doesn’t realize thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and situations so distinctly.
New mind-body therapies such as Psych-K and transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) are being used to uproot the false beliefs that are creating the negative perception. In the same way that meditation can re-wire the brain, this kind of therapy rewires the neurons to alter cellular memory. This allows a patient to not only create new beliefs, but also improves behavior (Chartier, 2010).
Each psychology discipline offers respective approaches to handling false and limiting beliefs. At the core of each of them is the hope that you gain awareness of your thoughts and therefore, understanding of your belief and belief system. Only after this step can you truly respond appropriately.
Positive Education (PE) focuses on developing a student’s well-being as he or she go through important developmental stages in their life (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009). There are a large number of students who experience little life satisfaction, resilience, and meaning (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009).
Positive Education can help students combat their false beliefs and reduce them before they enter adulthood. Research on positive education has shown that PE not only improves a student’s academic achievement but also student’s strengths and decreases depression.
When placed in a positive learning environment at a young age, not only will there be external improvements in terms of the student’s behavior and participation, but the student will learn how to foster their own individual strengths (Sheila M. Clonan et. al, 2004). This can help them learn not to over-identify with their anxious thoughts and be better at distinguishing between false and genuine beliefs.
Positive psychology interventions that are used in Positive Education include identifying and developing strengths, cultivating gratitude, and visualizing best possible selves (Seligman et al., 2005; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). A meta-analysis conducted by Sin and Lyubomirksy (2009) with 4,266 participants found that positive psychology interventions do increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms significantly. These interventions can help one adjust better in their developmental stage without feeling anxious at looking inwards objectively to study their thoughts.
Al Taher, R. (2015). What Has Positive Education Research Taught Us? Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/positive-education-research/
Chartier, L.M. (2010). Powerful unconscious beliefs. Health and Healing. http://healthandhealingonline.com/powerful-unconscious-beliefs/
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015). Mindfulness. Greater Good Science Center. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (2014). Cognitive behavioral therapy. http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm
Sisgold, S. (4 June 2013). Limited beliefs. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-in-body/201306