Hidden Beliefs Discovering the hidden beliefs driving our actions BY: Troy Murphy | May 2016
During the years of therapy, Jean slowly gained the courage to leave her abusive husband. In a tremendous act of bravery and hope she finally—with the help of friends and family—left. After a few months of freedom, Michael moved in. Michael was worse. These heartbreaking stories surround us. They leave us dumbfounded. Are they just bad luck or is there something more sinister at work motivating poor choices? We just reach the crest, escaping the past, the future looks bright, and then we jump right back into despair. Beneath consciousness, we have hidden beliefs that motivate behavior. Many of these beliefs disrupt peace, spoil plans and destroy relationships.
Beliefs create a framework for interpreting experiences. We don’t feel experience; we feel the interpretation of those events. Beliefs give stability to experience. We create a hypothesis to explain everything. The meaning we give events forms the beliefs. We harness a complex construction of beliefs that we lean on for explanation of experience. Associations between cause and effect assist with predicting, preparing and even manipulating the future. Hidden beliefs are more foundational to behavior than the causes we consciously proclaim; many beliefs—associations of cause and effect—function undetected, spurring emotion and motivating action.
Francis Bacon proclaimed, “Man prefers to believe, what he prefers to believe.” We embrace comforting beliefs. If a belief feels good, we fight against any refuting evidence. We don’t want to hear it. Unconscious beliefs are a little different. They might not be comforting. But our minds devote great energy to keep misguided beliefs alive. Bubbling beneath the surface, faulty beliefs trigger emotions, and drive action.
Lucid contemplation, self-reflection, and therapy expose disruptive forces motivations. When beliefs remain hidden, we project and justify behaviors instead of own and correct. The unseen beliefs are seen as reality. We feel strongly therefore believe the behavior is justified; but it isn’t. We may feel strongly because an underlying belief creates immediacy out of an otherwise mundane event. These pesky beliefs motivate emotions leading to action. The hidden belief subsequently restricts conscious processing, suppressing contradicting information, and sabotaging healthy behaviors for future destroying action, hurting relationships, endeavors and self-confidence.
A few harmful beliefs:
The world is dangerous
Relationships are hurtful
I am unlovable
everybody should be nice to me
Nothing I do can make a difference
I should not feel hurt, pain, or discomfort
We have destructive beliefs—maybe one of these, maybe something else. We invest in these beliefs because they are part of our reality. We adopt beliefs for many reasons. Some our packaged inn social learning, others provide a rewarding escape. The belief, at some point, helped explain difficult events—failure, rejection, unpredictability. Soothing the soul, the most relieving explanation is embraced. Rigid belief systems protect against uncertainty. They became the hypothesis for experience; they became reality.
Without discernment, flawed notions convolute thinking. They intrude on rational explanations. We base actions on false premises, invested in the security the sameness provides. The self strives to be consistent. We examine new experience from the foundations of the past. This consistency, when pasts were misguided, leads to self-damaging choices. We act in ways support hidden beliefs, self-fulfilling the unshakable belief.
We don’t need a Freudian couch to discover destructive beliefs but professional help from a competent therapist may help. We all can slow the mind to reflect on emotional outbursts and surrounding triggers. At first, insights flow slowly; but as we continue in healthy reflection the obscured emotions, thoughts and behaviors come to light. Growth moves forward, slow at first, picking up speed, inviting a welcoming light illuminating the past dark corners of our souls. We may hope for a passage to the perfect world; but it doesn’t exist. Self-discovery isn’t the doorway to pain free living. But this treasured discovery improves our lives.
Take time to explore the darkened hallways of your mind; you may be amazed at what you find. ~Troy Murphy