This image symbolizes the growth and transformation of beliefs

From Limiting to Empowering: How NLP Can Change Your Beliefs Systems

Milton Erickson, a luminary in hypnotherapy, once said,

You ought to be aware of the fact that when you talk to a patient, you ought to talk for the benefit of the conscious mind, but also talk for the benefit of the unconscious mind.”

He believed that a conversation happens at least two levels. This belief was key to his therapeutic approach.

Take, for instance, the case of a woman plagued with persistent headaches. She held the belief that she was incapable of losing the headache—it had become a part of her identity.

Erickson, in his inimitable way, said to her,

“You know, you honestly believe – you really do, to the best of your knowledge – you honestly believe that you cannot lose this headache. But really, you don’t know when…

Erickson did not fight her belief. Instead, he worked within its framework, acknowledging its presence while subtly challenging its permanence.

This methodology underpins the essence of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as it pertains to beliefs.

Our conscious and unconscious minds have an influence, and we can change this.

In this article, we explore the power of beliefs. This article explores the power of beliefs and their role in shaping our realities.

Let us delve into this fascinating journey of belief change, guided by the principles of NLP.

What are Beliefs?

Beliefs are a central concept in many fields, including:

  • psychology
  • therapy
  • religious traditions

Below are some definitions of beliefs from these perspectives:


  • Cognitive Psychology: Beliefs are mental representations of the nature of reality, often formed from experiences and used to predict future events.
  • Social Psychology: Beliefs are influenced by our social interactions and the groups we belong to. They are part of our social identity and can affect our attitudes and behaviours.
  • Behavioural Psychology: Beliefs’ form in responses to stimuli that can influence behaviour. They are subject to modification through reinforcement and other learning principles.


  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
  • Beliefs are identified as automatic thoughts that can be functional or dysfunctional. We target dysfunctional beliefs for change through cognitive restructuring techniques.
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy:
  • Beliefs are unconscious cognitive structures formed in early childhood. Psychoanalysts explore the unconscious to access and change beliefs.
  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT):
  • they view Beliefs as resources. Changing the focus from problem-oriented beliefs to solution-oriented beliefs is key to therapeutic change.


  • Christianity: Beliefs are faith-based convictions, often centred around the life, teachings, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
  • Islam: Beliefs are deeply rooted in the teachings of the Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad, including faith in one God (Allah) and the principles of the Five Pillars.
  • Buddhism: Beliefs are experiential and philosophical, centred around the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to achieve enlightenment.
  • Hinduism: Beliefs are diverse and individualised, often relating to concepts like Dharma (duty), Karma (action and consequence), and Moksha (liberation).
  • Judaism: Beliefs are based on the teachings of the Torah, including the belief in one God and the ethical and religious practices derived from the Torah.

This list simplifies complex thought systems, which vary widely across fields and religions.

Belief Synonyms 

  1. Convictions
  3. Opinions
  4. Principles
  5. Tenets
  6. Assumptions
  7. Notions
  8. Doctrines
  9. Ideas
  10. Perceptions
  11. Perspectives
  12. Faith
  13. Understandings
  14. Trust
  15. Confidence
  16. Credence
  17. Certainty
  18. Conceptions
  19. Theories
  20. Presumptions

Beliefs and Values: Understanding the Difference and Their Connection

An image of a brain with a light shining through it, representing Emotional Intelligence and a Healthy Mindset.

Beliefs and values are two fundamental aspects of our cognitive systems that significantly influence our behaviours, decisions, and emotions. Although they are closely intertwined, they serve distinct roles in our lives.

Beliefs are the internal convictions or assumptions we hold to be true. They form the “rules” or “guidelines” that shape our understanding of the world and govern our actions. Beliefs often serve as the framework within which we interpret our experiences and make sense of our reality.

For instance, if we believe that “hard work always pays off,” we will probably interpret any success because of hard work and feel motivated to work hard in future endeavours.

Values are deeply held principles or standards that drive our actions and decisions. They represent what we consider important or worthwhile in life, serving as our internal compass. Values often motivate us, guiding our behaviours towards outcomes that we deem desirable or fulfilling.

For example, if we value “integrity,” we will strive to act honestly and consistently in various situations, regardless of the potential challenges or consequences.

We can describe the relationship between beliefs and values as a dynamic interplay. Our values often inspire and shape our beliefs, while our beliefs provide a framework for living out our values.

Values are the driving force behind our actions, and beliefs provide the road map that guides us in fulfilling these values.

Understanding this relationship can provide valuable insights into our behaviours and motivations. They play a crucial role in areas such as personal growth, therapy, and coaching.

Beliefs and Desires: Understanding the Difference and Their Interplay

Beliefs and desires interact in significant ways. Our beliefs often shape our desires by defining what we consider possible or worthwhile. For example, if we believe we can achieve a certain goal (belief), we may be more likely to desire and pursue that goal (desire).

Conversely, our desires can also influence our beliefs. If we strongly desire to achieve something, we may develop beliefs that support this aspiration.

For instance, a person who desires to become a successful entrepreneur. May cultivate beliefs about their capabilities, the market, and the value of perseverance that align with this ambition.

Understanding the relationship between beliefs and desires is key to self-awareness and personal growth. We can better achieve success and satisfaction by examining and adjusting our beliefs and desires.

A black and white image of a man's head with a maze in the middle symbolizing changeYourBeliefs for a HealthyMind.
“The conscious and unconscious minds are constant companions, engaged in an endless conversation that shapes our perception of reality.”

The Power of Beliefs

In the words of Milton Erickson,

“The conscious and unconscious minds are constant companions, engaged in an endless conversation that shapes our perception of reality.”

The core of this dialogue is our beliefs, the unspoken assumptions, and understandings that act as the foundation of our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Beliefs are like maps.

They guide us through the labyrinth of life, helping us navigate the myriad complexities we encounter daily.

When our beliefs align with our true potential and the realities of the world around us, they act as a compass, guiding us towards growth and fulfilment.

Erickson knew this all too well.

In his conversations with patients, he would address not only their conscious minds but their unconscious beliefs.

He understood that to bring about real, lasting change, he needed to help his patients reshape their internal maps of reality.

changes from a stormy scene to a peaceful landscape.

The Dual Nature of Beliefs

Beliefs can serve as bridges or barriers, depending on their nature. They can empower us, propel us towards our goals, and open us up to new possibilities. Or they can limit us, box us in, and keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving.

Think back to the woman with the persistent headache. Her belief in the inevitability of her pain was so strong it had become a part of her reality.

Erickson knew he had to help her redraw her map of the world, to include the possibility of a life without constant pain.

The Interplay of Beliefs and Reality

Our beliefs don’t just influence our perception of reality. The filters through which we interpret the world around us are largely defined by our beliefs.

When we believe we can’t do something (much like the woman who believed she couldn’t lose her headache.) we often create self-fulfilling prophecies, bringing our limiting beliefs to life.

Conversely, when we believe we can achieve our goals, we are more likely to take the steps to make them a reality. Beliefs can be powerful motivators, driving us to overcome obstacles and reach for our dreams.

Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs are internal convictions or assumptions that constrain us.

They’re often unconscious, yet they have a powerful impact on our behaviour, potential, and well-being.

Much like invisible chains, they can hold us back from pursuing opportunities, fulfilling our potential, or achieving our goals.

Erickson encountered limiting beliefs frequently in his practice.

As in the woman’s case, who believed it doomed her to live with constant headaches. Other examples of limiting beliefs might include:

  • “I’m not good enough to succeed.”
  • “I’ll never find a fulfilling relationship.”
  • “I’m not smart enough to excel in my career.”

These beliefs can act as self-fulfilling prophecies. If we believe we’re not good enough, for instance, we may not put ourselves forward for opportunities, perpetuating our belief.

In relationships. A limiting belief such as “I’m unlovable” can lead to self-sabotaging behaviours that hinder intimacy and connection.

And in our careers, believing “I’m not smart enough” can prevent us from seeking advancement or furthering our skills.

Limiting beliefs essentially narrow our perception of what’s possible. Causing us to overlook opportunities and possibilities that lie beyond these self-imposed boundaries.

Empowering Beliefs

Empowering beliefs are those that enable us to reach our potential, fostering resilience, creativity, and growth. They are the mental fuel that propels us towards our goals. Offering a sense of possibility and positivity that can help us navigate life’s challenges.

Erickson’s approach encouraged the development of empowering beliefs. He worked with patients to help them realise their capacity for change and growth, transforming their limiting beliefs into empowering ones.

Examples of empowering beliefs include:

  • “I can achieve my goals.”
  • “I deserve happiness and fulfilment in my relationships.”
  • “I have unique skills and talents that I can use to excel in my career.”

These beliefs have a positive impact on our lives, relationships, and careers. For instance, believing “I can achieve my goals” can motivate us to take action and persist in the face of adversity.

In relationships. The belief “I deserve happiness and fulfilment” can lead us to seek healthy, mutually beneficial relationships.

In our careers, believing in our unique skills and talents can motivate us to seek opportunities for growth and advancement.

Empowering beliefs, therefore, act as powerful drivers that can propel us towards success and fulfilment. Expanding our perception of what’s possible and encouraging us to strive for our highest potential.

The Role of NLP in Changing Beliefs

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a powerful tool for identifying and changing beliefs. Offering an array of techniques that can help us transform limiting beliefs into empowering ones.

By understanding and harnessing the language of the mind, NLP allows us to rewrite our internal maps of reality. Much like Milton Erickson did with his patients.

Belief Change Techniques

Several key NLP techniques can change beliefs effectively. These include working with sub-modalities, reframing, and anchoring. Let’s explore each of these techniques in more detail:


Sub-modalities are the finer distinctions within our sensory experiences, such as the:

  • Size,
  • Colour,
  • Location of a mental image
  • Volume
  • Tone
  • Internal dialogue

By adjusting the Sub-modalities of a belief, we can weaken or strengthen its impact on our lives.

For example, imagine a limiting belief represented by a large, imposing image in your mind’s eye. By shrinking the image, making it black and white, and moving it further away, you can reduce its emotional intensity and perceived significance.

Conversely, to strengthen an empowering belief, you could make its mental representation brighter, larger, and closer, amplifying its emotional resonance and impact on your behaviour.


Reframing is changing the context or meaning of a belief, transforming its impact on our lives.

Changing our perspective can change our beliefs.

Consider a belief like “I’m not good at public speaking.” A reframe might involve finding instances where you successfully communicated your ideas in a group setting.

You could reframe the belief to emphasise your progress in learning and improving your public speaking skills.


Anchoring is an NLP technique that involves creating associations to support new empowering beliefs.

By linking a positive emotional state to a new belief, we can strengthen its impact and make it more readily accessible in our daily lives.

For example, to anchor an empowering belief such as “I am confident and capable.” You could recall a time when you felt confident and capable, reliving the experience in your mind.

As you immerse yourself in the memory of the empowering belief. Creating a strong emotional association between the belief and the positive state.

By practicing these NLP techniques, we can take control of our beliefs and rewrite the narratives that shape our lives. Like Erickson, we can harness the power of our conscious and unconscious minds to create lasting, transformative change.

Practical Applications of Belief Change

The transformation of beliefs, from limiting to empowering, can have profound effects on various aspects of our lives. Whether it’s personal growth, our relationships, or our careers and businesses.

Belief change can pave the way for improvements and advancements.

Personal Growth

Belief change plays a crucial role in personal growth. Consider someone who has a deep-seated fear of public speaking—a limiting belief that “I can’t speak in public without embarrassing myself.”

By using NLP techniques to change this belief into “I can become a skilled public speaker with practice,” the individual can overcome this fear.

I replace my limiting belief of “I’m not good enough” with an empowering one of “I am capable and deserving of success.”

Belief change is not only about overcoming fears and boosting confidence, but it also plays a key role in achieving personal goals.

Changing a belief from “I can never stick to a fitness routine” to “I can make regular exercise a part of my life” can improve health and wellness.


In the realm of relationships, belief change can lead to improved communication and deeper connection.

A belief like “my partner should always understand my needs without me having to express them” can lead to misunderstandings and dissatisfaction.

Honest communication builds strong relationships.

Believing conflicts can bring positive outcomes can change how people interact.

Career and Business

In the professional sphere, belief change can be a catalyst for innovation, leadership, and success. For instance, a manager who believes “making mistakes is unacceptable” might create a stifling work environment.

Believing that mistakes lead to learning and innovation can create an environment of creativity and progress.

Similarly, an individual who believes “I’m not leadership material” might shy away from opportunities.

By adopting an empowering belief like “I can develop my leadership skills” they can grow in their career and contribute more significantly to their organisation.

Changing beliefs can bring about transformative shifts in personal, relational, and professional domains. Improving our overall emotional well-being and life satisfaction.

It’s about replacing the beliefs that hold us back with those that propel us forward, just as Milton Erickson did with his patients.


In the spirit of Erickson, it’s vital to approach beliefs with understanding, respect, and resourcefulness.

Erickson’s wisdom reminds us that resistance isn’t an obstacle, but a resource we can utilise. Instead of fighting against a patient’s or our own resistance, we can acknowledge it, work with it, and use it to facilitate change.

Consider a patient who doubted lasting therapy effects, given her prior treatment only worked for a month

Rather than disputing her belief, Erickson cleverly reframed it. He gave her a stamped envelope and asked her to send him a note in six months to let him know if the therapy was still effective.

In doing so, he didn’t argue against her belief but used it as a foundation for a new, more empowering belief—that the effects of therapy could be long-lasting. Six months later, she sent Erickson a note confirming that the therapy was still working.

This story encapsulates the transformative power of belief change.

It underscores the importance of not merely challenging limiting beliefs, but of working with them. Using them as stepping stones to cultivate more empowering beliefs.

Beliefs shape our reality, influence our behaviour, and define our potential. By learning to identify and transform our limiting beliefs, we can unlock new possibilities for growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a belief in NLP? A belief in NLP is an internal conviction or assumption that we hold to be true about ourselves, others, or the world about us. Beliefs shape our perceptions, behaviours, and experiences.

What is a limiting belief? A limiting belief is a conviction or assumption that restricts our potential or holds us back. Examples might include beliefs like “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t succeed.”

What is an empowering belief? An empowering belief is a conviction or assumption that enhances our potential or propels us forward. Examples might include beliefs like “I can achieve my goals” or “I can overcome any obstacle.”

How does NLP help in changing beliefs? NLP offers several techniques for changing beliefs, including sub-modalities, reframing, and anchoring. These techniques help us change limiting beliefs into empowering ones.

What are some practical applications of belief change? Belief change can have significant effects on various areas of our lives. Overcoming fears, boosting confidence, and improving communication can be achieved by transforming limiting beliefs.

Who was Milton Erickson and how does his work relate to belief change? Milton Erickson was a renowned psychiatrist, known for his innovative approaches to therapy. His work frequently involved changing patients’ limiting beliefs, and his methods have influenced the field of NLP. Erickson worked with patients’ existing beliefs to create more empowering ones.

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