“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Beliefs affirm your truth
Another way to think about beliefs is that they are a set of rules you have set up, normally at an unconscious level, to understand the world around you. Beliefs tend to cluster around values.
A definition of a belief and a value is called for. The definition I like comes from Dr. Wyatt Woodsmall (1943 – present, a specialist in advanced behavioural modelling):
“Values are the things that motivate you. Beliefs are the rules you have set up to fulfil your values.”
When we think about it like this, it makes sense. Values are drivers and beliefs are rules. Beliefs are the foundation of everyone’s personal outcomes.
Values tend to be abstract terms like love, happiness, purpose and being fulfilled.
Let’s take a value of LOVE. This word may mean different things to each of us. Beliefs are how you know you have fulfilled this value. Here’s a contrasting example:
(a) What could the rules be for one person to know how they are loved?
- Needs to be told “I love you”
- Phone once a day, to check in
- Always be on time
(b) Whereas for someone else it could be:
- Hold hand when walking
- Give/given a little present at least once a week
- Never shout at each other
You can see where rules are very different for the same value of Love. Now, it’s starting to make sense.
It all makes sense
Alfred Korzybski (1879 – 1950, Polish-American independent scholar who developed a field called general semantics) put forth another interesting notion about the nature of beliefs. He stated that a belief may be something we build when we don’t know what is real. Beliefs are categorical generalisations which never can really be justified in an epistemological (*) sense, because beliefs are categorical generalisations, and, in that sense, artificial. We can never know all experience. Beliefs are only a map, and we can never know all the territory.
Or a way of saying “The map is not the territory”.
How often is your map being updated?
Your map is being updated all the time.
Your beliefs are being updated all the time and at any one time we have a range of beliefs that are in flux.
- You have things you do not believe. There is no question of any scepticism because you resolutely do not believe them. For example, many people just do not believe in hypnosis.
- You have beliefs that are just forming, both positive and negative. For example, if someone takes you through a trance induction, and you may have noticed a difference or shift in your thinking. You may not be quite convinced at that point, but just maybe you think there could be something more to this.
- You have working beliefs. You resolutely do believe in these. You believe you can drive your car. You may not believe anybody else can.
- You also have beliefs that you are starting to doubt. You may have once believed that you were not confident, but having attended one of our NLP Practitioner training courses and you are now starting to feel more confident.
- You also have old beliefs. These relate to the past and may be things you believed in as a child, e.g. Santa Claus or fairies at the bottom of the garden.
When beliefs limit us
There comes a time when a belief can limit us and hold us back. We call that a limiting belief. This can mean that a belief has once served you in some meaningful way at that time, but with life’s experiences and growing resources you have since outgrown it.
This is an interesting definition because it means that if you have not had any limiting beliefs for some time, there is a danger that you are standing still and not growing as a person.
Now this is just a belief about beliefs.
Dead men don’t bleed
Robert asked him “Do dead people bleed?” and he said “No”.
Taking a pin, Robert took the man’s hand and pricked him. A spot of blood showed.
The man looked at the blood and said “My gosh, dead people do bleed”.
What outdated beliefs have you been holding onto that you would like to change?
What impossible beliefs would change your life?
I am off to believe six impossible things before breakfast, what about you?
(*) ‘Epistemology’ is one of the core areas of philosophy and is concerned with the nature, sources and limits of knowledge.
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Article written by John Cassidy-Rice