Our beliefs are one of the most important factors that shape our behaviour. Our beliefs are what impact our thoughts and actions, and we’re often not even aware of how they affect us. Because our beliefs are stored in our subconscious, they are like little automatic programs that control our actions, thoughts and emotions. The majority of our beliefs are formed during childhood and usually come from the adults who had the most influence over us at the time, such as parents, caregivers, teachers and authority figures.
I had a dream recently where a sentence came to me that I couldn’t get out of my head, “You are what you believe and you believe what you are”. Cool, ok. I am what I believe, makes sense really. If I believe I can’t do something then I'll struggle to do it. Or if I believe I have a big nose, then I’ll perceive myself as having a big nose, even if I don't. We’ve all been there. Maybe not the nose thing, I don’t think I have a big nose. Now I’m wondering if I have a big nose.
Anyway, it’s the second part that hurt my brain. “You believe what you are”. It seems to contradict the first part. Or at least trap you in an ongoing loop. If I believe what I am, and I am what I believe, so what I believe becomes what I am, yet what I am is what I believe. So how do I change what I believe to become something new if I believe what I am already?
At first, I thought, easy, just change what I believe. But this became confusing. If I am what I believe (big nose Nikky), then I’m going to believe what I am (big nose Nikky). Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to consciously change your beliefs. It’s hard to believe what you can’t see, and easy to believe what you can see.
Although this is a very simple example, I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated. And because our beliefs are stored in our subconscious, we're often not aware of them and it’s difficult (but not impossible) to change.
Identifying and Changing Beliefs
Firstly, how do you become aware of your beliefs when you can’t consciously access them? You could try hypnotism, but you don’t need to. You don’t really need to know the specifics, just look around you, look at your life. Your beliefs are right there in front of you. You are what you believe right? So, look at your life. If there’s something that comes easily to you, a skill, money, anything, you must have a supportive belief here. For example, chocolate comes easily to me. Somewhere in my subconsciousness I must believe that I deserve a lot of chocolate. I like that belief.
Ok, be serious now. I guess we're supposed to be looking for the beliefs that affect us in a negative way. What we want to change. I struggle with procrastination when I want to begin writing something new. I’ll often eat chocolate to distract myself, you know, because I deserve chocolate! But somewhere in my subconscious I must have a belief that I’m not good enough to write, or that I suck at writing, or I don’t deserve to succeed. I don’t think that I need to know exactly what the believe is, just the general gist of it. But I’m proving that I am what I believe and I believe what I am because I get stuck in this procrastination loop for weeks before I finally begin a new project. I’m reinforcing this belief. Good one Nikky.
So how to change these unwanted beliefs? You may have consciously tried to change certain beliefs and found it nearly impossible. I’m impatient, if I don’t want to believe something anymore then I think I should be able to instantly change that belief, it’s my mind after all. Unfortunately, I learned that it doesn’t work like that. Dammit.
Living in the Subconscious Mind
During the first seven years of life the brain is in theta waves, the world of the subconscious mind. Before you become “conscious” you live in theta from the ages of 0-7. During this stage, children are more connected to their inner world. They live in a world of imagination and abstract, rational thinking hasn’t developed yet and they believe almost everything they are told.
During these initial seven years, everything a child sees, hears and experiences has a long lasting impact, as it’s stored in their subconscious. These subconscious "programs" will go on to form their beliefs, determining a lot of their behaviour and habits as adults.
According to Stem Cell Biologist and Author, Dr Bruce Lipton, as adults we spend 95% of our time living in the subconscious mind, basically on auto pilot. The majority of us are so preoccupied with thoughts of the past, daydreaming, or worrying about the future that we allow the subconscious mind to take over. Therefore, our subconscious mind is responsible for almost all of our actions, decisions, behaviours and emotions.
The conscious mind is who we really are, your identity, your spirit. It holds you wishes, aspirations and desires. The conscious mind is very creative, working in conjunction with the subconscious mind. This is why you can hold a conversation and still walk or drive your car without thinking about it. You learnt how to walk or drive your car a long time ago, and this was stored in your subconscious so you don’t have to consciously think about it anymore. But there’s a hell of a lot more stored in your subconscious mind that may or may not serve you well, such as habits, fears and beliefs.
Teaching the Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind has very little creativity. It’s where habits and patterns are formed, and is much more powerful than the conscious mind. When you learn something complex, the subconscious mind remembers it as a program. Without your subconscious mind you’d have to re-learn how to walk each morning when you got out of bed; and that would suck.
So, if my habits and beliefs were learned and stored away during the ages of 0-7 then that’s it, I’m stuffed. I can’t change it now, can I? Actually, I can, it’s just not as simple as it was before the age of seven.
The conscious and subconscious minds do not learn in the same way. The conscious mind is very creative and can learn by reading, watching a video or attending a lecture. The subconscious mind is a habit mind. It’s a lot more difficult to change the subconscious mind (a bit like me), it’s resistant to change (a bit like me), but it’s definitely possible. Once you recognise what you want to change, it’s all about repetition.
You may read a self help book and your conscious mind will understand it completely, but nothing in your life changes. This is because you only read it once and this is not how the subconscious mind learns. If you repeat the message over and over, or practice the new habit over and over, then eventually the subconscious mind will cotton on. This is why we almost always fall back into old patterns. It’s not easy to stick to a new belief or behaviour long enough for it to take hold.
I guess this also works the other way around. Bad habits stick because we keep reinforcing them by repeating them over and over, so the subconscious mind will hang on to that. So, to break it, you need to stop and replace it with something else. I guess I could replace my procrastination habit with not procrastinating, but in my opinion, chocolate can play a part in both habits.
So, you really are what you believe and you believe what you are. But now I understand how to jump into that belief loop and create a new belief loop, or just eat some Fruit Loops.