Updated: Dec 12, 2020
It is a huge change to recognize that our behaviors often indicate what our beliefs are, instead of the other way around, when we assume that our conscious, espoused beliefs naturally flow into our behaviors and mindsets.
Why do I feel that way?
We all hold beliefs that we don't intellectualize. They are patterned behaviors: neural patterns that our brains are so good at constructing to allow us to navigate such a complex world, filtering out as much information as possible, allowing autopilot as much as possible, so that we can focus on survival.
We all have our own stories, and we’re incredibly unreliable narrators.
This is why mental inquiry changes your life. It is a simple method to give these pattens voice. When the underlying belief systems — subconscious beliefs based on what you were told about yourself as a child, based on fears, or perhaps on trauma — are spoken aloud or given voice through writing in a personal journal, only then be they be intellectualized. I have found that speaking them aloud, even to only myself, is very powerful. Only when these belief, stories, or patterns are brought up from the deep, shadowy recesses of the subconscious can only then be seen for what they are. Before this point, these are not intellectual processes. One does not have the thought, "I experienced trauma and domination of males as a child, and therefore I will continue to try and control and manage the emotions of others to keep myself safe as a adult." But when we seek to intellectually understand these deeply-held beliefs — and let's not discount the incredible bravery, self-honesty, and self-love it takes to see them — and then give voice to the real reasons for our patterned behaviors, actions, and unexamined thought patterns, we then get the opportunity to choose.
We now finally have opened up the space to be who we really are. Lori Gottlieb, Clinical Psychotherapist and author describes the process of becoming self-aware as simply getting to unknow yourself; that is, the you that you thought, the one who perhaps has kept you in a cage of suffering, is not actually you. She provides an illustration of a person grasping tightly to and shaking the bars of a prison cell, yet, when the person looks to the left, and looks to the right, there are no bars; the only bars are those the person is holding. We've all been carrying around stories about ourselves that just aren't accurate. So many of us are walking around living stories instead of living our lives.
What must I believe to keep feeling that, to keep doing that? What subconscious pattern am I holding on to in my life that is actually not what I believe, that is actually disempowering, that is so far from who I really am?
And then, "a-ha". Clarity. Freedom. Intense joy. There is deep and profound freedom to be found there, because when you acknowledge to yourself what you do and don't believe, with no "but I should" or "but I can't", and without the fears keeping old patterns in place, you see that you have the capacity to simply let those old patterns go. You can let them go and be free because they are not real. You have kept them in place. And you can make the simply choice to toss them out.
One can simply let them go, and be free from holding on to the ideas and the damaging ways in which they dictated your life. Often, I have found that this choice must be made again and again while you re-pattern your neural pathways to the thoughts that you choose. Every single time that old pattern comes up, you can see it for what it is. It is always a simple choice. No, that is not real; I choose reality; I choose who I really am. I choose myself: not fear; not my past; not what happened to me, with life as a replay of those things over and over; not the actions of someone else. I choose to be who I really am.
Sooner than you may think, you have healed from these old patterns, and they no longer control you. Sooner than you may think, that old way of being feels so distant that you can't connect with it anymore; that thinking is so foreign you might question if you really ever thought and felt that way. And that is relief.
If you have fear in starting this process, know that you can handle this. The very real fear of what some may face can hold them back for decades. It did for me. But what I found was not only that I could handle it, I could do it, but I found true and deep joy from this process, the depths of which I could not have conceived of before in my trapped mind. It is there. It is waiting for you.
If we can make the choice to be joyful, and let things go that we cannot control (so that they do not control us), why not make that choice? I invite you to take up that practice with me. You can be more than survival mechanisms. You can live as your true self, who you know you are to your core.
If I am in a state of worry and stress about circumstances I cannot change, I must be honest with myself and recognize that I hold a subconscious belief that my being worried will somehow a helpful response, that my worry and stress will positively change me or the outcome so that I can force what I want and control that which is not under my control. I must also believe that I am bound or caged by this response: I am a victim not only to the circumstances, but a victim to my own response to it, my own feelings, my own thoughts, and ultimately my own state and the way I move through life. This all leads to a path of recognition that I have given up my own personal authority of my self, my thoughts, behaviors, and mindset to events outside of myself. I have given up my autonomy and, importantly, I have chosen to ignore my personal responsibility for my own state of being, my own happiness.
In grappling with this, I have found it helpful to allow myself to feel whatever naturally comes up, but not to dwell in it and not to identify with it. I won’t say it’s been easy to learn this, but it gets easier as a practice. And I think it is the single most important thing I do. It is freeing to allow yourself to feel what you feel, without controlling it, and to genuinely ask yourself why you feel that way. I am consistently taken aback by the answers to those questions. Sometimes, absolutely stunned about what was sitting in my subconscious, actually RULING me, and I wasn’t even aware of it. Your own consciousness becomes this incredibly complex puzzle that gets more and more satisfying to sort.