Getting to the HEAD of your Life’s Story
Okay . . . here’s where we get down and dirty. By “dirty” I mean that, instead of just thinking or reading about it, we’re going to challenge some of your cuckoo beliefs by taking action on them. And we’re going to do that with some oft-used, well-researched cognitive behaviorial processes. As well as some that I use that are considered a little bit lunatic fringe, such as guided imagery, Emotional Freedom Technique, and even Color Breathing. So we may be spending a few more weeks with each other.
That’s why I called this part the “head”. Because the process we’re going to talk about is actually “head” or mind-centered. “Cognitive” is about how your brain works. And some people actually solve problems better when they can puzzle things out mentally. Me, I’m a more “heart-centered” person. I respond better to the processes that I’ll cover in the next couple of blogs. Take what you respond to and leave the rest. But for now let’s use our heads.
So remember in the last article I identified some irrational beliefs about my big ol’ honkin’ life’s story . . .
I PUNISH MYSELF WHEN I’M NOT LIVING MY PURPOSE AND PASSION
And I chose the punishing beliefs “I’m always going to be fat” and “I’ll never exercise on a regular basis” to start working on. Don’t know what your irrational beliefs are? Let’s back up a sec and discover them.
Do you hear chatter in your head? Or share thoughts with friends in the break room? Those are your irrational beliefs. I can’t tell how many I’ve heard in the locker room at the gym. Or in the ladies’. Here are some “down-and-dirty” guidelines for identifying, describing, or explaining beliefs, also called framing, from Karen Koenig.
Use the three “S’s” – keep them short, simple and straightforward. Don’t try to cram a number of ideas into one belief.
Use present tense, active verbs such as like, dislike, desire, wish, is, and are.
If possible, state them in the positive, not the negative, which mean eliminating words such as isn’t, aren’t, won’t, can’t, and shouldn’t.
The two that I chose above seem to fulfill these guidelines. But if you don’t know yours . . . and you can actually start discovering your life’s story if you don’t know it yet. . . by first jotting down what you think are your negative beliefs. That’s why I previously suggested writing down a bunch of things you feel are true about yourself. And then circling the ones you feel most true. It’s like a little bell . It’s like a little bell ringing in your head. Or a fog horn going “WAAA!”.
So what do you do now that you have framed a few beliefs that “ring” true? You then reframe them. I do this process all the time with my eating disordered and overeating clients. But right now I want to do it with my own beliefs. Here’s what you do:
First, state or write the irrational belief:
I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BE FAT
As I did that, a bunch of images popped up in my head. Wearing those blue romper uniforms at gym where my legs looked like sausages. And always being picked last. Feeling totally awful wearing a frumpy, old lady’s size 16 dress at age 16 as Maid of Honor at my sister’s wedding. Be sure to write down these images in your journal for the guided imagery we’re going to talk about next.
Now REFRAME this belief by writing alternate, positive rational statements about it. Don’t forget to use the framing guidelines above for reframing too. For example:
I’VE BEEN THIN, FIT AND GORGEOUS IN MY LIFE.
I REFUSE TO SEE MYSELF AS LARGER THAN I AM.
I REFUSE TO JUDGE MY ENTIRE WORTH BY MY SIZE.
I’M BEAUTIFUL JUST AS I AM.
In other words, rational beliefs are life-affirming and support healthy goals with healthy feelings and behaviors. In contrast, irrational beliefs are life-threatening and may cause emotional, mental, spiritual and even physical harm.
When I wrote the above, images also came up for me. Like the time I worked as an actor and administrator of a children’s theatre company and was followed around by the young, handsome Rockefeller son, who was sponsoring a conference I attended. Everyone thought we were together. At 32, I was at the height of my personal power and beauty. And have a picture to prove it. I was running two miles a day, working out with the company three days a week, and actively participating in my most fulfilling theatre experience.
The chatterings of all my eating disordered clients with all their irrational beliefs also came to mind. Store up these images. We’ll use them when we talk about guided imagery next week.
Meanwhile, after you’ve done this process, get ready for feelings that may arise around both your old and reframed beliefs. They may be scary as you’ve been tamping them down and dressing them up all your life with those irrational beliefs. Once they’re reframed, all heck may break loose. The good news is that healthy beliefs eventually lead to healthy actions.
Next week, we’ll talk about heart-centered approaches. When we’re finished, you’ll come away with something that will work for you to change beliefs that don’t work anymore.
Leave Your Comments About Poking Through Clouds to See the Light Part Three Below
What irrational beliefs do you harbor about you life’s story? How have you changed beliefs, feelings, and behaviors in the past? How will you change them in the future now that you know how to reframe them?