We spend a lot of time in NLP and Neuro-Semantics on identifying limiting and toxic beliefs and building up and installing empowering beliefs. Why do we do that? We do so because we know all too well about the self-fulfilling nature of “beliefs.” Beliefs are not innocent things. These entities of the mind do not just process information, they are “commands to the nervous system” (Richard Bandler). We know that “thoughts” send signals and messages to the body. As we “think,” so we begin to feel and respond. And if that’s so with “thoughts,” it is a thousand times more true of “beliefs.”
What are these entities of the mind that we call “beliefs?”
How do they differ from mere “thoughts?”
In Neuro-Semantics we have demonstrated how we turn a thought into a beliefconfirm the validity and reality of a thought, it transforms the thought as mere information, and commissions it to become a person’s reality strategy. When this happens, the belief commands the body and nervous system since it sets several frames: “This is real,” “This is important,” “This is the way it is.” And when you have a mental-emotional frame like that, no wonder the rest of the mind-emotion-body system simply responds to fulfill that frame.
So, how do we confirm a thought? What validates a thought?
Lots of things. It depends upon the person, the culture, the situation. Cross-culturally, repetition will confirm an idea. Repeat it often enough, and it seems “believable.” The repetition creates a sense of familiarity, another convincer. Authority, vividness, desire (wish), drama, continuation over time, etc., can all work as convincers in our psycho-logical system. We can use lots of variables as “evidence” to feel assured that a thought is accurate, real, and/or inevitable. And with such higher frames, we are ready to validate a thought.
We get all of our early beliefs, the ones we did not think or reason to create, as we received them from what parents and authority figures told us. They not only told us about Santa Claus, they told us the story so that we had a full vivid movie playing in our minds. And they would read the story from books, get others to confirm it, watch movies about it, etc. We experienced a whole cultural conspiracy to get us to believe it. There were so many convincing factors. Then there was the final coup de grace, all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning! “Santa did come! It is real!” “And look! The milk and cookies left out are gone!”
No wonder we bought it! We would have had to deny our senses, reject our parent’s words, the books about it, our whole culture. So, at a higher level in our mind, we rose above all of our thoughts, images, words, and feelings of Father Christmas and the whole story and gave it our seal of approval. We said, “Yes, it is so. I do believe, I do believe!”
And that validated it.
This reveals the special power we have when we say “Yes!” to a thought. Saying “Yes” to a thought enables us to validate that thought. In saying “Yes” we confirm the thought. In this way the mere thought becomes a full-fledged “belief.” It transforms. It metamorphosizes. What was just an idea, just images and representations now becomes something more, something more powerful and dangerous. It becomes a “belief.” We now trust that this thought describes reality and gives us a map about what to do, think, feel, expect, etc.
The more we say “Yes” to an idea, the more we believe it. The more we add passion and intensity and ferociousness to the thought so that you shout, “YES!!”, the more emotional the belief. Eventually, our “Yes” even our great big intense “Yes!” becomes a matter-of-fact “Of course.” And when it reaches that stage of development, we have–at a higher level of mind– created a reality strategy. Now it just seems “the way it is.” It loses its emotion and it just is.
This explains why we begin with the emotional “Yes” and repeat it until our neurology gets used to it and it becomes a matter-of-fact “Yes.” Doing this helps the belief grow up and move outside of awareness as we say, “Of course, what else would you expect?”
Meta-YES-ing a Thought
In Neuro-Semantics we introduced the Meta-Yes Pattern several years ago as a way to turn a desired thought (an inspiring idea) into a belief. We build up or construct a “belief” from a thought through the process of validating it. We access a state of “Yes!” and apply it to the idea that is just a thought. This meta-stating structure sets a sense of “yes” as a frame to the thought. We start with a strong and emotional “Yes!” and then repeat it over and over until we feel the validation.
Sometimes we find that it will not work to just “Yes” the thought. Why not? When this happens, we probably have to first blow out various limiting and hindering beliefs that are in the way. If you say “Yes” to your desired thought and it doesn’t seem to become a belief, look for an opposing frame that discounts, dis-validates, and excludes the validation.
We deal with this by then accessing a state of “No!” or dis-confirmation, dis-validation and we apply that sense of “No!” to the old belief. We to this to de-construct (de-frame) the old validation. The new won’t slide in until we eliminate the old. So we Meta-No the old mapping of reality knowing that this will give us the space to then construct the new belief.
Typically in this process we do not ask the person about “why” he or she can say “Yes” to the thought and validate it. This is intentional. We leave it alone on purpose. We don’t do that so that the person him or herself will do it.
And that’s inevitable. Why? Because we are a species that have to have reasons to validate things. We just can’t believe for the hell of it. We have to have reasons, understandings, explanations, even rationalizations to believe. Marketing people know this and so provide lots of overt and covert “reasons” to say “Yes” to a product or service. The reasons don’t have to be true, accurate, real, etc. They can be mere rationalizations, superstitions, and junko-logic. You may remember with me the old cigarette commercial jingle, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” Talk about junko-logic.
It is when we say, and feel, and act out a “Yes,” especially a strong and emotional “Yes,” that we evoke the higher levels of our mind. Now the higher levels of mind have to come up with reasons, or rationalizations, or evidences of some sort to support the “Yes.”
Meta-YES-ing & NO-ing Belief Construction/ De-ConstructionIn reading Figure 1, begin at the bottom at the first level of mind. Here we merely represent the thoughts in our heads. This create our cinematic movie that plays out on the screen of our mind a scenario of the thought. This movie has images, pictures, a sound track with music and words, and even a feel track that creates emotions. Above and beyond that movie, we step into a state of validating, of saying “Yes.” This higher level of validation transforms thought into belief. Then above that, we have our reasons and rationalizations that we use to support and give meaning to why we can say “Yes.” The movement (indicated by the arrows) that we move from one level to the other is how, or the way, we “reason” from one level to another. Sometimes a line of reasoning moves us, sometimes a feeling, sometimes even a physiology. It is in this way we create the psycho-logical world of our mind-body-emotion system.
To Believe or not to Believe
What thought would you like to turn into a belief?
What ideas would you like to operate as a command to your nervous system and body?
Given that we now know the structure of a belief, we can utilize this structure to build up new empowering beliefs, can we not? We can use this understanding to dis-validate ideas that we inherited or absorbed from our early cultural experiences in our families, schools, books, media, peers, etc.
What is the feeling or affective tone of a belief?
We say that a belief is a solidified thought that “feels real and true and accurate.” Yet these are not feelings. Where in your body do you feel that something is true or accurate? These are evaluations, judgments.
So what does a belief feel like?
When we believe, we feel sure, we have a feeling of assurance and trust. “I trust this as true.” “I feel sure that this is right.”
The feeling of a belief is the feeling of strength and assurance. We speak of “conviction.” When you think about something that you really believe–you feel sure. You feel confident. You feel the strength of your conviction. The stronger the belief, the more you “know” and don’t have a shadow of a doubt. The weaker the belief, the more questions you have, doubts, wonder, etc.
Consider what this means. It means that a belief inevitably moves to a seemingly non-emotional state where we just “know” “for sure” that our thoughts accurately and really map the way things are. That’s why it’s hard to even notice our beliefs. We have to step back and move to a meta-position to even become aware of them.
What do I believe about … ?
So the feeling of a belief, feeling sure and trusting, becomes the “sense of reality” and so loses it’s emotional affect. It just “is.” We feel, “Of course, that’s the way it is.” What do we think about or do with this feeling? Most commonly we treat it as a convincer of the reality of something. When we do, we have come full circle.
We believe a thought when it feels real; when it feels real, we believe it.
We don’t believe something because it doesn’t feel real; when something feels unreal, we refuse to believe it.
Yet the feeling level of a belief (or the lack of the feeling) actually does not prove anything. At best it only “proves” that you have validated it so much that you have closed your mind to any question of doubt. “But it feels real!” we may complain. What we feel is familiarity, habituation, etc. Most of us do not have the feeling that the planet is a circle and that we are upside down to people on the reverse side. Yet that lack of it feeling real doesn’t disprove it.
Consider the idea that a when a thought becomes a belief, our belief leads us to close our mind to other ideas. The more we believe in something, the more closed, rigid, dogmatic, and unquestioning we become. In itself, this is neither good or bad, but it can become healthy or unhealthy depending on the content of what we believe. The worst thing is to believe in your belief. Do that and kiss learning, development, openness, creativity, etc. goodbye. Do that and you become a fanatic.
What does all this mean?
It means that beliefs are great and powerful mental entities as long as we do not believe in them. As long as we keep them open to new data and input, tentative for this moment, and recognize them as just a mental-emotional state, they are fine. They will do us no damage. Because of the feelings of a belief, beliefs give us a sense of power–conviction, assurance, confidence, etc. Believing in ourselves, in others, in the usefulness of something, the meaningfulness of life, such beliefs enhance life.
Beliefs then are a mixed bag. If you have great ones, they really enhance things. They make you confident, hopeful, meaningful, and powerful. If you have toxic and sick ones, you endanger yourself and others. Hitler has some really morbid beliefs. Yet he felt so sure about them. What made him truly dangerous and sick was that he believed in his beliefs. Doing that caused him to close his mind. That made him a fanatic. That made him a sick and dangerous man.
In NLP and NS, we run a Quality Control program on our beliefs to make sure we have healthy beliefs that will do us good over the long-term. We check the ecology of the belief by stepping back and asking questions about long-term effects, ecological effects on health, relationships, others, etc. This helps us to make sure that they are balanced, healthy, and wholesome.
Expanding the Quality Controlling of our Beliefs
You meta-state your belief yet one more level up when you step back from your beliefs and run a Quality Control on them. Doing so allows you to texture your belief with ecology. It enables you to bring the state of “quality” to the belief so that you qualify your belief with the frame of quality. This is one of the most powerful and magical things we do in Meta-States–we qualify and texture our states and our meta-states. This enables us to have our states rather than them having us. This also enables us to run and master the higher frames of our mind rather than being a victim of whatever matrix of mind we have inherited.
Given this, we can also texture our beliefs so that they are not only empowering and enhancing, but so that we experience them with passion, excitement, playfulness, fun, and other qualities. This is important. Why? Because we can build new beliefs with great ideas, yet experience the beliefs as humdrum. We may focus so much on the accuracy and truth of the idea, that we program in the matter-of-factness of the belief that we feel as an “of course” and in the process forget about making sure the belief has some punch–some passion.
I discovered this recently when working with a man at a training.
Learning How to Feel Great about Believing
What would you like to believe, that if you believed, would empower you as a person, make your life better, improve your relationships, make you more successful at work, more focused, healthier, something like that?
“I’d like to believe that the trouble and work it takes to change myself is worth it.”
Hmmm, so you doubt that? You question that?
“Yes. It always seems like so much work, and I just don’t know if it’s worth it.”
Well if you doubt that, what do you think that making some changes in yourself will do for you?
“Well, it would make me more focused and effective, and help me to succeed.”
Sounds good to me…
“That’s just it, is it really worth it?”
In the long run?
“Yeah, I mean I wonder if success is worth it.”
So, what do you think is the value of becoming more effective so you can succeed? Suppose you got that, then what?
“That’s my point. It just seems pointless.”
You’ve fooled around in philosophy, haven’t you?
I knew it. Contaminated by existential angst and doubt. “Does life have any meaning?”
“I know it sounds funny when you put it that way, but that’s what stops me. I just don’t know if it is really worth it.”
So you eat your passion, commitment, skills, and effectiveness up with doubt, questioning, worrying … and that really makes life a party for you. Right?
“No it doesn’t.”
So your limiting belief is that you have to figure out the meaning of life before you can engage in life meaningfully?
(Laughing) “That sounds pretty stupid.”
Well, exactly. And that’s because it is! … Have you had enough of that? Or do you want to wallow around in existential angst for what another 40 years?
“But I don’t know if it is worth it …”
Right. And as you now know, that is precisely the sick belief that needs to be blown to smithereens. That’s the dragon that keeps sucking you into its den.
“But it feels so …”
Well, that’s because it is — to you. And it will become more and more real to you if you don’t stop running your brain this way. Beliefs feel real because that’s how “beliefs” feel–real. If it didn’t feel real, it wouldn’t be a “belief.” “Da!” … But that feeling of reality and of conviction doesn’t make it real. It only makes it compelling– on your insides. Okay, I think we’re ready to Quality Control it. Do you want or need this belief to run your programs, to send these commands to your body to feel doubt and despair, and to question effort and the value of success, do you need this old belief?
“No, I don’t.”
Well, you don’t sound very convinced about that. Maybe you should just keep this old toxic morbid belief. Let it keep undermining life, effort, success, passion …
“No! I’ve had enough of it.”
Then say “No!” to it with all of the neurological power you have. … That’s right. Again. And again. Would you push an infant in front of a speeding car just to enjoy the gore? No? Is that all the “No!” you can feel?
“No! No! NO!”
Good, now if you didn’t believe that, then what? You’d believe that become focused and effective and successful would be a good thing, enrich your experience of life, open up new possibilities, and create meaningfulness as you go? Would you like that one?
“Yes. That sounds good.”
Are you going to doubt this one?
Good, then put it in your own words. What is the idea that you’d like to confirm and validate and commission to run your programs?
“That I can become effective if I get focused and I can create meaning as I succeed, step by step, I will create more meaning.”
Notice how you represent that as you say it again … good. Turn it into a movie, an internal movie in your mind… moving into your future, being more focused … more effective … succeeding … creating meaning … Now the movie bigger, brighter, more colorful … there you go… anything that makes it feel more compelling. Mmmmmmmm. Do you like that?
Sorry to hear that. I thought you would like that.
“I do. I like this very much.”
Doesn’t sound like it.
“Yes I do.”
Then say so… Repeat your “Yes!” again and again. You want this? You like this? You’d like this more than the angst and despair? Really? And would it make things feel warmer, brighter, more fun as you move into all of your tomorrows? Good. (Pause) … What do you think?
“It’s fine. I like it.”
Kind of ho-hum fine, huh? Just fine?
“Well, it’s good.”
Well, I want you to think of some of the finest feelings you’ve ever experienced. You know pure pleasure… have you ever felt pleasssuurre? How about wonder? Awesome wonder? Fabulous and playful wonder? Have you ever got lost in some good feelings and forget what time it was? Good. … feel that and I want you to feel it about that new belief…. (Pause) … There you go, that’s nice glow… We don’t want a just okay belief, we want a passionate one, a ferocious one, one that’s feels great. As you imagine taking this into your future– are you fully aligned with this? Does this fit with who you are becoming? Any objections? Good.
Texturing Good-Feeling Beliefs
Since it is not enough to just have good strong solid beliefs, but to feel passionate about those beliefs so that they excite us, do the following.
1) Specify useful thoughts that you want commissioned as a belief.
What do you want to believe? How do you represent it? Employ the best NS cinematography to make the graphic features on the idea as vivid, dramatic, and exciting as possible.
2) Access a Dis-Validation State to Meta-No anything that stands in the way.
What can you say “No” to with every fiber of your being? Access fully. Is there anything that stands in your way to believing your great idea? Meta-No those things that stand in the way.
3) Access a Validation State to Meta-Yes the Idea.
What can you say “Yes” to with every fiber of your being? How can you coach a greater and stronger “Yes” in yourself? Show it to me.
4) Enrich with Good Feelings.
What’s the feel of the belief? How much better would you like the belief to feel? What thought, feeling, physiology, state makes you feel passionate? Access and apply each resource that you want to texture the belief with.
5) Put into your Tomorrows and Quality Control
Imagine taking this into the days and weeks to come … and notice how it changes things. Do you like this? How will this transform things for you? For your relationships? Health? Work? Does this fit for you? Are you aligned with this? Any internal objections?
It’s not enough to just eliminate negative and dis-empowering beliefs. After we eliminate the limiting beliefs, we have to replace them with more empowering ones.
Yet it is not enough to have empowering beliefs. Those beliefs that support our resourcefulness need to be embedded inside of some really great feelings so that they have some real punch to them, pizzazz, ferocity, passion. We don’t need humdrum beliefs, but those that make us powerful, charming, compassionate, etc.
There’s enough people to believe the right things but are still boring people. We want to texture our enhancing beliefs with the qualities that allow our beliefs to be jet-propelled with the best feelings: joy, playfulness, love, surprise, wonder, ecstasy, and the like.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., cognitive psychologist, international NLP trainer, entrepreneur; prolific author and international training; developer of Meta-States and co-developer of Neuro-Semantics. (P.O. Box 8, Clifton CO 81520), (970) 523-7877. www.neurosemantics.com