We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
– The Buddha
As infants we start to make sense of our world. Thinking about how things work and what they mean.
These learnings form our beliefs and expectations about the world.
These beliefs are a convenient mental short cut. We don’t need to work everything out again each day, we just refer to our beliefs to explain and guide us.
As we grow older we rely more and more on our beliefs to guide us in our behaviour: it’s quick and convenient, but we pay less and less attention to what is actually going on in the world around us.
What Are Limiting Beliefs?
A belief is an idea about your experience that you hold to be true. Such an idea guides your actions, filters your experience, gives or denies you permission to act and lets you know what things mean.
Beliefs are often more powerful than the facts. Many people will defend a belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Beliefs tend to persist over time, sometimes lasting well beyond their usefulness and do you harm. So it is worth considering: Is what you believe out of date?
Sometimes these beliefs are useful and sometimes they are not. When they work for us and bring us what we want we can think of them as empowering beliefs.
When they work against us they can get in the way of our progress and make life much harder than it needs to be. In these cases we call them limiting beliefs.
Rather than decide whether a belief is right or wrong it is more useful to consider whether it is helpful or unhelpful, limiting or enhancing.
A limiting belief is a belief that in some way restricts or limits the person who holds it.
For example: if you have ever procrastinated or self-sabotaged you can be fairly certain that there will be limiting beliefs at the bottom of those behaviours.
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
– David Foster Wallace
Most limiting beliefs are almost completely invisible to the holder. They are so familiar and ‘true’ that they are just the way the world is. Like a fish not noticing the water, the holder is unaware of what is going on.
This is why having a guide or therapist is so useful. What is invisible to us can be more easily spotted by someone who doesn’t entertain the same belief.
But what are we going to do if there isn’t a therapist or coach available?
Are we doomed to wander ignorant of our own limiting beliefs because we can’t see them?
Fortunately, there is a simple way to bring limiting beliefs into consciousness using just one word. Using this technique can give you a lot of material to work with. In the webinar Uncovering Limitations – How To Find Some Of Your Limiting Beliefs I describe this process in more detail.
Once you have found your limiting beliefs how can you use EFT to work with them?
Clearing Limiting Beliefs
At their heart limiting beliefs are generalisations of our experience. You can often hear signs of generalisations in the way people speak.
They might say:
- I always get it wrong
- I’m never on time
- Everybody is against me
- Nobody wants to listen to me
Like all generalisations they leave things out.
For example: “Everybody is against me?” There are six billion people on the planet, and all of them are against you? There are probably a few (billion) exceptions to that statement.
A good way of challenging such beliefs is by seeking out the exceptions to the rule, you can combine this idea with EFT to use Exception Tapping a simple and flexible approach to neutralising these kinds of beliefs.
Another category of simple limiting beliefs are about permissions and boundaries; what we can (or can’t) do and what we should (or shouldn’t) do.
When people say “I can” or “I can’t” they are telling us the limits of what they think is possible for them in their world.
- I can’t speak in public
- I can’t say that to my mother
- I can’t leave this job
You can use a combination of NLP and EFT to neutralise unhelpful I can’t statements.
Do you have things that you should do?
If you should do something it implies an expectation that others want you to do something.
As children our parents, teachers and others tell us what we should do and we learn what is important to the people who are telling us what to do. Because we are kids we usually go along with these shoulds with varying degrees of resistance.
This tapping process for undoing unhelpful shoulds is also based on a combination of EFT and NLP. After an EFT Café practice group meeting where I demonstrated this process one of the participants described how neutralising a should with EFT dissolved long standing blocks to applying for a new job.
Clearing Stubborn Limiting Beliefs
Some limiting beliefs are easier to dissolve than others. If your limiting beliefs are proving stubborn the Belief Flip Process is a four step process for dislodging troublesome beliefs.
The Belief Flip process is a little more complex than the others so I created an audio-visual presentation of the Belief Flip process to explain it in more depth.
Unpacking Limiting Beliefs
It would be nice if limiting beliefs just wandered around by themselves waiting to be picked off by a roving EFTer. However things are usually more complicated than this.
In the following article I unpack the discovery of one of my own limiting beliefs in some detail to show how limiting beliefs work in concert to make life difficult.
Working with limiting beliefs may take some time and practice but it is one of the most fruitful ways of using EFT for self-help or with your clients.