The Power of Belief

July 14, 2013

There is little doubt that people’s beliefs shape their actions. Scientific research combined with clinical trials supports the theory that our thoughts have the power to create brain patterns which impact on our emotional and physical responses to life events. Quite simply what we hold true shapes our social reality and that of those around us.

Think how often some one you know repeatedly comes up against the same problems in their relationships or life situations. They will continue to plead that they just don’t understand why they keep attracting people or scenarios into their lives that make them feel neglected and in some instances abused. Well dig a little deeper and it is likely that they will discover repressed emotion and a subconscious drive to continue to reinforce a negative self belief. To give you some idea of this in action read on…

Firstly let us look at how crucial early childhood development is in building an individual’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem. From a very early age a child beings to form an image or picture of themselves; this image or picture is generally referred to as the child’s self concept and is largely based on the way in which the child is treated by the significant people in their life. The extent to which a child values themselves is an indication of their self-esteem. If external social factors are not supportive of the child’s development, the child may struggle with low self-esteem, the inability to trust oneself and others and a fear of loving and forming close relationships. Let it be noted that typical problems that people bring to counselling are the inability to trust oneself and others, the fear of loving and forming close relationships and low self-esteem.

A typical example of how a negative self-belief may play out in adulthood could be; the child who felt abandoned by a parent will store in their subconscious the belief that they are not lovable and or cannot trust another with their emotions. This subconscious belief will drive them to attract individuals or situations into their lives that fulfill their negative self-belief.

Key indicators that an individual is avoiding being consciously aware of feelings that they cannot tolerate is the use of defense mechanisms which deny or distort reality. The defense mechanisms listed below operate on an unconscious level and can have an adaptive value however we sometimes employ them at the wrong time or the may become a style of behaviour that result in people avoiding reality and can become destructive.

Denial Arguing against an anxiety provoking stimuli by stating it doesn’t exist. Denying that your physician’s diagnosis is correct and seeking a second opinion.
Displacement Taking out impulses on a less threatening target. Yelling at your spouse after an argument with your boss.
Intellectualization Avoiding unacceptable emotions by focusing on the intellectual aspects. Focusing on the details of a funeral as opposed to the sadness and grief.
Projection Placing unacceptable impulses in yourself onto someone else. When losing an argument, you state “you’re just an idiot”. When a relationship fails due to your lack of ability to communicate, you state that your ex is incapable of communication.
Rationalization Supplying a logical or rational reason as opposed to the real reason. Stating that you weren’t fired because the boss didn’t like you, when the real reason was your poor performance.
Reason Formation Taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety. Having a bias against a particular race or culture and then embracing that race or culture to the extreme.
Regression Returning to a previous stage of development. Sitting in a corner and crying after hearing bad news; throwing a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way.
Repression Pulling into the unconscious. Forgetting abuse from your childhood due to the trauma and anxiety.
Sublimation Acting out unacceptable impulses in a socially acceptable way. Sublimating your aggressive impulses toward a career as a boxer; becoming a surgeon because of your desire to cut.
Suppression Pushing into the unconscious. Trying to forget something that causes you anxiety.

It must be said that the natural desire for feelings of personal worth can drive some individuals to use their social environment early to overcome dysfunctional and learnt negative attitudes. However for some, low self-esteem and unconscious processes will plague their ability to do so; this is when an individual may benefit from counselling.

By placing emphasis on personal care and self-development an individual gives not only themselves the opportunity for self actualization but also those around them.

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