Challenge your beliefs
One of the challenges I face in working with new clients is enabling them to let go of the unhelpful beliefs that have been holding them back. For instance, beliefs such as:
I am powerless over my anxiety
I need cigarettes to feel calm
I can't get on that aeroplane
I must have something sweet after every meal
The thoughts we have create feelings and behaviours, so when those thoughts are unhelpful ones, the behaviours that arise can have a negative impact on our life. It's not the thought of an aeroplane that causes fearful thoughts - it's the belief you have about what might happen while you are on that aeroplane. As a result of this belief you may experience a typical fear response such as heart palpitations and dizziness, and you may begin to avoid flying entirely.
All of our responses come from our beliefs, and our beliefs come from our experience of life - whether actual, observed or anecdotal.
Unhelpful beliefs tend to be irrational, and might include very specific demands that we impose on ourself. Words such as Can't, Must, Need or Should are very common. These demands are typically very inflexible and absolute.
Helpful beliefs are much more flexible and come from rational thoughts. They tend to be preferences, allowing for different outcomes and the fact that nothing is an absolute.
Our responses to our beliefs become automatic over time - so if the response comes from an unhealthy belief it's important to challenge the thoughts creating it. One way of doing this is to examine the evidence that the person presents themself with to uphold their belief. This can be done through questions which ask them to consider:
Is this helpful? How does it help you to believe this?
Is this real? Where is the evidence for this?
Does this make sense? How logical is your belief?
These questions open up the possibility of considering other explanations or ways of looking at a situation, which begins to lead towards the formulation of new, more helpful beliefs. Using hypnotherapy I can then help my client mentally rehearse these new outcomes, seeing themselves behaving differently in the situations that would have once caused them problems.
The client also has an important role to play in creating the change they seek - they must continue to challenge their unhelpful thoughts so that over time they create a new, more appropriate automatic response.
Changing a belief may seem impossible at first, but with the right approach it can turn out to be surprisingly easy.
This article first appeared in the the New Stour & Avon magazine on 3 June 2022