Negative Beliefs Learned in Childhood (or even over lifetimes) Can Be Replaced
Perhaps you have heard the expression… Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know. Human beings are habitual. We like certain routines and regularities as they provide comfort and security. We become used to certain things even if they don’t serve our highest good. We can become attached. This is the essence of why negative beliefs learned in our childhood or even over lifetimes which led to behavioral patterns are hard to break. The work to change negative beliefs can seem daunting and hence the reference to the expression about the devil you don’t know.
In reality, everyone grows up being told messages that are untrue. A man might discover that getting ahead in the business world is easier if he is dishonest. He teaches his children that whatever it takes to get ahead is ok since everyone is out for themselves. A mother might teach her daughters that men will do anything to get them into bed and thus the message is that men can’t be trusted to tell the truth of their intentions.
In both examples, the parents feel they are teaching wisdom that is true and is designed to help the child navigate life. In both teachings, there is some truth. In many business setting, acting selfishly and with deception to one’s true agenda does allow a person to excel faster. And it is true that many men will try to manipulate women in order to have sex with them. The problem is that when we’re children, we don’t have the discernment function developed enough to process these teachings maturely. We end up with deeply rooted negative beliefs.
A wise adult knows that it is possible to be dishonest in business and get ahead in the short term but also, that every deed is karmically recorded. Dishonest dealings will attract further dishonesty. And while men tend to be more biologically driven for sex earlier in a relationship, the truth is that many men want a long term partner. Believing that men are only after sex will tend to fulfill itself meaning a woman taught this message will attract men who think this way since it fulfills her belief. Holding to this belief keeps her loyal to her mother. This is what makes changing negative beliefs hard; something in us wants to be loyal to the ones who taught us even if the messages are detrimental. It’s a twisted form of love expressed as loyalty.
Jesus came to teach us how to be free from this whole pattern. In Matthew 10, Jesus says;
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
This may read as harsh to those new to Jesus but in fact, it is one of the most vital secrets to unhinge yourself from difficult beliefs and habitual patterns of behavior. When you seek to identify the negative beliefs taught to you during your upbringing, you will begin to understand the root causes of many of life’s difficulties. But very few will be able to have the sight to recognize their loyalty to these patterns. Jesus saw it for He knew that people teach their children only what they know which wasn’t always in accord with God. Teaching your children to believe in God is a good start but knowing God in you and learning from the Christ within will break those old loyalties. But as Jesus said, it won’t be a peaceful process.
Let’s talk very practically about how to proceed in this work. Step one; you must reach a place within yourself where you recognize you have beliefs based on wounds and concepts that are outdated meaning they are no longer active. You aren’t still being wounded and misled as you were growing up and the concepts you learned aren’t necessarily still true. This step is easier said than done. This is because at the time when the belief were imprinted, they seemed based in truth.
You should expect your ego and pride to flare up when a Teacher begins to point out where you are limiting yourself. There can be no progress if you choose loyalty to the family over loyalty to the Christ. This is the essence of what Jesus meant in the verse quoted. In fact, taking it a step further, He stated that keeping that old life will actually cost you your life. Our challenge is taking up the new life for the sake of God which will eventually lead you to want to follow God’s Will and relax your own.
Once you can acknowledge that the habitual patterns of behavior come from faulty beliefs and that your family has been a strong contributor, we can move on to step two. The next step is to choose a particular pattern of behavior that you want to change. Go into meditation and ask God (or Jesus or Mary) to reveal to you the root and pervasiveness of the pattern. It isn’t sufficient to just sit down and think through the issue. Your mind is likely to block out the parts that chafe your ego. In meditation, you can bypass the ego and see things more deeply and more clearly.
Write down all aspects of the belief system that led to the behaviors you want to change. In this process, you will begin to see the pervasiveness of the habits. It generally permeates how you think and what leads to emotional reactions. For example, let’s say the behavior you want to change is a tendency you have to get mad whenever things don’t go your way. Over your life, you have developed a wicked temper that expresses in many aggressive and passive aggressive ways.
In your meditation, you come to see that deep down, you belief that people have a hidden agenda to cause you pain and suffering. This belief system came from your upbringing in which your parents were self-centered and didn’t particularly care how their actions affected you. You can relay countless incidents in which they acted with limited concern for your feelings and at times did things they knew would cause you grief. You came to believe that people you love don’t care about what matters to you.
Over your life, you have seen this play out. You have consistently attracted partners that, though well meaning, reveal themselves to be highly selfish and not aware of your desires and feelings. Part of you gets very emotionally stirred up in these relationships. This is the mystery. The very thing that caused you grief and heartache growing up now elicits incredible hope and passion in you. Another part of you hates it and reacts fiercely against it. So what is the going on?
The truth is that you can’t see the truth. The pattern of trying to get more love from self centered people has become part of your DNA so to speak. You’ve accepted that this is how life works and the belief is so established as to become unrecognizable. You subconsciously believe that in order to be loved, you will be with someone who doesn’t care about you. This was what was taught. People find themselves attracted to people who fulfill their beliefs. What is true is that people are fallible and so sometimes they miss the boat and act in ways that are not sensitive to your needs and desires. That is a normal part of any close relationship.
A balanced, healed person learns to deal with those incidents as they come up. The wounded person continually expects this treatment and sees it as something that will always persistent and even that it is intentional. This gives rise to anger and them behaviors designed to regain power, many of which are just perpetuating the same problems in different forms. Instead, consider creating a new belief system to replace the old one. This is step 3. Again, use meditation to define the new belief because just thinking through it won’t be deep enough.
In our example, the new belief systems might sound like this- I am committed to a romantic partner who is considerate to my needs and values my desires. I offer the same considerations. I also accept that people make mistakes and when the times arise where I feel unconsidered, I will share my feelings with my partner and work out the issues while remaining relaxed. Together we can resolve anything that comes up since we love each other and value peace over drama and anger.
The final steps are the hardest because we have to teach ourselves new patterns of behavior. This means you will feel the temptation to act as you always have but must will yourself to act in ways that support your new beliefs. This part is virtually impossible without God. Jesus often taught that while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. When faced with the raging seas of emotion, or the long-established modes of thinking. we must reach within through prayer and meditation to ask for help. Always pray when feeling tempted to return to old ways of behaving. Then exert your will. This can mean making sure you have a clear process of behavior defined so you don’t fall into the old ways. What I mean here is that you define and teach yourself a routine to follow when things get really hard. For example… When I feel tempted to act on my old beliefs, I pray for help, then I reread my new belief statement then I meditate to check in with my feelings etc…
In addition, it is crucial that you share your process of transforming old beliefs with a teacher who has spiritual sight. The old beliefs often go deeper than initially realized. There can be layers of additional confusing messages that surface as we try to make these changes. Everything must surface so we can thoroughly make our choice known. When God sees that we see the whole pattern and reject it whole-heartedly, He will work the miracle and end the behavior all together. Before that would be a violation of your free will. This is why the process must be thorough before the miracle is given. You will need faith, determination, stamina and patience but in God, all things are possible.