A negative belief is something we hold onto, like a gift your girlfriend gave you before cheating. We keep it because we think it gives us value. It provides a stable sense of identity while providing us the happiness of fantasy beneath the sadness.
The trouble is people act and behave in accordance with who they think they are. Holding onto the belief, like holding onto the gift traps that energy in your life. No matter how many affirmations and visualizations we do, that energy is still there, bound to our identity like a tumor. In order to move onto a more positive belief, we must remove the tumor. Fortunately, there is no physical operation and removing the tumor is as simple as releasing the emotion we are holding onto.
Simple? Not quite. Like an operation is physically painful, removing a belief is emotionally painful. The happiness beneath lay behind the sad truth of the belief: "she didn't actually like me that much." We subconsciously know the pain we must face to release the emotion, causing us to cling tighter and tighter to this belief until it suffocates us. We build our life around the falsehood.
On the improv stage, limiting beliefs come up all the time as we see what part of the story people habitually don't want to explore. No matter how exciting fighting the monster would be - Johnny doesn't want to open the door. What suffocates an improv scene is the same belief that suffocates our life and we can coach the student to follow the fear and release the belief and release his life. This is the most rewarding part of coaching improv (for the most powerful moment, read here).
So far we've seen two options for limiting beliefs:
1. Fix the belief when it finally threatens to suffocate the life out of you (mid-life crisis, anyone?)
2. Join an improv class and shake out your beliefs on-stage
Fortunately there's a third option which is completely free and can be done from the comfort of your own home: meditation.
It's not ONLY meditation, but the mind-body awareness that comes from sitting and breathing is at the core of this technique. It also borrows heavy from NLP.
Pick a negative belief such as "I'm not a good dancer."
Get comfortable, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Tell yourself "I am willing to let go of this belief." I choose to let go of this belief. And as you make this choice, feel what part of your body reacts. Maybe your shoulders, upper back or throat. When you get a sense of where this negative energy lay in your body, relax. Allow that tension to release from the muscles and feel the energy flow. Do not have the intent to get rid of it. Simply, love it, thank it for being a part of you and wait as it finds it's way back into the world.
Like lactic acid after a run, the belief will now be in your body and you may experience latent emotions from the belief so be sure to plenty of water and flush it out. Your dreams may be vivid as your body adjusts to living a lighter, freer life and you'll wake up the next day full of possibility without that belief.
At some point you may realize how these deeply ingrained beliefs drain your energy because it requires more energy to keep the belief satisfied than to follow our life's mission. The reason life coaching "works" to is as we rid ourselves of false beliefs we make room for our core self to roam freer and more confident. This core self is the source of our energy, sexuality and fun and can completely change the way we are perceived in the world.
As we go deeper into our belief structure we start to ask the question "why am i attached to any of my beliefs?" and buddhism looms high in the mind. The truth is that by remaining detached from all of our beliefs - the positive and the negative - we maintain the "beginners mind" talked about by zen masters of the buddhist tradition. Every moment is able to be processed by the core self, rather than be made to fit our own machinations caused by beliefs.
You may ask, then how do you live at all if everything is brand new? What about all you learned in school? You don't forget to walk? Surely you keep something.
And the answer is that belief starts to resemble sand layering a glass rather than the hard-and-strict rules imposed on us by western civilization. How do we live? Quite well! We have access the core life energy flowing from within ourselves and the earth beneath and the skies above. It is a better way to live, one where we are merely a vessel for the emotions and energies that flow through us rather than masters, trying to tame and shepard it to our whims.
I believe that maturity is a pre-requisite to this kind of living but that is probably a wrong belief. For example, I wouldn't want anyone to mistake the message of this post for the message "be passive." Because being open and fluid isn't about being passive rather it's about not holding onto outcomes.
In other words... let things go.
The irony and brutal truth of the world as that we can sense what others fear and instinctively put pressure on each other's wounds. It is one of the many subtle ways we evolved to push our leaders to be better and stronger for the whole. One way to lead is to be the biggest and meanest. The other way is to combine "strong enough" with unconditionally open, accepting and free.
Being totally open and fluid is unpredictable and uncommon and therefore a better strategy in the long-term even if you lose the short-term battles. It is the bridging of east and west, greek stoicism and eastern buddhism that represents the only way to survive in the coming age of automation, radical transparency and a growing rise of our nature towards the stars.
Dream Big and breathe away the rest!