Ok, ok, so I admit it, I have been changing.
In the last couple of years, my take on hypnosis has changed massively. Those of you that read my blog regularly will have noted the change in tone. I have gone much more toward an evidence based ideology for my hypnosis work and is a far cry from much of my earlier work of 10 years ago. I am about to start a new podcast that will be found on iTunes aimed at updating my stance on hypnosis and hypnotherapy… maybe that’ll all need updating in a few years time again!
I think it healthy to evolve and develop and move forwards.
When it comes to beliefs, I find them fascinating, absolutely fascinating. it seems like just yesterday I believed in Father Christmas. And it seems like an age ago that I had certain opinions and beliefs about my field of work as a hypnotherapist. When it comes to certain theories and processes related to this field these days, I find myself saying the words of Victor Meldrew “I don’t believe it.”
One thing that I have found fascinating is how our beliefs influence who and how we are.
Robert Anton Wilson wrote further about this notion when he wrote “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves.” By this, he referred to us all having within us a thinker and a prover and when we thought any kind of thought, the prover within us tends to filter out and edit all the information we are presented with, so that it fits that thought.
Your beliefs are pretty much the rules of your life, well at least they are the rules that you will no doubt be living by. These rules may be what sets you free to achieve things in your life and live the way that you think is important. These beliefs may well also be restricting you and holding you back; they may even be creating the belief that you are incapable of achieving the outcomes you’d like in life.
I believe in gravity and am guessing that you all believe in it too. Now, I have never been inclined to test gravity by trying to walk on air, that would be crazy! Gravity is not influenced or altered in any way, shape or form by my belief in it; or yours for that matter. However, our relationships, abilities and possibilities are all influenced by our beliefs about them.
We tend to form our beliefs as the result of our experiences and then we act as if they are true. In one sense they are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you are a likeable person, you will act that way, approach people openly, be agreeable, warm and enjoy being with people. They will warm to you and so confirm your belief. We think that beliefs are formed by experiences, but equally experiences are the results of beliefs. Hmmm… interesting stuff eh?
So this then means that you can choose your beliefs!! Wer-hey!
Before we all start getting too excited at this prospect (I can tell you are all on the edge of your seats now) understand that the belief that beliefs are changeable is in itself a challenging belief to many people because they tend to think of beliefs as possessions. People talk about ‘holding’ and ‘having’ beliefs, ‘losing’ or ‘gaining’ them. No one wants to ‘lose’ something. It would be better talking about them ‘leaving’ or ‘outgrowing’ beliefs rather than ‘losing’ them.
What’s more, we all have a personal investment in our own beliefs. When the world confirms them, then they make a lot of sense to us, they are then predictable and give us a sense of security and certainty. We even may take a perverse pleasure in disaster, providing we have predicted it; how many of you have used the term ‘I told you so’ and found it to be a satisfying phrase? Not because you necessarily wanted anything to go wrong, but because your beliefs were proved correct.
So, let me move on to the subject of negative and limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are the major offender stopping us from achieving our goals and living our dreams. They act as rules that stop us from getting what exists within us as potential and we all have so much potential that we do not tap into nearly enough. Limiting beliefs hold us back from achieving what we are actually capable of and what we deserve.
So have a good think about this question; “What is stopping you from achieving your goal?” and know that the answers are very often your limiting beliefs.
Early limiting beliefs may come from childhood influences such as parents or teachers or people whose beliefs we deemed worthy of believing ourselves. These early beliefs often stay hidden and we do not consciously evaluate them as adults. We also pick up limiting beliefs from the media. The numerous soap operas that take up so many hours of TV time set up situations where the characters have to act out ridiculous limitations, otherwise there simply is no drama to compulsively view!
Here are some typical limiting beliefs that are amazingly common;
“No pain – no gain.”
“I need to have lots of money to be happy.”
“I can’t trust anybody.”
“I am more unlucky than others.”
“You can’t get over a bad start in life.”
“I am too old to learn to use a computer.”
“I can’t earn more money without other people losing it.”
“I never get what I am after.”
“Other people are better than me.”
“I do not deserve to be successful.”
“I can’t get what I want.”
“I have reached my limits.”
“I need to work very hard to have enough money to live.”
“Success takes a very long time.”
This is important: These and similar beliefs are only true if you act as if they are. Suppose they are mistaken? what difference would that make? Is the difference worthwhile?
In the process of achieving your goals, sometimes just being able to articulate any existing limiting beliefs and in turn noticing their effect is enough to alter or dissolve your old unwanted belief and therefore change and update your own reality.
It has certainly been my experience that the majority of people are not usually aware of their limiting beliefs. So the first step is to put them into language or to write them down. Then they are exposed and can be examined and ideally let go of.
The best way is to simply ask yourself what the reasons are that you are not currently achieving your goal. What do you think is holding you back? Ask yourself that question and answer as truthfully and thoroughly as you can. The answers will reveal what it is that you perceive to be limitations. More often than not, these limits will be more about you than about the world. When they are about you, they are something that can be changed or updated.
A good principle to work from is the following;
Whatever you state is preventing you from achieving your goal is a belief and comes from you, not reality.
So having asked yourself the above question, if you then take one of those beliefs that you consider to be a core belief, you can apply some rational thinking to it, to go about challenging it. Just follow these simple steps:
Step One: Firstly, write down the unwanted core belief.
Step Two: Secondly, ask yourself how true it feels and record that as a percentage.
Now write down as a percentage, how true the belief is in reality.
Step Three: Now run through all of these questions in relation to the unwanted belief:
When does that feel most emotionally convincing?
When does it feel least emotionally convincing?
What actual evidence do you have for that negative belief?
What evidence do you have that contradicts or challenges it?
What possible advantages are there to holding the negative core belief?
What possible disadvantages are there to holding the negative core belief?
What possible thinking errors are contained in that negative core belief?
Step Four: Now ask yourself again how true the negative core belief feels now that you have answered all those questions and write it down as a percentage.
Step Five: Write down a new core belief that is going to be better than and is going to replace the old one.
Think of what would be a more realistic and helpful alternative and jot it down.
Step Six: With that new belief written down, answer these questions:
How true does it feel? (Write down as a percentage)
How true is it in reality?
When does it feel least emotionally convincing?
When does that feel most emotionally convincing?
What evidence could you possibly have against it?
What evidence do you have for that positive core belief?
What disadvantages are there to holding your positive core belief?
What advantages are there to holding your positive core belief?
How true does it feel now?
That really should be helping you to rigorously dismantle unwanted beliefs and get tuned into reality and get an alternative lodged in your mind! I have certainly found it useful whilst updating my own beliefs professionally and personally.
Excellent post, Adam! We were introduced to the concept of cognitive behavioural therapy very briefly in university and it sounded interesting. I read more about REBT later when I was struggling to adapt to a new job. It was life altering! When you actually challenge them, so much of the things we hold to be truths have absolutely no basis. The new belief doesn’t even have to be something totally opposite to the old one….just believable & rational. It still gives the courage to get out there and give life a go. And then the positive stuff grows and grows…
Thanks Grá, they are fascinating fields.
On my training diploma we do an REBT exercises where each person has to argue the opposite side of a popularly held belief. The idea being that if done with a client, the client gets to argue (via therapeutic roleplay) the other side of a limiting (potentially harmful) belief they hold true. It is illuminating stuff!
Good hearing from you 🙂 Adam.
Glad to hear you’re going for a more scientific approach and can’t wait for your new material. I’m wondering how you feel about NLP these days. Would the Adam of now recommend people give it a place in their own self improvement efforts?
Hey Matt, good to hear from you.
I still think NLP has much to offer. They are huge parts of it that people need to understand are flawed and without much use. Micheal Heap and Irving Kirsch have both exposed bits of NLP that are proven to be flawed.
Yet, it still offers a great deal – heck, it was originally modlelled on the work of effective therapists!
I think the field of NLP needs to be less like a pyramind selling scheme, needs people to be able to think for themselves and not consider it all to be the law, and to be realistic about it all. Then perhaps it will make some progressive strides forward.
Best wishes, Adam.
Adam, have you seen any scientific evidence from Michael Heap disproving specific techniques and concepts of NLP? I’ve read everything referred to on his website about NLP and he’s certainly written a lot about the things he disagrees with. However he produces no scientific counter-evidence and his only cogent argument seems to be that if these things were correct, then they would already be part of established psychology practice and teaching. And how much of that was originally supported by scientific evidence, I wonder.
I can’t argue with you about the pyramid selling approach. I’m also concerned that more graduates of NLP seem to want to teach it than use it therapeutically. However, in selling, I’ve often heard the expression, “what’s the product got to do with sales success?” The problem with pyramid selling is primarily the sales technique not the product.
I empathise with part of what you write. However, the “ad ignorantiam” (appeal to ignorance) approach is not exactly the best route to argue. (The truth of a claim is established only on the basis of lack of evidence against it, this is basically whereby someone says something is true, because there is no evidence to prove it is not.)
Because there is no evidence disproving something, does that mean that it works? I do know what you mean in relation to Michael Heaps work, though it does get people discussing it and looking at the field with some objectivity rather than just (potentially naively) happy clapping about the topic and agreeing blindly about every element of it.
Irving Kirsch has many documented research studies that he pursued with some excited expectancy with the field of NLP), but found the fast phobia cure, for example, to be no more effective than placebo in controlled trials.
Why not argue the point by offering up some references that support the efficacy of NLP? In the same manner that I did today with my blog entry about memory retrieval, for example.
I’d love to see some proper studies supporting the field of NLP and the efficacy of the techniques – but none seem to be forthcoming. I wonder why that is?
I am not against NLP. I teach it. It has been a love of my life. I admire many people from within that field and it has been central to my work for years. Should I just accept every element of it without question? I have started to like to see evidence to support what I do and consider it responsible to be that way… These days I need more than just anecdotal evidence too.
And my comment about the pyramid selling was about the field in general, which is not wholly unrelated to the subject matter.
Whereby the map is not the territory, I understand that the students and teachers are not the subject matter. But they are contributing to the field and I think you are arguing that small point because you take offence to anyone daring to question NLP, which is a subject I know you love.
Always a pleasure hearing from you Andrew,
Best wishes, Adam.
Hold on there, Adam, I only challenged a couple of things! You are sounding as if you love the scientific method as much as you seem to think I love NLP. And they say that love is blind.
It just seems unrealistic to apply objective scientific method to therapies that are of their nature subjective and expect any meaningful results. Comparing a simple sugar pill to the sort of work you do with hypnosis and NLP is not comparing apples with apples – or even oranges.
Are you saying that you don’t believe that there’s something useful in all the NLP techniques you taught me and others? You certainly taught them like you believed in them. Now I don’t necessarily agree with all of NLP – there are so many authors and ex-spurts out there for that.
So how exactly do you scientifically test NLP or Hypnosis against a placebo? I assume you mean a sugar pill given without any conversational diagnostic work – the therapy starts with the interview. When Irving Kirsch tested the NLP phobia cure against a placebo, did he just say to the client ” Hi, I understand you have a phobia, here take one of these pills”?
I can’t argue with your comments about “ad ignoratum” apart from observing that it works in both directions. To quote Carl Sagan, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
Still your friend, I hope, Andrew
Andrew, firstly I’ll refer you to this article I wrote some weeks back, please do read:
My opinion is that we should aim to see both sides of any subject matter and not just believe in everything we are taught and the angle it is presented.
I think this of NLP.
But I also think it of hypnotherapy applications. CBT applications. Gestalt applications. And don’t even get me started on energy/meridian therapies that seem to proliferate our fields. I was asked about NLP in the first instance and so commented upon it. NLP was not getting picked on.
I still teach NLP. I still have great passion and hold much value for the subject. I am just talking about being objective and intelligent about what we are taught. I am not slating the field and I stand by everything that you were taught.
Placebo are not just sugar pills. Not at all. The techniques are often measured against ‘no treatment’ waiting lists of people, as well as those with whom conventional methods are applied and the placebo mesured trials are much more sophisticated than sugar pills these days. Indeed, over the years, the academics and researchers have considered the issues you raise, many people before you have raised the same concerns and the idea is to do what we can to test the effectiveness of treatments. Triple blind, peer reviewed studies that feature in formal journals are the methodologies should consider investigating. They are very robust.
That said, everyone and everything develops. Certainly I do not like standing still. As I wrote to you in the forum, I was trained in hypnotherapy initially 15 years ago and I hope that course has been updated during that time because much has changed in the field.
Likewise, I want to be at the forefront of the fields I am involved in. In the past 3 years for example, systemic NLP and new code NLP have made a lot of sweeping statements about the way NLP was (and sometimes still is) taught in the past 5-10 years… And these are people like Robert Dilts and John Grinder talking about updates in the field. They admit to many developments in their own work over time.
…and finally, Andrew, it is healthy to discuss this stuff, good for us both, I am still and shall certainly continue to be your friend, take care 🙂 Adam.