The process of developing self mastery requires that we be completely honest with our self. One of the tools to assist in this complete honesty is the core belief inventory. By making an inventory you can break through the layers of denial, ego, image projection, and false beliefs. In this way we have an opportunity to be more authentic.
Some people think that you will unravel your beliefs by writing down the thoughts in your head. If you do that you will be missing many of the underlying beliefs below those thoughts. There’s a more effective way. To give you an idea of what is involved in a core belief inventory I’ve charted out an example below.
If you are hoping to change an emotional reaction it can be difficult. Either it is too big to stop, and you get carried away, or you don’t even know where to start. In the example I break down an emotional reaction into smaller and smaller pieces. In this thin slicing approach you are able to see that an emotional reaction of anger is actually formed and sustained by several different beliefs, and several different points of view. One of the easy ways to change an emotional reaction like anger is to break it down into smaller manageable pieces.
One of the skills you learn in the Self Mastery program is how to identify and change these dynamics your self. Below is an example inventory from one of my clients that helped build his awareness of all the contributing elements and change his emotional reactions
Example: Feeling Angry and Frustrated With Your Boss
Feeling frustrated and angry at work is way too common. A common source of frustration and anger is our relationship with our boss. I’ll share with you about Mike who felt frustrated and even angry at the lack of recognition for his efforts at work. What is important about this story is what Mike’s beliefs were in connection with the story. The beliefs in Mike’s mind have as much or more to do with his frustration as his boss. But we usually don’t look at those beliefs. We are usually too busy noticing what our boss is doing or not doing to catch what the mind is up to. In Mikes case he was unaware of the beliefs behind is thoughts. When he took the time to take an inventory of his beliefs he saw a way of eliminating the frustration he was having with his boss.
Mike’s original understanding of what caused his frustration
Mike doesn’t feel valued by his boss. She (the boss) doesn’t appreciate what he has to contribute. At times she doesn’t even want to hear his ideas. He feels frustrated and even gets angry at his boss for closing the door on what he is passionate about.
If Mike doesn’t want to feel frustrated and angry any more what can he do?
Some people might advise that he attempt to open the lines of communication with her. Others might tell Mike to let it go, don’t make such a big deal about it, or get another job if it really bothers him.
He has tried to have a discussion with his boss about the issue but she shrugs it off. She doesn’t feel it is a problem and wants Mike to get on with his work. She is not as interested in Mike’s ideas as with getting the job done the way she wants it done.
Opening up lines of communication with someone in order to clear the air is a good idea. But if you aren’t aware of different aspects of your own personality then you may be headed into the conversation blind. To see the rest of the picture Mike might be better served by understanding how his belief system affects his emotions.
When Mike shared this situation he was aware that he had a role in the emotional dynamic, but didn’t know what part was his responsibility. He also didn’t know what was getting his emotions stirred up. There were various aspects of his personality that were at play that he hadn’t identified. I refer to these aspects as archetype characters. Using archetype characters becomes a helpful way to break out the subtle differences between emotions like anger and frustration.
Understanding the Whole Picture of what the Mind is Doing
Mike shared the other stories that were going on in his mind. They weave beliefs together to form a string of emotional reactions that I outline below.
- She (the boss) is not open to new ideas.
- The organization would be better off if she were more open and implement some of his ideas.
- She wants to maintain control
- She should recognize my value and what I have to contribute.
It didn’t take long for Mike to look at these comments and figure out it was his inner judge running with these stories.
Some other thoughts and feelings Mike had in his mind
- Mike also noticed he felt sad just before he felt angry about the lack of recognition.
- Mike felt that he could do her job better than her.
- Mike had become aware that his anger was pushing up ideas of defiance and rebellion. He wanted to sabotage the boss’s efforts and prove she was doing things wrong. These weren’t thoughts he wanted to have.
Fortunately Mike had enough awareness to observe the different attitudes and emotions in this dynamic and so this only took a few minutes. With that we laid out the matrix of beliefs that were at the core of his emotional reactions. It looked like this.
|Archetype Character||Storyline and / or Behavior||Emotion|
|Princess||Ideal of how Mike should be treated by his boss. This included recognition to the degree that his ideas had to be implemented.||Pride, self worth, but also self importance and ego|
|Victim||Boss wasn’t recognizing Mike according to hidden criteria of expectations. Mike believed he was being mistreated relative to this criteria.||Hurt, sad, feeling of unworthiness|
|Victim||My personal value is based on my contributions. This paradigm isn’t spoken but is hidden in the reaction.||Disempowering|
|Victim||Mike held his boss responsible for his hurt and sadness (blame). This victim interpretation gave him a feeling that she had power over his emotions.||Powerlessness|
|Authentic Desire||I want to change this feeling.||Emotional Integrity|
|Victim (distorts the authentic desire)||“I want to change this situation and emotion but I can’t.” Having given power over his emotion to his boss creates the paradigm that he can’t change his own emotions.||Frustration, and feeling trapped|
|Judge||The feeling of powerlessness added to his story that she was controlling.||Sense of being right about her.|
|Judge||She hurt him and therefore should be punished.||Righteous|
|Judge||The boss shouldn’t be so controlling and instead should be more open to ideas.||Feeling of being right (self importance)|
|Judge||She is a poor boss and is not doing a good job.||Righteous|
|This series of judgments is a reaction to the disempowering beliefs of the victim character. It is a way compensate by building himself up and feeling better emotionally. The image of himself on the moral high ground is closer to authenticity but falsely based. It only supports the rationalizations for his anger.|
|Judge||“Because I am right and she is wrong I have the moral high ground here. Punishment is now authorized.”||Righteous and moral|
|Rebel||“I’m going to punish her by directing my anger at her.”||Anger|
|Rebel||“I’m going to sabotage her projects to prove I’m right. This retribution will be justice.”||Sense of defiance and justice about it|
Sometimes people give up the fight to be heard and get their ideas across. They let go of their passion, but keep the sense of powerlessness from the victim’s archetype. This is a set up to feed stories of judgment and anger later. They don’t feel frustrated, but they aren’t happy and fulfilled either.
When you inventory and change the specific problem beliefs you can let go of what upsets you while continuing to be inspired and engaged by the aspects of work you enjoy. In Mike’s case he can shift the expectations of his boss without throwing in the towel about other aspects of his job.
Trying to solve the problem without Self Awareness
Consider the scenario of Mike not being aware of how his belief system was interpreting his boss’s behavior. Consider that he is not aware of how the archetypes of his personality are affecting his attitude and emotions. If Mike were to seek an open communication dialogue with his boss how would it go? He would likely and unknowingly bring attitudes of judgment, victimization, princess expectations, and rebellion to the conversation. Mike would probably feel “right” according to his belief system and archetypes, but that wouldn’t make for a healthy constructive dialogue.
Looking inward and taking responsibility for our half of the emotional reaction is an uncommon approach. However it is also the empowering one. If we look outwards and point the finger at someone else we are claiming to be powerless over what is happening inside ourselves. Being aware that our happiness and emotions are a product of our beliefs puts the capacity for change in our own hands.
If you take careful notice of the chain reaction of stories and emotions you will see that the first reaction was to his boss. From then on Mike was basically reacting to his the interpretations in his mind and the emotions he felt. The belief system and voices in his head was reacting to itself.
As self awareness grows you gain more dominion over the core beliefs in your mind and the characters of your personality. Awareness and responsibility allow you to dispense with unpleasant emotional reactions by choosing how you interpret events and what you will believe. Dominion over your beliefs allows you to create happiness for yourself in all your relationships.
In the Self Mastery Course I walk you through the steps so that you can create an inventory of the thoughts and small beliefs behind an emotional issue. By breaking the situation down into the smaller pieces you gain more awareness and reactions become easier to change.
This isn’t the sum total of what is going on in Mike’s belief system. It is what we worked out in about 10 minutes and gave him plenty to work with for a while. There are more agreements embedded within the stories that came out later.