There are forces in our unconscious that direct our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. You can call these forces unconscious beliefs. We have many of them that are helpful such as the automated routine for brushing our teeth or driving on the correct side of the road. We don’t think about these programmed behaviors and we don’t need to. Our brain has learned to run them as automatic programs in our unconscious mind and leaves our conscious attention to make new decisions. However, problems arise when our unconscious beliefs create patterns and habits of emotional reaction, sabotage, negative thoughts, procrastination, and destructive behaviors. In those cases, those invisible unconscious beliefs direct our mind and emotions to do things we don’t want.
Whatever is outside your awareness is unconscious to you. You are probably unconscious of the sensations in your feet until this moment. In a few seconds they will fall back outside your conscious awareness again. When you drive you move them to the pedals without conscious effort or thought.
In the beginning you had to put your conscious attention into these patterns and with repetition they became automatic. Writing letters to learn language became learned spelling words. We built sentences and then wrote stories. Later we type without having to think about what where keys are on the keyboard. We do the same with our automated behaviors and emotions. In our lives we create patterns in childhood that don’t serve us in adulthood. Some unconscious beliefs create self-sabotage, fears, an Inner Critic, anger, jealousy, procrastination, and negative thoughts. These are the beliefs worth bringing into your awareness, identify, and change.
Click on this resource to learn how to identify your core beliefs before identifying your unconscious beliefs.
What does an unconscious belief look like? In the beginning they don’t look like anything. Since they are unconscious they are invisible. But you can learn ways to see them, and then change them. In the beginning they may appear as a feeling or impulse. You might also get clues by some of the thoughts in your head. Beneath these will be interpretations, meaning, emotions, and often memories. Perhaps something embarrassing happened in grade school, other kids tease you, or you were bullied. This left you with a feeling of shame, unworthiness, or anger at others. Your mind learned a set of associations. Your mind learned that getting attention by a group of people means you will feel those same emotions of fear and shame. Like a Pavlov’s dog response, your mind begins to produce a response of shame, unworthiness, or anger if a group of people are paying attention to you. You might begin to feel those emotions if you think about a situation where people will be paying attention to you. Your mind is firing neural patterns together of emotions with learned stimulus and memory. You may not feel the full emotions of shame or anger because those strong emotions are buried into the unconscious. What you might notice is a feeling associated with public speaking.
More resources on emotional pain and human suffering here.
It is likely that you are not aware of your mind’s association to these grade school memories or emotionally charged beliefs. Just like you aren’t aware of how your feet felt for the past 60 seconds. One of the ways that beliefs remain unconscious is that we don’t put attention on the relationship between our current emotions and the historical pattern of those emotions. You grow in self-awareness when you begin asking yourself questions like, “When else have I felt this?” “When did the pattern of feeling this way begin?”
You probably also learned ways to hide those feelings. You also learned that it wasn’t good to have those feelings or express them so you repressed them so they wouldn’t come out. To cover up that feeling of shame, fear, or hurt, perhaps you also learned to become likable by pleasing others, worked hard to be professionally competent, or the comedic class clown making others laugh. You masked the unworthiness with a positive behavior and image for getting good attention. Perhaps it works for many years and you do it automatically it seems like the real you. This may be much of your normal personality, but underneath is the belief, “I have to behave this way or people won’t like me/they will criticize me and then I will feel hurt and ashamed.” You might feel trapped, or resentful in a positive behavior of protection, but not know why.
Needing help overcoming your low self esteem and insecurity? Click on this resource.
When you get older and become more conscious you may begin to feel kind of false when acting as the comedian. The Inner Judge says you are being silly and immature and should grow up and be more serious. Maybe the Judge says your professional persona isn’t working hard enough to make a good impression. In a way the shame and unworthiness emotions are still leaking through from the unconscious belief. Not knowing where it is coming from your mind tells you to be more perfect professionally to make up for it. Your Inner Judge incorrectly blames the Professional, Perfectionist, or Comedian Mask as inadequate. But the unpleasant emotions are coming from these masking sub-personalities “not being good enough”. The emotion is coming from the unconscious belief originating in grade school about how people see you. You have been carrying it and covering it up for years.
As a masking or compensating strategy, being more professional, or doing things to make others like you can be a good thing. When it is overdone, which often happens when it is a strategy for covering other emotions, you can burn out or become resentful. Other strategies are obviously more destructive. Anger, a controlling behavior, withdrawal, self-sabotage or trying to be “perfect” cause more emotional pain. The “being perfect” might be where your conscious attention and all the effort goes and keeps your attention away from the shame emotions it tries to hid. These emotions of unworthiness and fear beliefs remain outside your awareness just like the feelings of your feet.
Perhaps you want to let go of some “being perfect” or “trying too hard to get people to like you” strategy. You notice that when attempting to change these behaviors you feel uncomfortable and fall back into them. You just can’t seem to help yourself. Behaviors like this aren’t objects you can pick up and change because they are anchored to unconscious beliefs and emotions. The “trying to get others to like you” or “perfectionist” is part of how you repress emotions of unworthiness, shame, and anger. Removing the masking strategy means that you will feel more of the unworthiness and shame emotions.
Unconscious beliefs is a system of layers often going deeper into your past.
Intellect – Let’s stop being: angry/comedian/trying to be perfect
Conscious – I feel like a fraud trying to be that funny. / I’m working too hard for what I get in return. / I don’t need to be perfect.
Unconscious Belief – I like the approval and positive attention that I get when I am funny/deliver at work/ do things perfectly.
OR – Unconscious Belief – I like the safety of power I feel when I get angry at people. If I can hurt or scare them then they won’t criticize me.
Unconscious Belief – If I am not getting positive attention from these strategies, they will be making fun of me and criticizing me.
Unconscious Belief – I fear the criticism and emotions of unworthiness from others.
Unconscious Memory – Without these compensating behaviors I will feel the painful emotions of shame, and unworthiness that I learned to believe about myself from that time in school.
Often we don’t notice these beliefs and unprocessed repressed emotions is because unconscious beliefs are directing our attention to focus on “being perfect”, trying to get others to like us, or what others are doing wrong so we can be angry at them. Your unconscious beliefs are even driving what you focus your attention on, and this often means avoiding putting attention on emotions.
You only notice these layered beliefs and emotions running in the background when you take the time to look deeper. Like your knee or foot, you only notice them when you put attention on them. Sometimes when they are in pain you are forced to pay attention. If you have spent the past years automatically looking away from those uncomfortable emotions of shame, unworthiness, or anger, you haven’t noticed them behind the other parts of your behavior.
When you go to change a certain behavior, like “trying hard to be perfect” or anger, your unconscious beliefs will push you to continue to the behavior. It has an automated program trying to protect you from feeling the associated emotions of shame and unworthiness. Your intellect might want the behavior to change, but your unconscious beliefs keep steering you towards the pattern. It is an autopilot program still trying to protect you emotionally. To effectively change a behavior, or negative thought, you will often need to inventory these other layers of beliefs and release the emotions so they can changes as well.
Feeling Unworthy and Beliefs Perfection – a resource.
Sometimes you can consciously override the unconscious program of beliefs. You stay alert, and refrain from the anger, “being perfect”, or comedic behavior. This may work for a while. It usually fails to work when you are stressed or tired. At that point the unconscious program reasserts itself as the default strategy. Your inner critic, not knowing how these unconscious belief programs return to default may criticize you for “failing”. It is a bogus self-criticism since the inner critic doesn’t consider the benefits the protection program of unconscious beliefs is based on. By the way, the Inner Critic of the Judge, is also run by unconscious beliefs behind it’s words and intention.
The self-judgment of the inner Judge is not enough motivation to change the behavior. It usually compounds the problem by adding emotions of feeling like a failure.
To be clear, your personal will power will only work sometimes. Even then you won’t really feel relaxed. You will always feel the need to be on guard to override the impulses from the unconscious beliefs. Self-judgment makes the change more difficult. It is another automatic program of the mind that had benefits years before no longer does.
Unconscious beliefs are almost always at the core of your emotions, behaviors, and thinking. They can be changed, but you will have to do more than just consciously will yourself to be different. For effective change of unconscious beliefs the best approach is to first develop a strong mindful observer perspective. From that observer perspective, bring awareness and understanding to your layers of beliefs is what makes permanent change possible. Many of your habits, even ones the Inner Judge concludes are bad for you, may have had some benefit in the past. As you become aware you can upgrade these methods of emotional safety to more healthy approaches of self-care. You can also release the stored emotions from your past so masking strategies of the perfectionist or people pleasing are not necessary.
Needing help to change your core beliefs? Click here.
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This video breaks down some of the beliefs that might be below the surface of awareness. The “need to be right” can have unconscious benefits emotionally.
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