Have you ever been in a situation where you had to stand up in front of an audience and give a speech but you end up shaking, stuttering and feeling like you want to run out the door?
Or you’re at a party, you don’t like being around people and your anxiety is through the roof?
Or how about you’re thinking to yourself that you are hopeless or worthless and your mood plummets and makes you feel really low?
On the surface it looks like an automatic random response to a situation. But have you noticed that whenever you’re in a similar situation the emotion is the same? But what is happening here? Why is it the same every.single.time?
You might think, ‘but it’s always been like this it can never change’. And ‘my medical specialist said I’m broken and can’t be fixed’.
Let’s get one thing absolutely clear here. It may be a shock or surprise to you but you’re not broken. Let me repeat that YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. And things can change, if you want to change. And that’s the key thing: if you want to change.
Because if you want to change you will do everything in your power to make it happen, then resources will become available to you. A lot of times it looks like serendipity but is actually the unconscious mind is finding things for you.
But how can you change things when things have always been like this? It turns out that these emotions arise from beliefs that we made when we were children. We’ll discover how beliefs affect mood and mental health.
There is a period of time during life that is known as the imprint period. This is the period where all beliefs about ourselves and our world are formed. It occurs between the ages of 3-11. This is a period where the child’s brain is like a sponge and any beliefs get imprinted into the subconscious.
For instance when you are 7 years old you might be with a group of your ‘best’ friends. For some reason they stop liking you. You become anxious. Now, when you’re 10 you’re being picked for a sports team. You’re not good at sport and you are picked last because no one wants you on your team so you feel anxious. This feeling gets reinforced over and over again as you grow up. This is known as a Gestalt. Then suddenly you’re 30 and you get feeling of anxiety every time you think someone doesn’t like you.
The child believes this from a child’s perspective, but as you become an adult this belief doesn’t serve you anymore, yet you still get the same anxiety.
So you can see the link between emotions and beliefs.
Model of Thoughts & Emotions
When you have a thought it is based on a belief. This thought produces an emotion. You react in a certain way and an action happens which produces a result which then reinforces the belief/thought (shown below in the diagram)
Trouble happens when you get stuck in the loop. So a person suffering from anxiety might have a fear of failure. Their thought might be: ‘I can’t fail’. This produces an anxiety about failing. They then get all shaky, can’t concentrate. They then make mistakes with work. Then, their boss reads their report and makes a negative comment about it. Which then causes the thought of ‘I can’t fail’ to happen again. And then a negative spiral happens.
To break the cycle there’s two places that you can attack it from. You can tackle the emotion. You can do this with medicine. Or in addition you can attack it at the thought/belief level. At one level, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works wonders. It redirects your thoughts especially if you have anxiety that comes from ‘what if’ or catastrophising thoughts. But at an even deeper level you can attack it at the level of the belief.
So how do you find out what your beliefs are that are triggering the emotion? You just have to look at your language. When you have an anxiety it can come from a range of fears. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being around people, fear of public speaking. You just need to figure out what that fear is.
For other beliefs when you say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I must/mustn’t’ or ‘I should/shouldn’t’ that is a belief.
When you say ‘I am..’ this is also a belief. For example I am worthless, I am hopeless.
These are the beliefs that you have to tackle.
What do you do when you have a belief?
When you have a belief. You have to stop giving it power. It is a lie. A lie that you told yourself when you were a child but is no longer true for you now. What you can do is on a piece of paper write down all of the negative beliefs that you have about yourself and the world.
Then cross it out and write ‘it is a lie’. Then next to it write what you want to think instead. For instance you might have a fear of public speaking. Write it down. Now cross it out and write it is a lie. Now instead you want to be thinking ‘people aren’t judging me they just want to hear what I have to say’.
But there are other ways of helping with that belief.
The Power of Affirmations
Taking the new beliefs that you created when you crossed out the old belief, turn it into an affirmation. Write it in a journal over and over again, like lines on a blackboard at school.
Affirmations are a way of rewiring the brain. When you form a belief you create a link between two parts of the brain. Every time you have that thought you are reinforcing the belief and soon it turns into a super highway. Every time a trigger happens you automatically feel a particular emotion because of the super highway.
Using affirmations you rewire the brain by creating a new super highway and giving less energy and power to the old super highway. Then when a trigger happens you have a new emotion.
Helping to Improve Emotions With NLP
One of the most powerful ways of helping with these limiting beliefs is through Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is about how we talk to ourselves and how we talk to other people. And you can help your negative limiting beliefs by using language.
The following technique is adapted from NLP: The Essential Guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming by Tom Hoobyar.
First think of the belief/emotion that you want to feel better about. Now think of three things that you would like to feel instead and a specific time that you felt those feelings.
Now imagine a circle on the ground about 2 feet in diameter. Make it whatever colour you like.
Next think of your first feeling that you would like to have. Think of a specific time that you had that feeling. Really feel the feeling. See what you saw, hear what you heard and really feel the feeling of that emotion. When that emotion is the best that it can be step into the circle. Stay there for 5 seconds then step out of it leaving the emotion in the circle.
Repeat for the other 2 emotions.
Now test it. Step into the circle and see if you’re emotion is elevated. If it isn’t try repeating the steps again.
Now think of a situation in the future where you have that negative emotion. For instance when you have to give a talk in front of a group of people. You probably feel anxious. Now step into the circle and feel your emotion change. Step back out once your mood changes. Now think about that future situation again and see how you feel about it.
So you can see how beliefs and emotions are connected. They don’t exist separate from each other. You saw the model of how our thoughts link to emotions that link to actions and then outcome and the terrible situation when you get trapped into that cycle. The cycle can be broken by either medicine or tackling your thoughts/beliefs using affirmations or an NLP technique to change your mood. So hopefully now you have a better understanding of how beliefs effect mood and mental health.
Kristin is a NLP Practitioner and Health Coach helping people with mood and mental health. She has bipolar disorder. In the past she had an attempted suicide and two nervous breakdowns. But through technques to improve mood and control emotions she hasn’t had any symptoms of mental illness for 10 years. Now she teaches her method to other people so they can also get over overwhelm.
To work with her click here
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