Lesson nineteen: When New Beliefs Feel Wrong – Understanding Associations
An essential part of the transforming and balancing that you’re doing is that you have to make a conscious effort to look for evidence of your new beliefs because you have a long-standing habit of automatically accepting your old beliefs and anything you associated with it as correct.
If you imagine your mind doing batch processing and that it would be impossible for you to consciously do every last thing in your day (your mind and body do millions of things every day, and most are automated), then you will understand that you have positive and negative associations and that each time you experience anything that you associate with a negative belief, it’s automatically ‘bagged and tagged’.
By using generalisations and not consciously sorting through evidence, you may be using negative beliefs to sort your associations into the wrong batches.
This is why when you try to adapt your habits in response to having transformed your beliefs, you may feel weird, bad, or afraid. Your actions feel “wrong”.
If you’re experiencing this, it’s time to look at what you associate with the subject of your belief.
For instance, I used to batch process all instances of criticism as ‘negative’, ‘personal attack’, ‘rejection’, ‘not good enough’ and the list goes on. Getting conscious about my associations helped me to decipher between feedback and criticism. I could be in the present and get a sense of the uniqueness and reality of each instance, because I wasn’t learning anything whether it was about me or others, by having these associations and basically automatically playing the old narrative in the background.
It’s not that all criticism is bad so I had to look at where my negative associations came from (childhood experiences), and this gave me an opportunity to not only change the narrative but to also recognise my blind spots. I had to be extra aware and listen instead of going into combat and/or rejected mode.
Over the years I’ve challenged my beliefs and associations about anything that has compromised my self-esteem. Some of the associations are still there – but they are associated with a different meaning, after all, we can’t change the fact that these events happened or that we were deeply affected at the time. What we can do is change the meanings and also be very conscious of our responses.
Get conscious about your associations because you are biased towards evidence that supports your old beliefs and patterns. When I ask people who are afraid of criticism to recall instances when they were complimented or praised, on playing their mental tapes back, all had either not registered these instances, or they had but had disregarded them. They were considered irrelevant.
In reality, we can find evidence to support anything we like – a quick surf of the internet regarding any type of ‘ism’ quickly reveals this.
It’s where we choose to put our energy that matters.
You have to choose whether you want to continue to look for evidence that will help you to feel small or whether you want to look for evidence that will help you to grow, evolve, and experience happiness. When you do so, you will be surprised at what you notice. You will listen more instead of only listening for keywords or certain feelings, and you won’t just slide into autopilot mode. You may find that you’re suddenly less aware of media stories that used to amp up your fears.
It’s also not just about looking for evidence to support your evolving beliefs but also about looking for evidence that you feel better than you did before. This is a cumulative effect that starts with small steps. But if you pay close attention to how you are feeling when you do certain things that support your new habits of thinking, you will be far less inclined to reach for old beliefs that do not make you feel good or grow, even if they do let you be ‘comfortable’.
Lesson 20 will help you reorganise your associations.