There are the many forms of limited self concepts, but here are the primary root forms:
I’m unworthy (not good enough, not deserving, therefore the universe is against me, nothing I do will work out)
I’m a victim (not strong enough or smart enough)
I’m special (Other people can get the right help and can change; not me)
I am what I think I am and nothing more (Don’t try to trick me into trying something new. It won’t work because the universe is against me – cycle back to #1)
I take up too much space (or There is not enough space for me. If I expressed myself freely, I’d bother people)
Limited self concepts are so painful when we deeply believe them that we do not recognize that, basically, they’re just complaints. Recognizing them as complaints can actually diminish the power they have over us. It can take them off the pedestal we have put them on as unassailable truths.
Stop the Madness! What’s the Antidote?
There are several ways to antidote these complaints. One way is to accept the possibility that they are true, but with an open respectful mind, require absolutely clear evidence: Say to yourself, “Maybe this is true about me, but I need clear proof. Please show it to me. If you do I will happily believe it, without complaint.”
Our habitual thoughts are fleeting and insubstantial and yet they catch us and put us in a box. Before we know what hit us, the next thought stream is carrying our attention away so that we can’t examine what hit us. This is the inherent hypnotic quality of chaotic speedy thinking.
Stage hypnotists know how to use this speedy thinking to entertain an audience. Hypnotic subjects can be made to accept even a weird suggestion if it is delivered in a moment of surprise and then immediately followed with a distraction. This technique can block our ability to evaluate the suggestion and reject it if it doesn’t serve us or make any sense.
But this doesn’t just happen if we volunteer to be a “good sport” with a stage hypnotist. Our own speedy minds do the same thing to us all the time! This is why it is important to address each of these limiting beliefs — in writing.
Write down (or type) the evidence that “proves” that your limited self concept is true. You must be honest with yourself and that could take practice. You may have to do the exercise repeatedly, hopefully getting more clear and honest about the real reasons you feel compelled to believe any of these negative self concepts.
Write out the thinking that habitually “hooks” you and then read it over. Having the thoughts on paper, or onscreen, where you can keep your focus on them, robs them of their power of stealth attack! If you get distracted or space out, they are still there in front of you. Not only that, but you can come back to them and examine them anytime you like. If you keep on revisiting these limiting beliefs with undistracted attention, you will begin to see their absurdity.
It’s not enough to say, “I know it’s absurd.”
To successfully stop limited self concepts and other limiting beliefs, it is essential to do the written exercise, seeing the full expression of your limited self concept on paper or onscreen, until you feel a release inside. To experience this release without putting your undistracted attention on the whole “thought package” is much more difficult to achieve if all you do is think about them and briefly label them “absurd.” So many of my clients and students say, “I know it’s absurd, but I still can’t stop believing it.”
Another method that can help is to write out in detail what your life would be like if you believed the opposite of your main limiting self concept – write out the good, bad and the ugly of living with the opposite belief. Again, it will probably take repeated writings to get all the details, but it’s worth it! It’s likely that you will experience your mind bouncing between extremes: “This would be good, but this would be bad” or “I’d like it to be this way, but if it was, then this (negative thing) would happen.” Don’t give up if you begin to become aware of a wild confusion of conflicting concerns. Getting these limited self concepts out in the open — on paper or onscreen — where they can’t attack and disappear gives you the edge you need to free yourself from their influence.
We had a great time talking about this kind of self-inquiry in a recent Q & A session when someone asked me, “What do you do when you have a negative thought?” You can watch the 3-minute clip here.