Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, explains how invalidating beliefs affect you. But you don’t have to keep them — you can change your beliefs and change your life. Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
If you’ve been dealing with a sociopath, you’ve probably ended up with a lot of toxic beliefs that haven’t been serving you well. The bad news is that they will continue to wreak havoc on your life and happiness unless you become aware of them, but that’s the good news. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can learn how to blow them to smithereens. You can change your beliefs.
So let me ask you this: What do you believe? Yeah, I know, that’s a huge question because I didn’t ask what do you believe about something in particular and I could be talking about anything in yourself or in the world. And I am doing just that.
I’m asking what you believe in general. Just to get you started, what have you been taught throughout your life? About yourself? About what you can expect out of life? About how other people see you, what they expect from you, about your place in the world? And in particular, what have you come to believe about any of that – or anything else – because of your experience with a sociopath?
Yup. Still a big question. But well worth considering.
Okay, here’s another question, maybe not quite so broad. Is there anything you’d like to change about yourself or your life? Yeah, I know, the answers to that could be Big Things and they might still be quite broad and general (e.g. “I want to be happy”). But at least a big answer is still an answer and it gives you a starting point if you want to move forward in your life, and especially when you’re trying to clean up the damage from life with a sociopath.
So where do you even begin in answering that question??
Maybe This Will Help…
After being subjected to the damage done by a sociopath, are you feeling negative about some aspect of yourself? Have you begun to speak about yourself in a self-deprecating way? Do you think you’re “not as good as,” or do you think people won’t like you, or do you wonder why they do like you?
Are you doing things you don’t want to be doing but feel like you have no choice because it’s just what you’ve always done, or what you think you’re supposed to do, or what people expect of you (especially a control-freak, self-absorbed sociopath)?
Basically, are there areas of your life that don’t make you happy or that don’t work for you in some way?
If the answer to that is “Yes,” then let me ask you this: Do you want to change any of it? If the answer is “Yes” again, you can begin to make changes by first looking at what you believe about the current situation. I would suggest you write it down, and write in detail. There’s a lot of power in seeing the words in front of you, rather than just thinking them in your head. Trust me. This is a really, really important step.
Now, once you’ve written as many beliefs as you can without it becoming a challenge, look at the list. Where did those beliefs come from? Did they come from your parents or others? Did they come from some experiences in your life? And most importantly, is there any evidence to support your beliefs? – bearing in mind that other beliefs are not evidence. I’m talking about something tangible, something you can see, like having received kind and nurturing care from your parents or others for a long period of time, which backs up the belief that they love you.
Next, list or write about how these beliefs have impacted your life. Whether positively or negatively, it’s important to see the connection between what you believe, and how your beliefs affect your choices.
So How Are My Beliefs Affecting Me?
It is true that much of what we believe comes from childhood, what we are taught by parents, teachers, other people, and from life experiences as we grow up. We go out into the world and act on those beliefs, whether or not they are truth, whether or not they’re based in fact. We don’t usually stop to question them. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other, making choices based on our beliefs. If we think of them at all, we think of them as fact. And we validate those beliefs by continually putting ourselves in positions that match them.
This becomes an even more important point when we’ve allowed a sociopath’s toxic words and put-downs to make us believe we deserve what they’re dishing out, which can mean that we continue to find others who treat us in the same way. It can become a vicious cycle unless and until you are able to recognise it and break it.
If you’ve become caught in that cycle, or if you’re just reeling from the negative beliefs that have cropped up because of a sociopath, you can undo the damage. You can change your beliefs. First, it’s essential to understand that a belief is not a fact. It is merely an opinion that is held to be true. Opinions and ideas are not facts.
For example, if you’re raised in an abusive and oppressive environment, you grow up thinking this is normal. You don’t even know it’s abusive; it’s just the way life is. You believe it’s supposed to be like that. So you will surround yourself with people and situations that validate those beliefs.
If you grow up in a home where there is respect and kindness, and where there is nothing that looks like abuse, you believe that’s how life should be, and how people should treat each other. That is normal for you, and you will gravitate toward similar situations.
Beliefs vs. Facts
Your experiences shape your beliefs, but you are always free to change what you believe. “The sky is blue, the grass is green”, those are facts and cannot be changed. “Everyone is insulted or hit, and that’s normal” – that is a belief, and one that can – and should – change.
Look at what you want to change. Pick apart your beliefs about those situations. Ascertain which ones are based in facts and which ones are based on your opinions, or the opinions of others. If you hold self-destructive beliefs – that is, any beliefs that harm you or cause you pain or distress, whatever their source – you’re free to change your beliefs.
If you think you have plenty of evidence to support the validity of self-destructive beliefs (eg. “I’m a failure, I can’t do anything right”), I would challenge you to look for evidence to the contrary and I’m sure you’ll find plenty. You’ll find many ways in which you’ve been successful, areas of your life where you’ve done wonderful things for yourself or others.
Even if you have failed at something in your life, this does not mean you are “a failure.” Your behaviours and experiences are not you. Negative self-talk is based on a subjective opinion that came from you or others. Just because someone else says you are worthless or you’re stupid, it does not mean it is a fact. And I can promise you, you do not deserve to be insulted. Everyone makes mistakes. We are all doing our best. We are human; we get it wrong sometimes. But there is a perfect Spirit inside you, flawless and beautiful. You should not be dwelling on – or believing – the hurtful words of someone who insults you, no matter what that person’s role is in your life.
How to Change Your Beliefs
You know that deliciously wonderful feeling of having de-cluttered your home? You know, going through the closets, the drawers, the shelves, cleaning out stuff, getting rid of junk, bits that are falling apart, you lost half of that, these don’t work any more, are taking up space, you don’t need them and forgot you had them etc.?
Do the same thing in your brain. Rummage around in your brain. Go through its closets and drawers and shelves. Haul out the beliefs that you’ll find stashed away. Clear them out, get rid of the junk, the old stuff that doesn’t work or you don’t need. You’ll find plenty of beliefs that are oppressive, stifling, inaccurate, just plain false, and that don’t serve any purpose except to cause you harm, to hold you back, to prevent your happiness.
You’re free to chuck them. You get to keep the ones you like, the ones that make you happy, and that allow you forward movement in your life. And you’re allowed to create a bunch of new ones that will add to your happiness. But you don’t have to keep the ones that are giving you grief.
Beliefs are only thoughts in your head. That means you have complete control over them. Keep them; chuck them. It’s up to you. But just bear in mind that the ones you keep are the ones that form the basis for your choices in life. What you believe becomes how you live.
Remember this: Unless and until you change your beliefs, you will continue to surround yourself with situations that validate them – no matter how harmful they are to you, and no matter how unhappy they make you.
Choose your beliefs wisely.
This article was originally published at LibertyForrest.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.