Beliefs are generalizations we make about others and ourselves. They configure our mental schemes and lead us to think and act in a certain way, giving a particular meaning to the reality surrounding us.
Beliefs and neurological levels for change
According to neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), beliefs are located on the fourth level of the pyramid of neurological levels for change. They make up our sense of reality; they are our filter to see and interpret the world.
Beliefs affect our perception of what surrounds us. They are enhancers or limiters of our behaviors. They can enhance our abilities and also inhibit them. That is why, in personal and professional development, they are crucial elements to analyze and work on.
How do beliefs work?
Beliefs act as direct orders in the brain, facilitating or inhibiting the achievement of goals. Our internal dialogue will tell us “you can” or “you can not,” in both cases, the statement will be true, and it will depend on our beliefs in this regard whether we display one behavior or another.
Our beliefs will allow us to make generalizations of different content. The following three types of content make up the most common belief scheme:
We build truths about the world (people, facts, concepts, etc.). They serve us to define the world and base our opinions.
We use them to limit the world; they define our reality. With them, we establish boundaries between what is possible or not.
They are beliefs expressed conditionally.
Type statements is / is not:
“Love is everything.”
Statements of the type can / should be, made, or had:
“I need to be more tenacious.”
Sentences like “If ….. then ….”
“If you were my real friend, you would tell me.”
Conscious beliefs – opinions
We elaborate them through reason, on a conscious plane. They are more superficial beliefs, so they can be modified more easily. They are not deeply tied to people’s values and principles.
They are our inner truths. We cannot rationalize them, and they are not scientifically verifiable.
They are primary beliefs that provide us with the framework to perceive the world and our way of relating to it.
They were obtained in early childhood and are not accessible on a conscious level.
How are beliefs formed?
Some beliefs begin to form during early childhood. It is believed that even in the prenatal state, some of our beliefs could be established.
Therefore, the first experiences significantly influence the formation of our beliefs since a part of the learning takes place at the unconscious level during this stage of the person’s development.
Beliefs continue to form throughout a person’s life, based on the experiences that we are facing. They are closely linked to emotions (unconscious responses), especially if an intense or traumatic experience triggers the emotion. In this way, some experiences mark us for life and help shape beliefs about the context or how they occurred and even about the response, own and/or others, to assimilable situations.
Beliefs are not immutable. Based on the new experiences and the knowledge that we acquire, we modify our mental schemes and our beliefs. This is important when we try to resolve responses that are not very adaptive for the person and in the background of some limiting beliefs.
Fortunately, we also have beliefs that positively project us and enhance our capabilities. The basis of personal development is work aimed at sustaining and strengthening these empowering beliefs and adaptively managing the beliefs that limit us to achieving our best version of ourselves.
We can use several techniques to analyze present and desired states, working on the forces that drive us or that hold us back from achieving goals. I invite you to review the entry Force Field Analysis in which one of these development techniques is exposed.