Recently with the Year of Inquiry group we gathered to do some looking at “underlying beliefs” in a conference call.
The definition of Underlying Beliefs is pretty much how it sounds….Beliefs that Lay Underneath. But its worthy of looking a bit to understand what is meant, what’s at play.
“Underlying” in the dictionary means to form a basis or foundation of something.
A “belief” is defined as an acceptance that something exists or is true. But I once heard a lecture where the speaker said the way she defined a “belief” is a thought that you think over and over again.
Even if you’re not positive it is 100% true.
So Underlying Beliefs would be the foundation or basis of other beliefs, and full of core thoughts that you may be thinking over and over again.
Now….the crazy thing is that anyone who spends any time taking a look at their own underlying assumptions or beliefs….starts seeing holes in them.
Byron Katie speaks of questioning the thoughts that are stressful. Don’t worry about the thoughts that produce happiness, kindness, love, peace, or joy.
While there are quite a few wonderful exercises to help you identify clearly what your own stressful Underlying Beliefs are….one of my favorites is this simple exercise. This is the one the YOI group (Year of Inquiry) all did together the other day.
Think of a stressful situation, an exchange you had with someone, an uncomfortable moment in time. See what you don’t like the most. What the person is saying, or doing? What’s going on in the environment? Are you losing something? Are you afraid of losing something?
Now….write down one thought you have about that situation, that you feel is upsetting.
She shouldn’t have said that. I need more money. He’s a liar. She hurt me. I’m too fat.
As you look at that one concept that you are thinking about, regarding that situation….take a look at what Underlying Beliefs might have to be in place in order to believe this thought.
If someone had this thought, what beliefs would they have to have in place, some assumptions at a very deep level….maybe something that has been repeated for many years, in order to believe this thought?
You can do this without blaming yourself, tearing yourself to shreds, or feeling guilty. This is not about finding your faults, it’s only about research.
My thought: she shouldn’t have said that.
What would I have to believe, in order to be upset by what she said? What does it mean about me? Or about her? Or about life in general?
- There are dangerous people (and she’s one of them)
- I need to be careful in this world
- bad things happen (banishment, betrayal, death, destruction)
- I could lose friendship, love, approval, appreciation at a moments notice
- people are unpredictable, they can hurt me
Once you have a concept or thought that appears to be true, or that you’re worried is true (even only sometimes) you can explore more assumptions that you may notice have been in place, maybe since you were a kid.
While they may be frightening, and bring up uncertainty, how amazing to then take these kinds of ancient thoughts, perhaps passed along for generations, to inquiry.For example….Bad Things Happen.
Even just saying it, you may notice images flash through your mind that appear to make this idea true. The mind will say “of course it’s true! Yikes!”
But is it? For real?
Like absolutely without any doubt?
Wait a moment.
Even if you say “yes” do some wondering about it, see if there’s any inkling of uncertainty….
…Because for me, I’ve seen amazing things come from what appears to be tragedy. I also have no idea if death is bad, or relationships that die are bad, or that change is bad, or that struggle is bad, or that destruction is bad.
In fact, some of the most incredible experiences and insights in my life have come from “bad” things happening.“There is no explanation you can give that would explain away all the sufferings and evil and torture and destruction and hunger in the world! You’ll never explain it. You can try gamely with your formulas, religious and otherwise, but you’ll never explain it. Because life is a mystery, which means your thinking mind cannot make sense out of it. For that you’ve got to wake up and then you’ll suddenly realize that reality is not problematic, you are the problem.” ~ Anthony De Mello
How do I react when I believe that bad things happen? Anxious, protective mode, setting up boundaries, defending myself, eating lots of broccoli, hyper vigilant.
But who would I be without the thought that bad things happen? Even those bad things, yes. This is not denying that there isn’t some huge, gigantic, emotional shift, or that people aren’t completely bonkers sometimes (including moi) or that loss isn’t experienced……..this is not D.E.N.I.A.L. as Debbie Ford used to say “Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying” and thinking everything is roses and unicorns.
In fact, it’s the opposite of lying. It’s seeing and feeling the terror of annihilation, emptiness, loss, endings, apocalypse.
And then imagining who you would be, or what you would be, without the underlying belief that these are bad.
On my kitchen wall, every year my calendar choice has something to do with comics, superheroes, the incredible drawings of many artists. This year because of the LEG SITUATION (had to remind you, since we’re talking about bad things) all the exquisite comic calendars were sold out by the time I got to my favorite store.
I had to get a zombie survival guide calendar instead.
The more I’ve questioned my thinking, the funnier things are that involve total destruction.
Could it be that the rough stuff is not entirely evil, wrong and bad?
Well, so far, I’ve found something encouraging, fascinating, wonderful, curious, insightful, enlightening to come out of every “bad” thing that’s ever happened.
- after divorce….movement towards viable, amazing career
- after cancer….inquiry and awareness of love, kindness, do-it-now attitude, surrender, sweet preparation for eventual death
- after death of friend, father….that person’s qualities in my heart and soul, inside me forever
- after leg got injured….stunned to realize I don’t need a working body to experience joy….and slowing down
- after misunderstanding with really close friend….career becoming more successful than ever
- after losing much of what I owned, money, savings ….discovering my own safety
“Nothing ever goes wrong in life.” ~ Byron Katie
Isn’t what I mostly have wished for….my Underlying Wish….been for happiness, awareness, love, growth, clarity, and freedom?
Bring on the “bad” stuff.
Much love, Grace