As you know from reading the book being able to identify your beliefs is very important. It’s good to practice by attempting to identify the beliefs of those around you.
Below are 6 situations in which an individual is, to some extent, suffering. The object is to decide what their belief might be in the situation. We have filled in numbers 1 and 2. We would like you to do numbers 3 to 6. We have given the first two words; complete these sentences saying what you think the belief might be, from the information that you know.
Janine believes – I must be thinner or I won’t be able to wear nice clothes or look like these models.
Jackie believes – I should be able to cope with a job and my children. Everyone else is able to.
Darren believes – I must…………
Jack believes – I must…………………
Geoff believes – I should………………
Poppy believes – I should………………….
How easy was it for you to identify the beliefs? It’s easy to see, isn’t it, when it is set out like this, how much a belief (often not even grounded in reality) is leading to unhelpful behaviours and causing distress. The I SHOULD be able to cope, is a very common one, across a huge range of contexts. Without even being aware of it we start punishing ourselves for not being able to cope, which leads to stress and behaviours that make it less likely that we will be able to cope, and so on.
Some of the beliefs you wrote down may seem in isolation to be positive. Is it not good, for example, that Jack wants to get back to a team that he believes in? The question is ‘are they helpful to the person?’ or ‘are they causing the person anxiety or harm.’ This may be the sixth time that Jack has had to go off because he never gives his body time to heal.
If beliefs are unhelpful but they are springing from a positive root – for example the mum that is running herself into the ground because she feels she MUST give her children EVERY opportunity – we can learn to refocus them so that our good intentions stop causing the damage and instead reap rewards for everyone. Let’s say our Mum is Polly. If Polly is barely coping it’s unlikely that she is dealing with her children in a way that is positive, encouraging and supportive even if she is ferrying them to every possible class and working all hours to pay for them.