Larry said at the start of a Skype session with me, “You’ve helped me get rid of a bunch of self-esteem beliefs and I feel much better, but I still can’t seem to move forward on the things that are most important in my life.”

I replied, “If some things in your life are improving, then beliefs clearly are being eliminated. Now we need to find the additional beliefs that are causing your continuing resistance.”

In that session he eliminated a few more relevant beliefs, such as, what happens in my life is outside my control, I’m deeply flawed, and I don’t work.

At our next session Larry seemed puzzled. “Every time we eliminate beliefs I feel better, but the problem doesn’t seem to go away. Moreover, the words of the beliefs we’ve worked on don’t seem true, but something about them does feel true.”

When you’ve eliminated all the beliefs you can think of that could explain a given problem and when the beliefs that have been eliminated somehow still feel true, the problem is probably being caused by a conditioned “sense.”

A sense is not a cognitive statement like a belief; it exists as a feeling. If you try to communicate to someone what that sense feels like, you might use colors (like dark), physical sensations (like heavy), metaphors (like I’m being stopped by a wall), short phrases (like can’t move forward), etc. You can have a sense of many things, but the most common three senses are of yourself, of people, and of life.

Larry’s sense of self

I decided to check Larry’s sense of self to see if that explained why his resistance to taking action was still there after eliminating all the beliefs we could find. When I asked him to close his eyes and get in touch with his sense of self—and then describe it with whatever words came closest to what he was feeling—here’s what he said: “total mismatch for life; not really functional enough for life; out of control; overwhelmed; the world seems totally uncontrollable; things coming at me all around; I don’t have the computing power to cope with the world; and I have no capability to react adequately.”

What is a sense?

Your sense of yourself feels like who you really are; it feels like you were born this way; this feeling is you. A sense of people feels like who people really are; people are inherently this way; they always were and always will be this way. And a sense of life feels like the way life really is; life is always this way, no matter what.

These three senses can be positive or negative. If they are positive, leave them alone. If they are negative and adversely affecting your life, de-condition them with the process I provide at the end of this post. (See also an earlier post that discussed the Lefkoe Sense Process,

Where do these senses come from?

Our senses are the result of conditioning specific feelings, as I’ll explain below. But where do the feelings come from?

In order for us to be able to experience a feeling, there must be an event stimulating the feeling. But that is not sufficient. Except for stimuli that are explicit threats to our physical survival, like the experience of drowning, stimuli themselves do not have inherent meaning for adults. The meaning adults give to events is what triggers emotions. On the other hand, certain events can have inherent meaning for children.

Because young children realize their survival depends on adults, especially their parents, being yelled at or punished inherently means to them they are not loved, which means they might be abandoned, which means they could die. Obviously similar events (such as being yelled at by a spouse, friend or boss) don’t have the same inherent meaning for adults.

If we experience similar meanings repeatedly, obviously we will have the same feelings over and over. We forget the feelings were caused by external events (interactions with our parents) and conclude: If I feel this way about myself most of the time, my feelings must be true; they must be who I really am.

An example of this would be criticism or punishment from mom and dad that you (as a child) automatically interpret to mean: Mom and dad are unhappy with me; I’m not pleasing mom and dad; I seem to be incapable of doing what I’m supposed to do; etc. Those meanings, in turn, might make you feel about yourself: heavy; dark; stuck; overwhelmed; powerless; etc. If you felt that way often enough as a child, you would get conditioned to experience yourself that way any time you looked inside for a sense of who you were, as I just explained.

Problems are caused by beliefs AND senses

To summarize: Most behavioral and emotional problems, such as procrastination and a fear of taking action, are caused primarily by beliefs. When the beliefs are gone, the problem usually is also. Sometimes, however, when all the relevant beliefs have been eliminated, the problem still remains. In such a situation the source of the remaining problem likely is a conditioned sense. If that is the case, use the following process to decondition the relevant sense (of self, of people, or of life).

Steps of the Lefkoe Sense Process (LSenseP)
To be used to eliminate a negative emotional “sense” of oneself. To be used ONLY after all the relevant self-esteem beliefs have been eliminated.

1. Close your eyes, look inside, and find your sense of yourself. Don’t worry about putting words on the sense. Your experience might be in the form of pictures, images, feelings, or vague thoughts. Just try to experience it as fully as you can right now.

[Give the client a moment to think.] … Now that it is real, please use a few words to describe that sense so that I can get an idea of your experience, even though the words are not your experience.
Client’s description of sense: ______________________.

2. What are the events when you were a young child that first caused______________________?[Describe the sense using client’s exact words]

3. Is it real to you that your current sense of yourself was caused by these events you just mentioned? [The answer should be, yes.] NOTE: even though usually events have no inherent meaning for adults, they do for children who are dependent on their parents (or other adults) for their very survival. Thus behaviors, tones of voice, expressions, etc. have an inherent meaning for children.

4. Is it real to you that the only reason that__________________________ is[Describe the sense using client’s exact words] your sense of yourself today is that as a child you never distinguished between you and the specific circumstances outside of you that really caused the _____________________?[Describe the sense using client’s exact words] In other words, can you see that the ___________________________ was never[Describe the sense using client’s exact words] inherent in you—it was never who you really are? [The answer should be, yes.]

4. To make this distinction real, if earlier in life the circumstances that originally caused the ________________________________had been different, if _______________________[Describe the sense using client’s exact words]                      [State the opposite of what actually happened]

had happened instead, would you have had the ________________________then?[Describe the sense using client’s exact words] [The answer should be, no.] If you didn’t have it then, would you have it now? [The answer should be, no.]

5. Do you still experience yourself as ______________________________?

[Describe the sense using client’s exact words] [The answer should be, no.]

Note: Sometimes the entire sense will be gone at the end of the process. If only some aspects of the sense have been eliminated, do the process again with whatever words describing the sense still feel true to the client and look for a different source. Sometimes this has to be done four or five times to de-condition all the aspects of the sense.

copyright © 1997-2012 Morty Lefkoe

This week’s exercise

Close your eyes and take a minute to get in touch with your sense of yourself. You are not looking for beliefs you have about yourself. You are looking for feelings. … When you are in touch with that feeling, describe it as best you can. You might use colors, shapes, metaphors, short phrases, etc. There might be as many as ten different attributes of the feeling. Write them all down.

Then use the Lefkoe Sense Process to de-condition all the negative aspects of your sense of yourself. You will be amazed at the remarkable shift in your experience of yourself.

Please comment on this post and write your results from the exercise.

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Copyright ©2012 Morty Lefkoe