It’s interesting how it’s possible to think you really understand something and then at some later point realize that your understanding was incomplete. It wasn’t wrong, but your new realization provides a much more accurate understanding.
That’s what happened to me with the Lefkoe Belief Process (LBP).
What I initially thought about how beliefs are formed
When I first created the LBP 29 years ago, it seemed to me that our basic self-esteem-type beliefs were formed in childhood as a result of many interactions with parents. (For more details, please see two earlier posts: https://www.mortylefkoe.com/031610/ and https://www.mortylefkoe.com/wonderful-parents/#) In some cases of extreme trauma, such as sexual abuse or seeing someone killed, a belief could be formed from a single event. With less extreme events, however, many similar events seemed to be required before a belief could be formed.
So it looked as if the first time we didn’t live up to mom and dad’s expectations and they got angry, we didn’t know what to make of their reaction to our behavior, we didn’t give it any meaning, and a belief was not formed. I didn’t know how many times that situation had to be repeated before a belief was formed, but it seemed like it took many repetitions. It was if, at some point, we said to ourselves (unconsciously): Oh, I get it, I’m not good enough, that’s why I don’t do what mom and dad want and why they are annoyed or angry with me.
Those childhood beliefs, which are how we saw ourselves, people and life, then determined everything we did, felt, and perceived from then on.
That explanation made logical sense and it served as the basis for helping over 150,000 people online and another 14,000 one-to-one clients use the LBP to eliminate the beliefs that were responsible for any undesirable behavior or emotion.
Beliefs affect us by being the primary cause of our occurrings
A few years ago I realized that beliefs don’t affect us directly. They exert their power via the meaning we give to events moment-by-moment. I recognized that we unconsciously and automatically give meaning to 20-50 events during the course of a day and then think that the meaning is inherent in the event. In other words, it seems to us as if the meaning is as true as the event, as if the meaning is “out there in the world” attached to the event.
I use the term “occurring” as a synonym for meaning because how events occur to us is the meaning we have given the events.
So if we are fired from a job, we automatically and unconsciously might give that event the meaning that I screwed up, or my boss was being unfair, or this is a disaster and I’ll never get another job. For us, that meaning seems to be as true as losing our job. And it is that meaning that determines how we feel and how we will act.
Those meanings, however, are largely the result of beliefs like I’m not good enough, people can’t be trusted, and life is difficult. Beliefs like these that are formed in childhood are the major determinant of how events occur to us later in life.
So the way that beliefs ultimately demine our lives is by being the primary cause of the meaning we give events.
Beliefs and occurrings are not the same
Although they are related, beliefs and occurrings are not the same thing.
Beliefs are the meaning we give (usually) to a series of events. Beliefs are broad generalizations, for example, I am …. People are …. Life is …. A belief is a statement about reality that we feel is the truth, although it is possible to intellectually disagree with something we believe. Once formed, beliefs continue to exist and affect our behavior, feelings and perceptions forever, unless we are able to eliminate the belief. We view life through the filter of our beliefs.
Our occurrings, on the other hand, are the meanings we give to specific events in reality, in other words, how reality occurs to us at a given moment. Each occurring is a distinct meaning that usually lasts only a short time and then fades away by itself when we stop thinking about the event. An example of an occurring is your boss asking you a question and it occurring to you as she doesn’t think I’ve done my job, she doesn’t like me, or I’m going to get fired. Those are meanings you have given to the boss’s question. In reality all that happened is that she asked you a question. Contrast that occurring—the meaning you gave to that specific event—to beliefs that act as a filter through which we view all events, such as No one trusts me. No one likes me. I can’t keep a job.
To summarize: Until a few days ago it seemed to me as if we didn’t form a belief until an event had been repeated many times, then we formed a belief, which largely determined the meaning we gave events moment by moment, which then determined our feelings and behavior.
My new insight
Then I had an insight last week: It isn’t that nothing happens in our minds as a child when events happen until there is a critical mass, we are actually giving meaning to each event. Remember, as I pointed out above, when we ascribe meaning to an event that meaning applies ONLY to that specific event. Now what I think happens is that after giving a similar meaning to similar events over and over, at some point we generalize and form a belief.
So not living up to mom and dad’s expectations and having them get annoyed or angry might occur to us as we screwed up, we did something wrong, we failed at doing what they wanted, etc. At some point we unconsciously ask ourselves what all these occurrings mean and we might generalize the occurrings and conclude: Mistakes and failure are bad, I’m not good enough, or there’s something wrong with me.
So we start with childhood occurrings, which lead to beliefs, which lead to adult occurrings.
What causes the meaning we give events as a child?
You might ask: Well, if beliefs are the major source of our occurrings later in life, what is the source of our initial occurrings as a young child, before we have any beliefs? Good question!
I’ve made the point repeatedly that events have no inherent meaning, that all meaning is in our minds, never in the world. That is true. But—and this is a very important “but”—events can seem to have inherent meaning for young children.
We have a sense as children that parents, being adults, know how the world works and we don’t. That’s why kids are always saying: When I grow up, then I’ll be able to …. So if my parents are annoyed or angry with me, they must know what they are doing, they must have a good reason to be angry, and I must have done something wrong.
Children up to the age of about seven are in a stage of development Piaget called “preoperational,” meaning they are unable to reason or take another’s point of view. They are totally egocentric and think that that they are somehow magically responsible for everything that happens.
As a result, children are unable to even ask the questions: What if mom and dad have terrible parenting skills, which is the cause of their anger toward me? What if their annoyance is the result of their beliefs and is not really related to my behavior at all. As a child it would never occur for us to think: Maybe they think I did something bad, but they are wrong.
Who knows, I might have further insights in the future on this topic
At some point in the future I might have further insights and realize there are further distinctions to be made. But in the meantime, my latest ideas make logical sense and are consistent with all the evidence I have so far.
Important implications for parenting
One of the most important implications of this new realization is for parenting. If there are multiple instances of a child giving meaning before a belief is formed, then it should be possible for parents to help a child realize the meaning he gives each time is not the truth, that it is only how the event occurred to him. If the child were able to dissolve each meaning as he becomes aware of it, then negative beliefs would never get formed (or at least there would be far fewer of them).
One thing to be aware of with young children: You can show them that there are alternative meanings to an event and their meaning is not the only one. That will enable them to walk away from an event with a meaning that will not lead to a negative belief. But I suggest you do not try to get a child to understand the fact that events have no inherent meaning. The ability to understand that concept and not be confused by it requires a child to at least be a teenager.
I’ve written extensively on how to use the Lefkoe Freedom Process to dissolve occurrings. See especially https://www.mortylefkoe.com/important-improve-life/. You can also view my TEDx talk, “How to Stop Suffering,” where I walk the viewer through the process for dissolving occurrings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMdVM-t5kFs.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments on how our beliefs are first the result of numerous occurrings and then are the source of later occurrings. Also, what do you think about my suggestions on how parents can use this information to help prevent their children from forming negative beliefs? Disagreement is as welcome as agreement. Your comments add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.
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Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe