#7 Our Core Beliefs Are Seeds That Grow Happiness
Core beliefs are what we think and feel about ourselves. Our core beliefs are seeds that grow our happiness. We form them from the verbal, physical, and emotional information other people gave us. These deep seated beliefs develop before we have conscious recall. They lodge in our subconscious mind where they grow our attitude, behaviors, and additional beliefs – where they grow our happiness.
We Store Information Before We Are Born
The first information we get that creates our beliefs comes from parents before we are born. Mothers and fathers, who esteem each other and their unborn children, care for each other with respect, honor, kindness, generosity, and love, create a safe and secure environment in which their children develop. This sends messages of love and security to their children. Mothers and fathers, who don’t esteem their unborn children or themselves, by abusing drugs, alcohol, and each other during pregnancy send very negative messages to their children, such as the world is a dangerous place.
While this information to the unborn child is visceral, mothers also have direct influence on their babies’ physical wellbeing. Mothers who keep themselves healthy are more likely to have healthier babies. Highly anxious or stressed mothers overwork their safety features and are in a chronic state of fight or flight. Not only do their babies sense their fear, but they get infected with the stress hormones produced by their mothers. Stress hormones are released when we are alerted to danger. They affect our vital organs to prepare our bodies to fight or run. Higher than normal levels of stress hormones in babies can lead to anxiety and future health issues.
Sensory Memory and Our Emotions
Unborn and newborn babies have active subconscious minds that take in information and store it for future use. Since our subconscious mind is our alert system, it takes in information through all of our senses. For example, we can smell smoke, taste something rotten, feel an earth tremor, hear an explosion, and see something dangerous. Therefore, we store sensory information before we store intellectual information.
Our senses are tied in with our emotions. So, our sensory memory is closely linked to our emotions. Think of the feelings you get when you recall the smells of turkey roasting on Thanksgiving and fresh baked cookies or songs you hear from your past.
We also associate how we feel with the way people affect our physical and visceral senses. We can remember people’s scents and we remember how people made us feel by their actions towards us. The memory of Grandma’s sweet perfume can trigger feelings of comfort and joy. Trauma victims often have vivid memories of the sounds and smells they experienced during the traumatic event.
Our Inherent Emotions and Basic Knowledge Form Our First Beliefs
Because we have more emotions than knowledge in the beginning of our life, our feelings define what we are rather than who we are. Then, we translate what we feel like we are into who we believe we are. For example, if our parents make us feel bad, we will think we are bad and ultimately believe we are bad. Our parents are the first source of information we use to create our beliefs, then it comes from other people in our lives.
Beliefs We Need For Happiness
If our parents treat us in ways that make us feel good and happy, we will think we are good and safe. We will believe we are loveable, valuable, and acceptable, which give us joy, peace, and love. If our parents treat us in ways that make us feel bad and sad, we will think we are bad and unsafe, and believe we are unlovable, not valuable, and unacceptable (not good enough). This will keep us on alert and we will overuse our survival emotions.
Our survival emotions are our first emotions and are rooted in our subconscious mind. They include fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. Our basic knowledge, associated with our subconscious mind is good, bad, happy, and sad. When we combine our deeply rooted survival emotions with our basic knowledge, you can see how easy it is to form negative beliefs.
Our negative emotions preserve our existence. We need them to stay alive, but they cannot be used to create the beliefs we need to live happy and well.
The beliefs we need to live happy and well are that we are valued, accepted, and loved. These give us a sense of belonging and make a healthy society. When the people who are responsible for making these true for us make us think they aren’t, our subconscious mind takes over and uses what it has (our survival emotions). We then practice those feelings and repeat those thoughts until they become true beliefs for us.
Formation of Subconscious Beliefs
Once we develop intellect we can put information into our subconscious minds through repetition. Just like we learn to do something by practicing until we can do it without thinking, we can repeat information to ourselves until it turns into a subconscious belief. We do this by saying certain things over and over, i.e. “I’m so stupid,” “I am good enough,” by replaying events over in our minds, and by repeating things other people told us about ourselves. These beliefs can be good or bad.
Subconscious Beliefs Come From Confusing or Scary Information
Children also develop core beliefs from the indirect messages they get when they hear bits of information that is scary or they don’t understand, such as news reports or when they overhear parents talking.
Case in point: Clementine is a sweet six year old girl who all of a sudden refused to go to school. For the past several months, she’s refused to sleep in her bedroom because “The bad people will come and get her,” but her fear has escalated. Clementine’s parents thought it was just the childhood “monster in the closet” phase and tried to reassure her each night, only to find her on the floor of their bedroom or in bed with them each morning.
Further investigation revealed that Clementine’s refusal to sleep in her own bedroom started soon after she woke up one night as her parents were watching the late night news. She came out of her bedroom into the living room just as a story about a girl being abducted came on. The girl’s family was on television crying and pleading for the girl’s safe return.
Clementine’s parents didn’t realize she heard and saw the report. They gave her a drink of water and sent the sleepy little girl back to bed. She appeared undisturbed until the following night. Clementine knew something bad happened to the girl on the news, but didn’t know what abducted meant. So, she filled in the gaps with her five year old imagination. This led her to think something bad might happen to her and even her family. She became very afraid.
Clementine kept rehearsing the story in her mind, trying to make sense out of it and to create an ending she could handle. But, she couldn’t. She repeated her thoughts and feelings until her subconscious mind took the information in and accepted it as truth and reality. This became a core belief for Clementine and she behaved accordingly.
Clementine believed she was in danger. To be safe, she needed to be with her parents.
Subconscious Beliefs Result From Traumatic Stress
Post traumatic stress leaves us with traumatic subconscious beliefs. When traumatic event(s) happen, our subconscious mind goes into overdrive sending out alerts as we sense danger. Our primary emotions take over. If we aren’t able to process the event(s) in a way that allows our alert system to go back to standby, we get stuck feeling fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. These feelings override our rational thoughts and we develop traumatic beliefs about ourselves, such as “I’m going to die.” or “It’s my fault…” We continue to live in terror.
Our Brain and Core Beliefs Develop Beyond Teenage Years
We continue to develop core beliefs while our brain continues to mature (into our mid 20’s) from information people who are “bigger” or important give us. Abusive relationships, middle and high school bullying, an alcoholic partner, sexual abuse from a person in authority, and untreated traumatic events can leave us feeling afraid, guilty, ashamed, insecure, and unacceptable.
If we experience these kinds of situations, we often replay them over and over in our minds because we are too afraid or ashamed to talk to anyone about it. Sometimes, when we do try to talk about it with someone, we’re told to keep it quiet or made to feel it really wasn’t “like that.” This compounds the situation so that along with fear and shame from the trauma, we doubt ourselves and the truth.
When we replay negative events in our minds, we continue to relive the negative emotions we had during the events. Eventually, these negative emotions become our norm and we become comfortable with them. This can lead us to be happy being miserable.
Core Beliefs That Come From Survival Emotions
We all know what our core beliefs are when we pay attention to ourselves. It’s the feeling and thought that pop in our head when good and bad things happen to us and others. If you feel bad when something good happens and feel good when something bad happens (especially to others), your core beliefs are coming from your survival emotions.
Our survival emotions put us in our natural state and the core beliefs we have in the natural are based on the law of nature, survival of the fittest and might makes right. They include greed, suspicion, and superiority.
If we translate these beliefs into civilized behaviors here’s what it would look like:
- If you feel like you aren’t valuable, you try to compensate by gathering a lot of material goods. You are greedy.
- When you don’t feel like you are loveable, you are suspicious of people who show you kindness.
- If you feel like you’re not good enough, you might continuously try to impress others through superiority (dominance).
What Are Your Seeds Growing?
Our core beliefs are seeds that grow our happiness. So, the first step to being consistently happy is to recognize your core beliefs and how they affect your behavior. To do this:
- Pay attention to yourself — your feelings and thoughts when good and bad things happen. (Do you feel more fear, shame, and guilt than gratitude and joy when something good happens to you? Do you feel more satisfaction than compassion when something unfortunate happens to people, especially those you’re not too fond of?)
- Pay attention to the words you use when you talk and how you feel when you use them. (Do you use a lot of “n’t” words, i.e. can’t, don’t won’t, aren’t in your daily vocabulary?)
- What do you repeatedly say to yourself or what thoughts do you constantly repeat to yourself?
Recognize what you believe about yourself and how it makes you behave. You can choose if and what you want to change.
Read Post #8 for traits of happy people you can set as goals. Use the Essentials to help change your core beliefs and behaviors so you can grow your happiness.