Beliefs in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy
We all have a huge number of beliefs about ourselves and the world. It can be difficult to draw the line between a fact and a belief. Individual clients will be coming to therapy with their view of the world, which will not be the same as the therapist.
These beliefs will be underpinning all the work with the client, right from trivial beliefs (eg bacon sandwiches should be cut in squares not triangles), through to beliefs about themselves (eg I am not clever enough to succeed), through to beliefs about other people (eg men are all untrustworthy), through to beliefs about society (eg religion is the source of all the worldâs problems).
Many of these beliefs are likely to have been swallowed whole from someone else, usually a parent, school or society. In Gestalt terms this process is called introjection.
One of the main areas to work with a clientâs introjects, is on their beliefs about themselves. As children we are all given messages about who and what we are and should be. These messages, to a greater or lesser extent, help to form our sense of self.
We often hear these âmessagesâ repeated by clients. Anytime the client makes an I am statement that is negative, look for the introject. Anytime the client uses an I should statement, again we look for the message they may have introgjected. AND CHALLENGE!
Here are some examples of personal introjects:
I am untidy however hard I try
I am never going to amount to much
I am hopeless at maths
I am too sensitive
Here are some examples of shoulds. Be aware of how many of these can get in the way of a client making progress:
I should change
I shouldn’t feel like this
Itâs all my fault
I should do better
I should be slimmer/fitter/more like my mother/better
I shouldn’t complain
If a therapist can get the client to acknowledge and accept the reality of where they are and to choose change if required, one is halfway there!
Labels are a special case of limiting beliefs. As soon as a label has stuck, it is difficult to remove. Here are some such labels:
Stupid, Clumsy, Depressed, Careless, Clever, Good, Eccentric, Bonkers, Loser, Scruffy, A joke, Rude, Womaniser, Shy, Delicate, Funny, Gregarious, Paranoid, Polite
As you can see, some of these may be perceived as positive, but these can be just as limiting as the negative labels.
So, we challenge client’s beliefs, gently and carefully, making sure they feel safe as you do so and safe to explore their true feelings and to re-evaluate. A process that lasts a lifetime!
I can’t believe that said Alice
Can’t you? said the Queen in a pitying tone. Try again. Draw a long breath and shut your eyes.
There’s no use trying. She said. One can’t believe impossible things.
I daresay you haven’t had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I believed six impossible things before breakfast.
Lewis Carrol Alice in Wonderland
Here are some typical beliefs that get in the way of progress:
- Putting others first
- Being too old or too young
- Not enough money
- Too many commitments
- Belief in fate
- Following material goals
- Feeling of not being deserving